Have you considered how much time guests spend in your showers or wrapped in one of your bath towels or robes? While that question may seem invasive, those are moments when your customers should feel the most comfortable and pampered, moments where the concept of luxury hospitality can truly stand out, where your guests’ every expectation can be exceeded. These are sensory touchpoints that connect your guest to your hotel and brand on a physical level.
With the global luxury hotel market expected to reach $194.63 billion by 2021, growing annually at 3.5 percent between 2016 and 2021 (Zion Market Research, 2016), smart hoteliers are always on the lookout for new and better ways to innovate (and elevate) their brand and guest experience. One way to do this is by scrutinizing every moment of the guest experience to see if it is worthy of the luxury label. If it is, then knowing how to align these sensory experiences with your brand is crucial. Whether a guest is a first-timer or someone who stays with you several times a year, these intimate connection points can and should be an area of focus for luxury hoteliers.
1. Be Brave
Look at what you’re doing now. Is it working? Are your guests name-dropping your bath products online or raving about your hotel’s out-of-this-world textiles at checkout? If not, consider redefining what “working” means. Perhaps it means you’re stuck in a rut, or you’ve held on to one idea for too long. Meanwhile, the luxury threshold is always evolving. Familiarity breeds contempt, even among your most loyal guests. They will stop paying attention to the little touches— or even the big statement pieces—once it’s clear they aren’t changing anytime soon.
Instead, build a brand that reinvents, experiments and disrupts. Your guests are in your space versus their homes, and in your shower/bed/textiles versus their own clothes. Make it even more luxurious than they were expecting. According to Zion Market Research, the expected surge in the luxury hotel market is a result of people looking for hotels that materialize their aspirations of luxury living. Aim to fulfill those aspirations, and then exceed them with every return visit.
Be aware of the long-term trends currently shaping the industry, but also know that insight into tomorrow’s trends can be just as valuable. When building an amenities strategy, find partners who understand not just your local market, but also have a global perspective and a forward-looking understanding so they can bring that perspective to the conversation and decision-making process. What delights in North America might not work in Asia, but perhaps there’s something happening in Tokyo that could be the “next big thing.”
When it comes to planning room changes, consider seasonality (already a big trend in food-and-beverage that’s not going anywhere soon). Offer different skin products for cold, harsh weather versus summer. Provide different weights of linens and robes, even change colors/scents to reflect the season. This level of attention to detail is key to delighting the guest who stays with you four or five times a year. It will keep them coming back to see what’s new and what’s next.
2. Tell a Story
Your guests want to know exactly where their food, wine and even coffee come from. Extend the same concepts you’re applying to your food and beverage—be it organic, fair trade, over-the-top decadence, etc.—to in-room amenities that also have a unique cachet, origin or sourcing story. Spark your guests’ curiosity: Where did that brand come from and where is it made? How is it made? Why does this soap smell so good? What makes this robe so soft?
If you choose to create a bespoke brand for amenity items, consider an iconic name, an emblematic number, a special date, a treasured memory, a faded picture—the sky is the limit when it comes to evoking emotions that create a compelling scent, bespoke packaging and a unique experience for your guests.
3. Elevate Everything
The key to succeeding in the luxury space is to continually achieve a premium standard. Again, one of the biggest challenges for the luxury market is simply holding on to one idea for far too long. Look at every item in your rooms with a critical, unflinching eye. How can you do better?
Consider the rise of the signature bed and the resulting “hotel bed wars” among competing chains. And while the bed wars may be considered over, there is little doubt that hotel guests are now trained to expect a wonderful, elevated sleep experience. Think of those intimate moments when your guest slides between the sheets at the end of a long, possibly exhausting day. Their bodies will sink into the mattress; their skin will touch the linens. Their brain will reflexively compare both touchpoints with what they experience at home. The last thing you want is for them to wish they were back in their own bed.
Many luxury hoteliers spend the least on bath products, despite their comparatively high return on investment. Consider the fact that your guests interact with the products and packaging visually, through scents and also sensations on their skin and hair. That’s a threefold point of interaction and an important opportunity to pamper, delight and create brand loyalty.
Finally, female guests are a growing demographic for luxury, meaning there’s a real need for emphasis on quality haircare products. Is your product safe for color-treated hair? Do you have an option for natural hair? Consider the exploding popularity of beards and facial hair among men, and then consider providing specific products. Do you provide options for different facial skin types or something for guests with allergies?
Now consider adding in a retail component. This is not overkill! You’ve done the work to go above and beyond with your product offerings and can now develop a secondary revenue stream. Even better, retail offerings allow your guests to carry the intimate memories of their hotel stay into their everyday lives.
Chip McIntyre is SVP, strategic sourcing for Avendra, a North American hospitality procurement services provider.
Tim Kersley is SVP of La Bottega.