Email showdown: ClassPass vs. Equinox

Two fitness behemoths battle it out in the inbox

If the start of a new year has you ready to invest in your health, you might want to consider getting a membership to ClassPass or Equinox. Both fitness services carry a high price tag (when I said invest, I didn't mean it lightly), but their value propositions are quite different. For those who don't want to commit to a single gym, ClassPass provides access to classes at multiple studios for one flat rate. Equinox, on the other hand, is all about the onsite details, offering all sorts of lux elements – think Kiehl's products in the locker rooms – at a single location. Both brands are known for their top-notch marketing, so let’s see how they approach one of the more underutilized channels in fitness: email.  


The signup process

When you arrive on the ClassPass website, you're greeted by this lightbox form. It's a pretty bold way to greet first-time visitors who may or may not know anything about their service. However, the steep discount and timely copy make for a pretty compelling lead magnet.   However, let's say you aren't ready to commit quite yet and choose the "No thanks" option. Once you exit the pop-up, you'll notice another signup form toward the bottom of the page. This one offers a lighter touch, allowing visitors the opportunity to sign up for the ClassPass email list and receive a city guide of the best studios in their area.    

The emails

ClassPass immediately follows through on their promise  with an automated email. Here's what I love about this first touch: • The header makes it immediately clear what you're receiving – aka, the thing you were promised during signup. • The clear, tappable CTA allows you to quickly get what you want without having to read through the copy. • Rather than leading with a sales message, they reserve it for the secondary CTA.  

ClassPass continues to provide new subscribers a solid experience with a second email that outlines the value of their service. The Z-Pattern layout makes for a campaign that's both easy to read and easy on the eyes, and the quirky icons provide a great introduction to what subscribers can expect from their brand moving forward.  

  Next, they send this email full of social proof from real-life customers. User-generated content is all the rage these days for a reason: People trust other people more than they trust brands. Plus, the Instagram images help add an element of authenticity to the email that you simply can't get with glossy company photos.  

For the final step in their welcome series, ClassPass creates a sense of urgency by reminding subscribers that their free workouts will expire soon. The countdown timer makes you uncomfortable just looking at it, giving folks the push they need to convert.

If you do decide to subscribe to ClassPass and later cancel your subscription, they'll send you this smart re-engagement email. It's much easier to sell to people who have already purchased before: In fact, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% (versus 5-20% for new prospects).


The signup process

Interestingly, Equinox doesn't offer people the opportunity to sign up for their email list on their home page. However, you can get emails from them if you navigate to their online magazine, Futhermore, which is all about "the high-performance life." When you arrive on the main content hub, you'll see that they send a newsletter that provides subscribers with workout routines, recipes, and style guidance. Then, if you continue to navigate through their content, you'll be presented with this lightbox form.     The pop-up promotes a more specific newsletter, "Expertly Defined," that's sent out every Sunday. By capturing subscribers for this newsletter via a different form, they're able to keep their list segmented by interest and minimize mass sends.

The emails

If you sign up via the more general form, you'll be put into Futhermore's larger base of subscribers who receive standard newsletters. They don't appear to send any sort of welcome series, so you simply receive whatever the next email happens to be. Their newsletters take a few different shapes. For instance, one of their more frequent sends utilizes this tile-heavy template. They overlay each tile with a little bit of teaser copy, making for a super engaging experience that's easy to navigate.


On Fridays, they send a weekly series titled "4 things you need to know this week." It's a quick, curated list of their best articles from the week, usually spanning several different topics.

If you opt into the "Expertly Defined" newsletter via the lightbox, you'll only receive those emails. It's easily the longest newsletter they send, and it's full of workout tutorials and snippets of advice from fitness pros.

Finally, they occasionally send one-off campaigns like this one, which solicits audience feedback to help inform their content strategy. It's a smart way to gather data on exactly what their subscribers want and improve engagement over time.


So, what do we do with this one? Despite their similarities as businesses, ClassPass and Equinox have fundamentally different strategies when it comes to their email marketing. For ClassPass, email marketing is a lead nurturing tool. Both their welcome series and subsequent messages are all about converting email subscribers into paying customers by showing them the value of signing up for a ClassPass subscription. Equinox, on the other hand, uses email marketing as a means of content distribution. They never include anything about their service in their emails, and since there are only a few small ads on the Furthermore site, I can't imagine they drive a ton of revenue through site traffic, either.  So for them, this has to be a value play: engaging current customers, creating brand awareness, and building a base of advocates. Neither strategy is inherently "better" than the other. Just because ClassPass doesn't send people content doesn't mean they're doing anything wrong – for them, email is a sales tool.  Similarly, just because Equinox doesn't provide subscribers a clear path to convert doesn't mean they're being ineffective: If all they want to do is create advocates and nurture their base, they're doing an excellent job. Your email marketing success depends on your goals, and both brands appear to be hitting theirs super well. That said, I'm calling this one a tie.  


About the Author

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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