NEHRSA Roundtable Seminar Designing to Sell

NEHRSA Roundtable Seminar Designing to Sell

Design can be a powerful tool in selling. Many people may view design as the act choosing colors and making a space presentable. In fact, great designs are a by-product of understanding user needs and project objectives. A great design is a perfectly choreographed dance to deliver a specific experience or a series of specific experiences.

Successful retailers, for instance, are very deliberate in their design strategies to entice sales and remove barriers to sell their goods and services. The colors selected, the way an object is showcased, the mood of the lighting, the flow, feel, and even smell of the space all contribute to hopefully, a positive purchasing experience. Clearly as an industry we put a lot of effort in to selling memberships. By understanding the key factors that have been proven in the retail and hospitality research, we could be in a better position to successfully design our clubs for increased sales, retention, and overall customer satisfaction.

The industry is witnessing a shift in consumer expectation and purchasing trends, we have the opportunity to move from the traditional model of selling what we want to selling what our customers want to buy. This means moving the sales strategy from an owner-centric business model to a member- centric focus.

Consumers are now willing to invest in quality and overall long term value over instant satisfaction. They are actively seeking a partner in their own experience versus detached, one-off purchases. However, establishing that trusted partnership requires effort. As in any relationship, understanding each others’ secret desires is key to that bond. In fact, when retailers are able to connect with their customers with as many of the five senses as possible, there is a potential for a neurological connection to the product. This can border on an addiction even. Meaning, they have to have it. Once a consumer develops a neurological addiction to a product, attrition drops. Think Apple products: price is a factor it is minimized against the desire for their products. Brand loyalty is among the highest. Now think back to fitness; do we have the power to create a neurological addiction?

The signs suggest it is possible. Fitness is a sexy product and once people get hooked they must have it regularly. Just like someone without their first morning coffee, an exerciser who missed their workout can be in withdrawal.

To reach that deeper connection there is an elusive and powerful element that a designer can tap into: the desire for Glamour. In other industries such as fashion design, furniture, retail and even hotel and resort design, the idea of Glamour is a very common phenomenon. It is used to sell us sunglasses, Champaign, clothes, cars, etc. by influencing our desires to be a person worthy of those items.

Glamour, although elusive, is a very powerful and seductive cultural force. In the evocative book by Virginia Postel, the “Power of Glamour”, she explains how glamour motivates us and feeds our imaginations of a life beyond what we currently have. The power of seduction and transformation tap into a very real emotion we feel, and need. It is a connection to a better me; a version of ourselves that is in-shape, beautiful, powerful, sexy and heroic. Webster’s defines Glamour as “a magic spell, an exciting and often illusionary and romantic attractiveness; an alluring or fascinating attraction”.

Where better to find our perfect selves, both mentally and physically than in a fitness club? As we look for inspiration to guide the next evolution of club design, one that can encourage and engage new members, it is clear to me that the use of glamour as an element of seduction in health club design can be a perfect fit.

To capture that initial spark, we need to design a window which captures the imagination of our prospects and create a canvas where our members can visualize how good their life can be by using our clubs. To engage our members, a spark, a hint, a visual, needs to grab their attention and capture the imagination. However, like fashion, if the clothes are too gaudy, the jewelry too much, lipstick too red, most would agree, that misses the glamour mark. Everything has to be just right; the right balance between what is strong presence, and quiet confidence; a blank canvas to allow our projections of ourselves to be captured.

Retail design mastered this a long time ago. For instance, the primary colour in retail is white. An interesting example, since there is a noticeable lack of white in many of the clubs being designed today. The most obvious reason is that white is not easy to maintain. But in the world of glamour, someone else cleans or repaints that wall. As clubs try to spend less money to get a great look, it is common to use a collage of bold colours and shapes to try to invigorate a prospect into joining. Many low cost fitness chains follow this formula with colours so bold they clobber you over the head with intensity. There is nothing glamorous about that. While I can’t argue with the success of the clubs with many colours, some relief from that sensory overload would add longevity to their design. Getting ‘in-your-face’ intensity everyday can get old, like a drill sergeant screaming at you to work out. Glamour requires more subtlety. We need elegance or at least the perception of it as we see when people walk the red carpet, nicely dressed with a hint of jewelry or the clean lines of a beautiful car. Just enough imagery creates desire with the dreaminess to imagine you in that place.

In designing our latest crop of clubs, we have been trying to add white as a colour, a positive rather than a negative. In our higher end clubs, colour comes from materials rather than paint. We accent the texture of wood flooring, interesting wall covering or graphics, tile and stone. Material that invites that illicit touch can also seduce a member. This strategy relays a sense of richness and refinement that is tactile but also visual. To capture your eye we need ‘jewelry’. These visual accessories can come from light fixtures, mosaic tiles, brightly tinted Glass walls, water features, items that capture your eyes attention, like the flicker of a flame.

In our low budget clubs there is an obvious need to cater to brand colours, standards, and usually very little construction dollars. However instead of overpowering, we try to offer relief from the intensity. Strong colours are bordered by natural reliefs, presenting each one separately, as more than just paint, but rather special and distinctive layer of colour. The relief comes in the form of the white or light colours as a natural break, making it a clean, pure and a simple presentation.

Ultimately, we design for seduction. In our palaces we can help dreams come true for a healthier more energetic you. That emotional connection to you when working out is connected to that feeling of sweat. Providing an environment that allows them to feel the glamour of sweat, can be a powerful tool for our business success.

We are in the fitness business. But what we sell is much more that the physical workout. We need to recognize and provide for the emotional and spiritual elements of the workout, use our facilities to give our members an inspirational and balanced experience. Given the power of these combined elements, a well-designed venue can encourage members to have a neurological connection to our clubs and also to their Glamorous inner self. This is healthy addiction not only for our members, but ultimately for the success of the business.