Time to hit the gym.
To wrap season four of Pricing Page Teardown, we're looking at two different players in the fitness industry: Equinox, a luxury gym that offers its members everything, and Planet Fitness, a discount gym that offers its members nothing. Both are great places to get fit, but offer different experiences and, of course, different price tags.
This is not just a cheap or expensive gym comparison though. It is a look at how two businesses in the same industry market themselves differently to a large and diverse customer base. From personal experience, as I'm a member of both gyms, I know that the differences between them don't end with pricing.
Can Equinox's elegance and luxurious feel beat Planet Fitness's pricing? Let's dig in.
Equinox is all about elegance and luxury in the gym
Equinox is the kind of gym that offers an exclusive touch. It wants to be your role model for your fitness goals.
They showcase this image strongly on their homepage, almost in an intimidating way. Exclusive means that it's not for everybody, and they make a strong point of that. They don't want this to be a regular gym for regular people. They will tap into your “endless potential” and make you a better person, a healthier and stronger individual, not just keep you in shape. They will also charge you a premium for that.
But head through to the pricing page and immediately all that exclusivity is lost. They have options for different regions or an “all-access” plan, but there's a big dissonance between the pricing page design and the rest of the website. The former has an ordinary feel that is not consistent with their identity as a brand:
"I don't get luxury from this; I don't get endless potential; it's just like every other gym."
There are two aspects that drop the ball on the elegance that Equinox wants to convey:
They let complexity reign. They have a ton of options on pricing, different regions, clubs, and features that you can sign up for but let the complexity of their system take over the pricing page.
They offer promotional discounts. Discounts can increase acquisition but at the cost of your brand. Equinox wants to be exclusive, so offering discounts goes against this. It also lacks a certain personal touch that you expect from a high-end gym. When I got a discount, it seemed like it was coming from the rep, not a website
Planet Fitness is the Dunkin' Donuts of gyms
At the other range of the spectrum we have Planet Fitness, a low-cost gym that is not shy at all about their pricing. The homepage with “25¢ down, $10 a month” speaks volumes about what they're all about—accessibility. The overall feel of the website is welcoming, aspirational, warm, and inviting. It makes you feel comfortable and safe. “Judgment free” is a big component of Planet Fitness.
Planet Fitness wants to be all-encompassing, and that shows in their pricing page too. There are two pricing tiers, a ridiculously low $10 a month option and a Black Card option for $21.99. Their price range and brand identity revolve around these low prices—they want to be welcoming and get as many people as they can. The pricing is so low that people might even forget about their membership and not care about it or just use it infrequently.
Equinox and Planet Fitness are at opposite ends of the spectrum in the fitness world, for pricing and for their approach as well. Even though they do have similar goals as businesses, they take very different routes.
Beating expectations increases retention
When you go to Equinox, you get a luxury product with freshly scented towels and different amenities in the locker room. They offer a high-end experience. The pricing has to be exclusive too:
Our data polled from 2,578 Equinox and Planet Fitness customers showed that Equinox isn't maintaining their brand in the long run. As the length of membership increases, willingness to pay decreases. People aren't willing to pay for services that are less than what they're accustomed to from the very beginning.
Equinox sets the bar high and maintaining that level of luxury in order to retain customers over time is difficult. I go to Equinox fairly late, right before they close, and they're really dropping the ball during that time. Even though I like Equinox, my response is like, “I'm paying this much and the bathrooms aren't clean?”
On the other hand, Planet Fitness doesn't even give you a towel. And that's OK, because they've set the bar very low. At $10 a month, you don't expect much.
For Planet Fitness, the willingness to pay is flipped because the expectations are completely different. When you're paying so little money for a membership, you don't expect much. It's hard for them to disappoint you when your expectations are low. For Planet Fitness members, they are willing to pay more as time goes on, increasing retention and possibly increasing upsell opportunities.
This is an important aspect of pricing, not just in the fitness industry but in any field. People will create expectations according to the level of pricing. Brands have to factor that in over the long run. It's not about being a luxury brand or a discount brand now; it's about beating expectations and keeping people on for as long as possible.
