Every business is interested in growth which is influenced by, among other things, the purchasing patterns of the consumers. Unlike other elements, the human factor becomes much delicate and complex to change, thus it is a requirement for adequate knowledge and understanding of human behaviors to win customers. Consumer behavior is crucial especially to a successful marketing plan, and having an understanding of consumers usually makes the difference between businesses that succeed and those that fail (Lake, 2009, p.1).
Bodybuilding clubs have been “playing more important roles in the sporting and exercising consumption of the urban residents;” indeed today, the behaviors are changing with the social development” (Wang, Wu, and Quan, 2008, p. 1).
Pseudo-health has already become a problem facing modern urban dwellers; however, there is a growing demand for urban sports and sports fitness facilities. As a kind of fashionable sports and leisure center, the key to the success of the fitness clubs lies in the accurate understanding of the fashion and following the consumers’ demands closely to be familiar with every new demand from the consumers. Consumers’ behaviors at the fitness clubs have changed a lot and therefore, it becomes important to investigate the changes in consumers’ behaviors at fitness clubs (Wang, Wu, and Quan, 2008, p. 1).
Consumer behavior influencers
Consumers’ purchasing and consumption decisions are influenced by a variety of external and internal factors. Consumer behavior is influenced by the interactions of interpersonal influences such as culture, friends, classmates, co-workers and relatives, society, and personal factors such as attitudes, learning, personality, and perception. In other words, inputs from others and an individual’s psychological makeup affect his or her purchasing behavior. If a marketing strategy, consisting of product, price, promotion, and distribution strategy need to be successful, there is need to be familiar with the influence of internal and external determinants of the behavior of consumers in a specific target market (Botha and Brink, 2005, p.38).
Individual factors refer to those factors inherent in human behavior. Consumer needs are the basis of modern marketing and the key to a “business survival, profitability and growth in a highly competitive marketing environment is its ability to identify and satisfy unfulfilled consumer needs better than the competition” (Botha and Brink, 2005, p.39).
Consumers are individuals who belong to social groups where much interaction and influence take place. The basic socio-cultural factors which influence consumers’ purchase behaviors include: “culture, social class, groups, family role and status” as well as sociability (Krishnamacharya n.d, p.95).
Life Fit Gymnasium Club Center
The Life Fit Gymnasium center is one of the only family-focused clubs in the Mountain area running strength and condition programs for people of all sizes or shapes. Having grown steadily over the last five years, the Life Fit club focuses on keeping all people involved in the club by exposing everyone to a variety of activities and services. However, due to declining membership in the last year, the club has diversified its services to include ‘Body master’ service with cardiovascular and weight training equipment as well as introducing a 24-hours facility, seven days a week.
The Club’s Consumers’
Management at Life Fit center has identified the need for a strong understanding of consumer characteristics, particularly in three areas: expectations, needs, and the state of fitness. Generally, consumers have very different expectations about services than they do about products (Braun, 2002, p. 23). The consumers’ perceptions about the services are largely affected by their past experiences in similar circumstances. Therefore, quality of service becomes a judgment against some perceived standard which the company should foster to provide.
Demographic characteristics of the club’s members
Age: The main consumers for the Life Fit club have been young people. However, older people, normally above 56 years, have been increasing steadily in the club.
Education: In recent times, the number of consumers with low education, continues to decrease while the consumers with high education levels have become the main part of the club customers. This can be concluded that customers with higher education have a lot of ideas about exercising.
Occupation: The club’s customers who are in relatively stable occupations have continued to increase, implying that consumers’ occupation is greatly related to the consumption of the club’s services. Also, the number of free professionals in the club continues to increase, and that of students is increasing at a fast pace.
Consumers’ consumption behaviors
The main purpose for the people coming to the club was to exercise followed by the need to lose weight, and leisure and other purposes coming after. However, many people continue to regard fitness club consumption as a daily leisure activity or a fashionable lifestyle, though males and females continue to differ, with male consumers’ goals being body building, leisure and entertainment while female consumers’ purposes being losing weight and enhancing constitution.
Body-building exercises and simple apparatus continue to constitute the main parts of the Life Fit club. Although consumers continue to diversify their programs, bodybuilding and equipment exercises, have become more professional and fashionable among many consumers. Also, new programs continue to attract many consumers.
When it comes to a fitness club, the price becomes a very important element; with many consumers tending to compare the cost they will incur against the benefits they will gain (Wang, Wu, and Quan, 2008, p. 1). At Life Fit club, consumers are very much sensitive to the price for the various services offered, and this has resulted in the management having to make some adjustments in the pricing of the services. Also, consumers’ income largely dictates how willing they are to pay for the services.
Many of the clubs’ members have been affected by the economic recession, leading to the switch of the consumer to alternative services. However, the club’s strategy of introducing the ‘Body Master’ service will attract new and make existing members more loyal.
