The Gym Group tones up online performance ahead of January peak

The Gym Group, the fast-growing operator of low-cost gyms, has optimised its online platforms to support its peak January trading period.

Founded by ex-England squash player, John Treharne, as a single site gym in 2008, The Gym Group has seen rapid growth.  With its affordable price point, no contract and 24/7 opening times, it now comprises 175 sites across the UK – with 20 new sites opening and total revenue up 23.6% YOY in 2019.

As a digital first business, The Gym Group’s technology-led business model has re-engineered the traditional method of operating gyms, removing costly under-used facilities and enabled a focus on core operations and customer service.

With January traditionally being The Gym Group’s busiest trading month, both for existing customers and new members, the fitness business has seen January trading increase significantly with each year that passed since its launch in 2008.  This has been driven by the growth of its estate of gyms and its digital audience.

“Digital strategy is at the very heart of our business,” Jasper McIntosh, CIO at The Gym Group, explained. “And that means that everything at The Gym Group links back to our digital platform – whether its customers booking classes on the digital kiosk or making enquiries on the app or through the website. The natural but significant uptick in demand in January, combined with heavy activity in the media channels – through radio, TV and other paid media – means the web traffic sees sizeable increases in the volume of visitor numbers.”

To capitalise on the 2020 New Year sales opportunity, The Gym Group needed to ensure that the site could handle the expected volume of users, and that it was robust enough to deliver high performance levels and user experience during the peak traffic periods.

The Gym Group engaged web performance and testing service specialists, Tribe, a leading web performance and testing service provider, to complete the website optimisation and load testing project.

With The Gym Group’s complex multi-supplier network, Tribe’s experience ensured it could add value through a consultative approach, as Jasper McIntosh explained:

“Consultancy was a key factor in us selecting to work with Tribe.  Thanks to their experience, they had an in-depth understanding of our tech stack and how our supplier ecosystem operated, as well as how each tech partner integrated into our systems and each other’s.  This meant they could coordinate and brief each supplier on the exact requirements needed for all parties to comply, at the right times, to the testing procedures.  This allowed the pre-test and test itself to run smoothly, allowing us to extract the most value and insight needed to enhance site performance.”

As the Gym Group runs a 24/7 business, Tribe ran the real-time testing between 12am – 3am to ensure the customer user experience wouldn’t be impacted.  Due to the site configuration and the amount of possible transactional routes, there is added complexity when replicating the high volume of traffic the Gym Group sees at peak in a load test scenario. To allow for representative testing, Tribe focused on testing a subset of journeys that mirrored the most common routes to a transaction and load tested against these in order to gain the insights required to optimise web performance.

“Tribe took a proactive approach to managing the project from start to finish and any niggles in dealing with complexities around the project were identified and resolved quickly and efficiently.  They also delivered a comprehensive report which showed key metrics for improvements, with actionable takeaways that could be implemented straight away to optimise the website,” McIntosh added.

The load testing projects helped to deliver a significant 25% increase to The Gym Group’s target in respect to how many transactions per hour the site could handle.

Deri Jones, CEO at Tribe, commented: “Forward thinking, digital-first businesses, like The Gym Group, understand that customers need an online experience that’s uniformly high quality, right across their increasingly multi-channel journey to purchase.  Otherwise one issue may cause a customer to leave the sales funnel and erode any brand equity a retailer has worked hard to earn.  Our latest research shows that central to enhanced online experiences is that platforms remain in a state of readiness, prepared for peak demand and peak website traffic.  We were delighted to help The Gym Group optimise its digital platforms ahead of its key January sales period, giving them confidence that the site was able to handle 25% more transactions per hour against target.”

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