Decision Marketing Data Clinic: Getting leisure in shape

DM ClinicIn the latest in a series of articles, designed to provide advice on data-driven marketing strategies in these turbulent times and beyond, we look into the issues facing the leisure sector.

The Decision Marketing Data Clinic, in association with REaD Group, is open to all companies and organisations big and small. If you have a burning issue which you would like advice on please email us on

The leisure sector has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic, providers are now looking to re-engage customers and drive loyalty.

The way in which our customers interact with us has changed significantly of late. What can we do to ensure their loyalty on an ongoing basis?
There has been a significant change in the leisure sector’s demographics because of the impact of the coronavirus lockdowns. As a business in the leisure sector – whether that’s food delivery, entertainment venue or gym provider – you need to understand who is using your services now, how this compares to your normal target audience, and how to communicate with those people.

However, the ways in which customers and prospective customers engage with those in the leisure sector has also changed. Understanding not only who these new audiences are but how they engage is the key to understanding your customer base, how it has changed and what drives their loyalty. And with loyalty saturated and competitive, understanding how to keep those customers on board is key.

For example, a food delivery business that has been successful during lockdown now needs to figure out how to retain those customers now things are returning to normal. Obviously, engagement is key: being able to better engage with those customers will not only maintain loyalty but also ensure a better lifetime value with those customers.

Insight is key for loyalty-based engagement and retention. If you’ve attracted new customers during lockdown, what do you know about them and their attributes? The more you know about and understand those customers, the better you can tailor your campaigns and communications and the more likely you are to retain them.

As a leisure supplier, it’s been really hard because we’ve had to open and close so many times during the past 18 months. How do we overcome this?
The key is to make the most of the times when you are open but also to stay in touch when you are closed.  Travel, for example, has had a particularly challenging time. By focusing on more local leisure activities that are year-round, rather than being solely focused on holiday activities, will help embed them more within the community.

Most attractions, like zoos and amusement parks, and group activities like paint balling, had not been able to open at all so there is a huge amount of re-engagement required in order to get footfall back up to pre-pandemic levels. Those who we have seen do well are those who have managed to retain and re-engage customers despite repeated re-openings and closings, who have kept contact during lockdown and therefore it was expected when they re-opened.

Re-engaging customers also relies on data. Whether going out cold or appending data to your current customer database, you should focus on reaching customers, rather than testing any new or different attributes at this stage. Ensuring the data is clean and you have the latest contact details is obviously vital as well.

Any advice on the channels that we should be using?
Be aware of the channels that are working: with face-to-face and out-of-home declining, there has naturally been a big uptake in digital. Email is still a key tool. Direct mail, and variants such as partially addressed mail, are also driving a high amount of traffic.

Spread the net wider with your marketing activities – think about new engagements to make up for lost time and to maximise the loyalty of current customers. Campaigns can be used to help you understand the triggers and channel preferences for different demographics and how best to communicate with them, whether that’s via an app, brochure, print, email etc.

Leveraging your data for different tasks can drive different outcomes and provide additional insight into the different types of people and increase the chance of sale and repeat customers.

Louis Sage is business development director at REaD Group.

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