Spa Membership Programs

By Lisa Starr, posted Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Nearly ten years after the launch of Massage Envy spa memberships remain a very popular topic.  While resort and hotel spas long offered membership programs to attract local guests, Massage Envy made it more mainstream and popular by introducing the concept to the day spa segment.  Now that a broader swath of the public knows that the words ‘spa’ and ‘membership’ can go together, more spas feel the need to advertise memberships.

While it may seem that the membership model only fits spas that fall into the resort or hotel spa category, this does not necessarily hold true. Resort and hotel spas feature abundant facilities such as wet amenities, lounges, locker rooms, fitness areas, steam & sauna, and even swimming pools, making memberships feasible. Day spas can also successfully utilize their offerings for membership programs. Day spa membership models tend to include a ‘service of the month’ or discounts on services and/or retail products, or a reduced price on a standard service for members, as in the Massage Envy model.    

In fact, during the recent economic downturn, spas far and wide turned to some iteration of a membership program to bolster regular business and attract new clients, frequently with disastrous results. In the process, many spas ended up creating confusing and misleading pricing models. How does that happen? Well, if a spa offers a facial listed on the service menu at $95 that’s then offered at $85 during the week, tacking on the additional membership discount further confuses the actual value of the service.  Once you start offering membership discounts, it can be difficult to convince clients that they should ever pay $95 for the service. In an effort to bring in more regular business, spas offered (and still create) membership programs, which in effect created services with constantly fluctuating prices. This strategy drove away business by making pricing seem too complicated or disingenuous, and opened up their entire treatment menu to scrutiny.

Despite causing difficulty for many spas, excessive membership programs still exist. For example, I just visited the website of a well-known destination spa that advertises a membership program.  This spa is in a somewhat remote area, and I understand that they have to be creative in attracting clients.  The membership program costs $2k annually, but offers an incredible list of benefits and discounts including a monthly complimentary spa service and personal training session, use of the fitness and wet facilities during the week, and year-round discounts on services and products which vary from 10-25% depending on the time of week.  You can even enjoy your favorite service for a one-time 50% discount.  But wait, there’s more!  If you bring a friend, they can also get 20% off!  Is this starting to sound like a Joseph A. Bank commercial? Clearly this spa got overzealous when they created their membership program.   

If you plan on offering a membership program, it’s not imperative that it include everything but the kitchen sink.  Consider your clientele, even survey them, and then contemplate what you’re looking to get out of the program; a membership program has to be a win-win for both parties or it will not be long-lived.  You’ve likely worked hard and long to develop your spa brand and vision, so make sure that you don’t blow your strategy by cheapening your product and confusing your clients.

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