From the above-analyzed consumer behavior, the club has identified that the consumption groups’ has changed in terms of age, education, and other consumer characteristics. The Life Fit club has grasped the changes by making adjustments accordingly in the target markets, products, prices, and services to make the club successful. Though the price acceptance among the consumers is still limited, the club intends to provide different product packages at different prices targeting different groups.
Cognitive learning and the advertisement strategy
Generally, consumers need to be taught in their roles as consumers, about products, product attributes, and their potential benefits, as well as where to buy them, how to use them, how to maintain them, and even how to dispose of them (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004, p.206). Learning is important as it allows the consumer to understand the product; indeed, cognitive learning emphasizes how learning takes place and enhances the individual’s assessment of the desirable outcome, and an assessment of the likely outcome of any action adequately (Solomon, 2004, p.431).
Cognitive learning has five aspects that include: cognitive effort, cognitive structure, analysis, elaboration, and memory (Hoyer and Macinnis, 2009, p. 276). Life Fit club is convinced that cognitive learning processes will be important in designing the advertisement strategies, as consumers tend to view advertisements as tentative hypotheses about product performance that can be tested through product experience. However, advertisement is effective as long as it is unambiguous otherwise it will affect consumer perception (Blythe, 2006, p. 131).
Consumer purchase decision-making process
Generally, consumers make decisions when buying a product or a service, thus it is important to understand their needs and concerns as they move through the decision-making process (Lake, 2009, p.27). Consumers go through a five-stage decision-making process in any purchase which is cognitive and psychological.
Stage 1 involves needing recognition and awareness where the consumer recognizes and becomes aware that she has a need. Stage 2 involves searching for information whereby, the consumer begins to search for information regarding a solution for the need she has identified. The intensity of the search depends on whether the purchase is a big deal to the consumer or a small deal. Stage 3 involves evaluating the alternatives such that, the consumer evaluates each alternative solution to determine which one is best for her.
Stage 4 involves the purchase, and in this stage, the consumer evaluates where and when to purchase and make the purchase. If the need is not great and the solutions the consumer may postpone the purchase until a satisfactory opportunity presents itself. Lastly, stage 5 involves post-purchase evaluation whereby, the consumer evaluates her purchase and decides whether she’s happy with the purchase (Lake, 2009, p.29).
Understanding the process and more importantly, involving the consumers in the marketing decisions will lead to the business designing products and services that are largely customer-centered, hence increasing their acceptance rate. This enhances monitoring of the development and progress of a particular product by having accurate information from the consumers’.
Need for market segmentation
Members of the Life Fit club belong to different social classes. One segment would be the older members who constitute the group of mostly retired people with enough money to spend on recreational activities. The other segment is students who may not have enough money but their loyalty to the club will be important for long-term strategy. Life Fit club recognizes the importance of market segmentation whereby it intends to create marketing strategies for consumers who have similar interests and needs.
Life Fit is convinced that this will enable the business to target the core market more effectively since it will be able to identify the specific submarket needs for appropriate messaging. Also through the segmentation, Life Fit hopes to establish new niches concerning information and data collected. The segmentation strategy will largely be done basing on; age, gender, income, occupation, education, lifestyle, and social class.
Growth strategy for Life Fit Gymnasium
Life Fit gymnasium as a business entity can chart its growth by adopting different strategies. In the business, the Ansoff Grid strategy has been adopted, which outlines four basic ways to achieve growth (Nargundkar, 2006, p. 238):
- same product/Same market growth (growth through penetration), for example, designing new and improved services following the market research results;
- same product/New Market growth (new market development), for example, identifying the potential neighborhoods with business growth prospects and establish branches in the areas;
- same market/Product growth (new product development), for example, introducing the ‘Body Master’ which intends to cater for the needs of new and existing members;
- new product/Newmarket growth (diversification), for example, buying and selling of gym equipment to retailers (Nargundkar, 2006, p.238).
Market strategy and SWOT analysis
Life Fit club recognizes that its long-run development and growth strategy requires a SWOT analysis to establish strategies that will be important in the achievement of its goals, as well as understand where it is coming from, where it wants to go, which strengths and weaknesses exist in the business and which opportunities and threats the business is likely to face. The SWOT analysis will provide verifiable results that will in turn give helpful information to be used in planning the business’s resources against the background of the competitive environment (Bohm, 2009, p. 1).
Life Fit club as a business entity that operates in a dynamic business environment, has adequately understood the need to study the market and its composition, to design the success strategies. The business identifies the importance of analyzing the consumer behaviors that in turn helps in creating, market segments, improving the services, and innovating new products. With the current capacity in terms of resources and equipment, the Life Fit club has introduced a new service known as ‘Body Master’ that is a result of consumer needs and the changing consumer composition of the business. Through the new service, the club intends to increase the number of members, serve the needs of the student consumers more adequately and involve its consumers more, in the decision-making process.
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