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Is lululemon's New Loyalty Program Worth It?

We all love lululemon for its fab fitness gear, but they're now betting that you'll pony up the dough to gain access to an exclusive membership club that offers more than just merch. In this post we'll dive into lululemon's new loyalty program to see if it's worth the price.

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Why 2 Membership Tiers?

Trying to straddle the line between paid and free memberships, lululemon is offering a free tier of membership with the option of upgrading to a higher tier that requires payment. Like many retail loyalty programs, the initial unpaid membership is a great fit for all comers who want to engage more deeply with the brand without having to shell out for the premium version. This is a good strategy for the company as they can cast a wide net to bring people into the program and then monetize a percentage of them through their paid membership option.

Frankly, this is nice to see, as lululemon has been lacking in terms of rolling out a loyalty program compared to some of their well-established peers. While many of their competitors, such as Nike and Adidas, have robust and long-standing loyalty programs, lululemon has been hesitant to jump in. But now, having tested a paid membership back in 2018, lululemon has settled on the two-tiered approach. The original 2018 pilot test offered free shipping and event access for an annual $128 membership fee, but the new program's $39 per month is more than 3.5x more expensive on an annualized basis. It remains to be seen if members are willing to graduate to the higher-level within this freemium model.

What do you get for joining?

Entry-level members pay nothing for access to the program and they'll be rewarded with first-looks at lululemon product releases, members-only gear, and community event access. Paid members get all the benefits of first-tier membership, plus access to programming served up by fitness-content creator Xponential. Much of that content is available through Mirror, whose sleek, tech-enabled device costs a hefty $1,495.

lululemon and Mirror

The lululemon paid tier's $39 per month is the same price that members have been paying for an all-access membership to Lululemon's content on Mirror. Mirror offers at-home workouts and has been extraordinarily popular with lululemon's fan base, which is why lululemon acquired the company for $500 Million back in 2020. Because lululemon's $39 monthly price point matches the price of a Mirror subscription, lululemon is offering automatic free membership in the paid tier of their loyalty program to its current Mirror subscribers. That's a great added benefit to those who are already benefiting from their participation in Mirror, which features content from four of Xponential's most popular brands, AKT, Pure Barre, Rumble, and YogaSix.

How does lululemon compare to AthletaWell?

More robust loyalty programs do exist in the market, and they don't hit you in the pocket the way lululemon does. For example, in July 2021, Gap's Athleta announced the creation of AthletaWell, which is a digital platform that includes fitness content, home-workouts, and a community forum for discussions that range from mental health to body positivity. Members get the opportunity to speak with prominent female influencers, such as certified therapists, yoga practitioners, and nutritionists, who moderate online discussions about women's health and fitness. Users also attend virtual office hours hosted by influencers to receive one-on-one assistance. The thriving community is another big benefit of joining AthletaWell, which provides its community and content free for Athleta Rewards loyalty program members. New material, spaces, and guides are introduced on an ongoing basis, providing members with access to a wide range of relevant content and assistance in one centralized location. And there is no at-home fitness equipment or technology to purchase or install. One last added benefit, Athleta Rewards is part of Gap's family of loyalty programs, which means all your Athleta purchases earn points that can be used at Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic.

obé Fitness

To bring a great diversity to their at-home fitness offerings, Athleta collaborates with obé Fitness and provides free access to their digital exercise platform. The platform focuses on integrating entertainment, pop culture, and design into its programming, and the collaboration also provides apparel, content, events, and shopping experiences to members. Best of all, AthletaWell members get free access to special workouts, which feature four new programs monthly.

How does it compare to Nike Training Club

AthletaWell isn't the only one challenging lululemon for at-home fitness superiority. Nike's launch of the Nike Training Club (NTC) back in 2009 heralded a new era in how fitness brands connect to the workout routines of their most loyal customers. This was followed by the late 2010 release of the Nike+ Running App (formerly dubbed Nike+ GPS). These apps have now been rolled into Nike's loyalty program, which is free, and collectively offer more than 200 free exercises and customized training programs for Nike members. This includes numerous yoga courses, bodyweight training regimens, and more. They can last anywhere from a few minutes up to about an hour, and many do not require the purchase of at-home exercise equipment. Lastly, since it was one of the earliest programs of its kind established, members also benefit from access to a large and ever-growing fitness community.

Final Thoughts

While it's great to see lululemon make its better-late-than-never entrance into the world of loyalty programs, it can not be overstated that they are playing in an extremely competitive field. Indeed, some of the fitness industry's heaviest hitters are standing in the way of success for lululemon. That, however, has never stopped the company before. After all, in its 2+ decades of existence it has made a name for itself right alongside titans like Nike and Adidas, which have been around since 1964 and 1949, respectively. We'll continue to keep an eye on how lululemon's fan base is responding to their new offering.

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