Cult Fitness Vol. 2: Customer On-boarding & Continued Engagement through Email


Cult Fitness Vol.2: How brands are utilizing email for new member on-boarding and continued engagement

Cult fitness consumers continually engage with the brand and its fitness regime, so it stands to reason that these brands probably have targeted and segmented email marketing campaigns to maintain and grow their persistent customer base. We took a brief look at emails and newsletters of the following brands to compare new customer on-boarding experiences and sustained engagement strategies.

SoulCycle’s New Rider On-boarding

I signed up for SoulCycle class earlier this year and was surprised by the scarcity of emails that I received from them, especially considering how active they are on social media. I wasn’t able to find a newsletter sign-up from them, which leads me to conclude that as a seldom user of SoulCycle, I may have been segmented into a different email stream. In the past year, I’ve only received three emails from SoulCycle:

  • A welcome email preparing for my first class and what to expect.
  • A thanks email following up after my first class, asking if I had any feedback and/or questions.
  • A re-engagement email which introduced a SOUL101 class series for me to try out. This was sent a few months later.
SoulCycle's welcome email for first-time riders
SoulCycle’s welcome email for first-time riders

Curiously, there were no newsletter type emails, nor could I find any newsletter on the SoulCycle website. Of course, for super-users and dedicated fans of SoulCycle, there could be a different email strategy to engage and offer insider benefits. If not, this might be a lost opportunity for SoulCycle, as they could entice former riders with re-engagement class rates to sign them on for recurring class memberships. Insider benefits and news could also serve to fuel that sense of inner community with SoulCycle. Since there are users who follow instructors on Instagram (re: my last blogpost), I have to wonder if instructors also have their own email marketing streams with SoulCycle.

The follow-up welcome email sent from the SoulCycle Front Desk
The final follow-up email I received, aimed at re-engaging me with SoulCycle

Physique57’s Class-Oriented Newsletter

Of the cult fitness brands examined previously, the brand that sent out a newsletter in the past few weeks was Physique57. Their newsletter sign-up was very detailed, asking me about what region I was in, and subsequently, the newsletter I received was tailored to my location. The newsletter content included:

  • Special events in the area
  • A general call-out to sign up for classes
  • A link to resources that Physique57 provides — their online class videos
Location-specific sign-up for Physique57 newsletter subscription
Location-specific sign-up for Physique57 newsletter subscription

What I enjoyed about this newsletter was the exclusive special event classes that were shared, and the call-out to additional resources that I had not seen before. But the newsletter could also have utilized their blog content as a conversion and engagement tool. Physique57’s blog shares success stories as well as recipes and technique how-tos, and could greatly contribute to supporting their customers’ lifestyles.

Physique57's New York area newsletter
Physique57’s New York area newsletter

CrossFit’s Member Experience

Because CrossFit is a fitness regimen, the on-boarding experience for members is localized to gyms. One of the closer CrossFit gyms to Barrel is the Bowery Crossfit, and luckily our Creative Strategist, Aretha, is a member, so I was able to take a look at their on-boarding emails. They send a few types of emails:

  • Thank you & confirmation emails for programs/events
  • Motivational emails with personal stories attached to them
  • Challenge emails detailing events that members can participate in

The email tone is quite personal, and the first few emails are purely informative, giving new members the resources to move forward and preparing them for what might happen in their first classes. The description of the class, in particular, is quite detailed making it a great on-boarding experience for new members.

The first welcome email to the Bowery CrossFit gym
The first welcome email to the Bowery CrossFit gym
A follow-up email to the class, explaining what to expect and what to prepare
A follow-up email to the class, explaining what to expect and what to prepare

Additionally, Bowery CrossFit sends emails that urge members to try out different challenges and diets. In this case, the Paleo Challenge along with some offers that allow members to easily take up the challenge. In the email, Ross McDonald, a member at an affiliated gym details his experience taking on the Paleo Challenge and why other CrossFit could benefit from it. Although part of the email is an up-sell for Kettlebell Kitchen, Bowery CrossFit utilizes a personal story to make the conversion and also bolster community.

CrossFit longform email detailing Ross' experience with the Paleo Challenge
Excerpt of Bowery CrossFit’s longform email detailing Ross’ experience with the Paleo Challenge

CrossFit itself also supplies a newsletter email for their CrossFit Journal, an advertising free digital publication. However, during the sign-up they’re very clear – if no new content gets published, no email will get sent out to subscribers. If members are interested in the general CrossFit emails, they have to sign up directly on the CrossFit website – otherwise emails will be coming from local gyms. It would be interesting to see further how CrossFit streamlines and standardizes their strategies for communication across different gyms, and if there are any national or regional email communications that are sent out.

Equinox’s Branded Content

Something missing in the above email exchanges are supporting lifestyle content for these brands’ customer bases. Bowery CrossFit comes the closest to sending brand-created content for their customers, but it’s more of a motivational push rather than information about a Paleo 101 article.

Equinox mixes their class and informational emails with Q by Equinox newsletters. Q is a lifestyle-oriented fitness and nutrition blog run by Equinox. While the featured articles are mostly about different workouts and nutritious recipes, other content within Q includes restaurant guides, vacation, and music tastes for a workout. This diversified content allows Q to connect with different types of customers in Equinox’s base and keep Equinox top of mind.

Q by Equinox newsletters featuring new articles of the week
Q by Equinox newsletters featuring new articles of the week

Outdoor Voices’ Community Tactics

In contrast to the examples above, Outdoor Voices, an emerging brand of athletic apparel, peppers their email outreach with event-oriented, grassroots field events that are location driven. Invites are sent to localized lists from leaders at OV in a guerilla-marketing type of attitude which unexpectedly tells customers about an upcoming jogging event the day before it starts.

An invite to an Outdoor Voices event
An invite to an Outdoor Voices event

Following that, Outdoor Voices will send a recap of the event, as if to include those who couldn’t make it so that they might be inspired to participate tomorrow. It’s a nice respite to the emails for product announcements and promotions, and helps Outdoor Voices build their community up through another channel outside their social media. In fact, receiving the recap for the Austin event motivated me to try and make the New York event.

A recap of an Outdoor Voices event in Austin
A recap of an Outdoor Voices event in Austin

Takeaways and Strategies

For cult fitness brands, engagement is key. Many of the brands listed above are already top of mind for their customers since they are subscription and class-pack based services. But email is still an important channel for communication, to help motivate and inspire customers outside of the gym or classroom. Some takeaways and email strategies examined above include:

  • A robust on-boarding experience that lets customers know what to expect from events or classes (We shared some tips for e-mail marketing through a Triathlon analysis here previously)
  • Newsletters which leverage supporting content for lifestyles from blogs or other content streams
  • Exclusive events or content that’s only available through email, generating a sense of a tight-knit community geographically and locally based

A diversified email marketing strategy segmenting new users, super-users, geographic locations, and users who haven’t engaged in awhile is best, but also means that brands need to implement analytics and segmentation based on engagement and create custom email campaigns per user segment. It’s difficult to examine the holistic strategy of a brand without testing for multiple user segments, but with the above examples, we can see how the different methods from the brands examined can be combined for increased success.

This is the second installment in our Cult Fitness Series. Read more on Vol. 1 and Instagram.

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