I will be the first one to admit that Groupon (LivingSocial, AmazonLocal, Deal Chicken, etc.) deals for yoga studios are bomb-digity for my wallet. I started seeing them about two or three years ago and scooping them up left and right. They were a
cheap perfect way to explore new studios and classes outside of my local stomping grounds. When I was with LBG, my former business partner and I used to buy them monthly to scout clients. We visited studios all over NJ, NYC, Long Island and Philadelphia. It was an awesome way to connect with studio owners. Each studio’s energy, vibe and kula is so different from the next. Our business budget never could have afforded to pay full price for all of those classes. I don’t think we could have traveled so much or taken so many yoga classes if it weren’t for social couponing. It really was great for our growing business.
I became a Groupon Yoga junkie. Each morning I would check my emails scrolling through to the fitness/yoga deals. There was always one to be had. Even though I was driving all over the tri-state area exploring yoga studios, I rarely became a returning student after my deal was used or expired. I just waited for the next opportunity. The more I started practicing at
random new studios with new teachers, the less loyalty I had to my “home” studio. Even my loyalty to the studios I taught at started to wane. That’s when I realized, this whole social couponing thing is not as awesome as it seems. Once you sever your connection to the money, you’ll realize it’s bad for the studio and bad for the student as well. Here’s why:
Social Coupons devalue your studio. It’s a brilliant business model for Groupon but it undermines the longevity of your studio and the value of your teachers. Let me break it down for you… a studio offers yoga at $20 per drop in, but offers a [Groupon] special of $35.00 for 5 classes ($100 value). The studio also has to pay [Groupon] 50% of that – so basically the studio just gave away a class for about $3.50. For small studios with an owner teaching the majority of the classes, this may be fine. For larger studios that pay their teachers competitive rates, this is simply bad for business.
There’s no incentive for studio loyalty. The benefit (in theory) behind social couponing sites is that they have the ability to reach a larger audience. People that have never tried yoga or never stepped foot through the doors of your studio are more likely to test the waters for under $40 for multiple classes than they are for a $20 drop in. It’s great for the commit-a-phobe and the uber busy. “Whoops, I forgot to use my $35 groupon before it expired” is a little different than “Whoops, I paid $70(usually more)/month and only went to 2 classes.” What it isn’t great for is committment to practice at your studio. You’re going to need a pretty fabulous hook to inspire them to become a member of your kula instead of grabbing the next deal at another studio around the corner or even 10 miles away. Don’t believe me? A recent study by Rice University found that nearly 80% of social coupon users are first-timers, and only 20% of them become repeat customers.
Social coupons disrespect your regular members. In any business, the customer/client wants to be valued. It’s inherent in our ahamkara. Building a yoga community takes time, dedication and lots of love. As studio owners and teachers, we are guiding our students on their yogic path. There needs to be trust and mutual respect. Skilled teachers with individual followings aside, the difference between a yoga studio and a fitness center is the sense of community. Members of a thriving (and financially viable) yoga studio are members of your family. It’s the heart of your business. If you offer the same yoga class or workshop that they have been buying for years to a new customer for less than half the price, it’s going to hurt.
Social coupons dilute your brand. (See also, devalue + disrespect above). Ok, so it’s hard to talk about your yoga studio as kulas and then talk brand. It’s just so dirty. But brand is more than simply marketing, it’s the personality of your business. It’s what your
customers students identify with. Think about the master of all yoga branding, Lululemon (and disregard the fact that their brand has shifted from 100% yoga to a yoga-running blend). Can you imagine a Lulu groupon popping up? No, because it would never happen. Lulu has taken years to impeccably build their brand. It offers something of value and status, but that’s another discussion. If they were to offer deep discounts on their $95 yoga pants (they’re even 50-65 bucks at the outlets) they in essence would be saying, “we charge too much” and we’re willing to be flexible with the value we place on our products. Something tells me this isn’t an option for that yoga giant. Do you think a $20 drop in is too expensive for a full service yoga studio? I don’t. $20 is average in my local New Jersey-metropolitan NYC market. Sure, I wish my drop ins were still $12 like they were in Boston in 2004. But I strive to be in the present.
So, there you have it. The reasons why this Groupon Junkie thinks social couponing for yoga studios sucks.
If you have a different experience or opinion I would love to hear from you!