People who use the gym more are willing to pay more
This is intuitive: The more you use a service, the more willing you are to pay more for it. This principle applies to both Planet Fitness and Equinox, but on different levels when it comes to price range.
For Planet Fitness, their $10 price point is basically the floor. As a business, they work on volume. Staying at the bottom of the range gets as many people as possible. The top of the range here is basically their $21.99 plan that people can upgrade to, so they cover the entire range, making sure they tap into as many customers as possible.
For Equinox, the same trend applies. The more customers use their service, the more their willingness to pay increases. Their price range is between $150 to $250, and our data shows that they're hitting that mark. Even though the type of clientele that Equinox gets, as opposed to Planet Fitness, is quite different, the same model of willingness to pay based on frequency applies.
Judgment free zones show the difference
There are several things that differentiate Equinox and Planet Fitness in the value matrix, but one thing stands out the most: judgment free zones.
"I feel like there's not a gym in America or the world that isn't judging you."
That intimidation factor is a big psychological factor when choosing a gym. The business model of Planet Fitness is to attract as many people as possible. To do that, Planet Fitness gyms have Judgment Free Zones as an actual feature. This feature, with the lunk alarm that goes off every time someone drops weights, does power cleans, or other more intimidating exercises, and their low prices are a clear sign that their buyer personas are regular people.
On the other side, Equinox customers score really low for judgment free zones. But for them, that's a good thing. Equinox customers are paying for the judgment—they want the exclusive feel; they need to filter people out. Their marketing is focused on the idea that it's not for everybody. Only special people with “endless potential” may apply.
Planet Fitness is really missing out on a few Differentiable Features, like towels and bathroom amenities and fitness classes. They don't really offer anything on the amenities side of things, but they do offer fitness classes as a part of the monthly subscription price. They could certainly monetize those classes a bit better, but Equinox includes them in the monthly subscription as well, so they're both bypassing that revenue potential.
It's interesting to see mobile app in Trash Land; that really means that people just expect it to be available but don't really care either way.
The Add-Ons section is more or less the same for both companies. People are more willing to pay for spa amenities and personal training from Equinox than Planet Fitness, but with their positioning as a luxury brand that's not too surprising. Planet Fitness could make a play for a luxury experience as well, but it may not make sense unless they want to go totally upmarket as a brand.
Expectations have to be baked into the pricing
Even though both companies offer similar core services, there are plenty of differences between them, starting with expectations.
"If you charge someone at the top of the range, their expectations are going to be really high."
If you charge at the low range of the spectrum, like Planet Fitness, you can beat expectations a lot easier, but at the same time, you won't be able to price as high. If you charge at the top of the spectrum, like Equinox, certain expectations will be ingrained in that price tag and keeping up over time will be very difficult.
A second thing to keep in mind is how these expectations and usage change over time. For most gyms, including Equinox, usage is good, because it increases customers' willingness to pay, but Planet Fitness, being more of a warehouse gym working on volume, might not want that much usage for logistical reasons. They need as many subscriptions as possible for their price range, but they won't be able to handle the customer volume if they all show up at the same time. The fact that it's a 24-hour gym definitely helps them in this regard.
As a user, Peter would go for Planet Fitness. They have a good approach, and their price range is definitely a point that matters to him and to a lot of other people.
"Having nice towels and amenities is fantastic, but my willingness to pay for them is pretty low."
I'm a member of both. Equinox gives me a better experience, but the 24-hour aspect of Planet Fitness helps me keep consistent.
As investors, we would both go for Planet Fitness. Even though Equinox is well-known and recognized, with a strong brand to build upon, Planet Fitness is also expanding internationally and has a lot of potential to grow.
Let us know what you think about Planet Fitness and Equinox, and which gym would you go for by sharing this pricing teardown on Twitter and Linkedin using the hashtag #PPT. All sharers have a chance to win some really nice updated Pricing Page Teardown swag!