Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Service, Small Business and CRM

No one doubts the effectiveness of CRM systems and loyalty programs though for small businesses, the costs of implementation in dollars and human resources can be a challenge. So what’s a small business – be it hotel, restaurant, service provider to do? Here are two examples of the right way and wrong way based on my recent experiences, and then a look at the takeaway.

Two hair salons. Both I’ve been going to for several years. Salon 1: Oribe in South Beach. When the hair stylist is running late they let me know. If there’s a big traffic tie up they give a call. And the best yet, this week I called to make an appointment. First, and unbelieve, the receptionist recognized my voice ( I go every 6 weeks). Then, she asked if I’d like an appointment in the morning, remembering my preferred time. Whenever I walk in, she makes me feel as if I’m coming home.

Salon 2. They have all of the tech stuff – as soon as I make an appointment I get a text confirming it. Then, a day before I get another text and a call (overkill). The problem. When I call they always ask me for my phone number which is in the computer, act as if this is my first time at the salon, and have me spell my name more than once.

Now which salon will I recommend? What’s the takeaway? It’s so important in a service company to have a good receptionist and do whatever to keep him/her so there’s longevity and he/she gets to know the client. Tech goes just so far.

Madigan Pratt, President of MP & A Digital and Advertising who has serious credentials in CRM summed it up. “Today CRM software allows companies with a culture of great customer service to move up to another level. When they do they can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Problem arises when companies think office automation software is the answer to their customer service problems. Staff may know how to push buttons, but do they really know how to empathize a customer? More often than not, the answer is no.

“CRM with a human touch just may be the answer”, he concluded.

Budget Luxury

luxury budget

Flying a private jet doesn’t sound “budget” to me but new European jet carrier Wijet bills itself as “budget luxury”, charging $3,000 an hour for a Cessna Citation Mustang 510 that accommodates four people. As quoted in the New York Times, Alexandre Azoulay, owner, says the “budget” comes in since there’s no need to buy a minimum number of hours.

I guess if you’re an exec that has to get someplace in a hurry and millions or billions of dollars or Euros are at stake – or if you’re a billionaire, then $3,000 an hour is a “deal.” More apt, though, would be to call the service “value” luxury.

All of this prompted my thinking about what luxury means in today’s travel world.

The term “affordable or budget luxury” has been around for a number of years, meaning you’ll have a “luxury like” experience that’s within many travelers’ grasp. The expression packed some punch at the time it was first used, but now – with overuse – it has become almost meaningless.

Today, three-and-a-half star hotels and resorts are claiming to offer luxury – not in terms of service or expensive millwork, but with other elements such as top-of-the-line mattresses, designer linens, marble bathroom countertops or rainfall showerheads.

“It’s a challenging time for anyone who wants to cater to upscale consumers, regardless of their price point,” said Barbara DeLollis, the former USA TODAY hotels reporter. “Why? Younger generations who have vastly different expectations and needs than their parents are forcing new definitions of luxury.“

So this begs the question, what qualifies a hotel or resort as offering total luxury and how do consumers substantiate the claim? Prestigious awards certainly help. Invoking brand names of products used – from suites conceived  by fashion designers to luxury branded amenities and facilities. Not easy. And interesting that another word has not arisen to take the place of “luxury” so I guess we’re still stuck with it.

Push-Pull on Websites: Brand Identity and Conversion

brand identity

Puli Hotel, Shanghai

My advice to everyone is when developing a new website make sure you have two points of view at the table: representatives from the Branding perspective and the other from Sales/E commerce. You may think that’s obvious, but it isn’t. With so much emphasis now on analytics and ROI, too often brand identity takes a back seat. And, to some extent it’s understandable. A sales message can be immediately measured with clickthroughs, not so branding. What is often forgotten is that everyone who comes to a website isn’t necessarily a buyer. Many have to be “sold” on the product, motivated and inspired enough to want to buy. And how do you do this? Here’s a list of my web brand identity do’s and don’ts:

  • Play up your unique selling propositions. For instance, instead of just showing a sample guest room or suite show the details that make it special, separate it from the pack – the shower, an espresso machine in suite, unusual selection of mini bar items, or even the makeup lighting (e.g. in the Peninsula in Bangkok it’s a wow, never forgot it), etc.
  • Don’t clutter the homepage with too many calls to action on sales or those promotional boxes that scream out for attention (and thus distract the consumer from any emotional response to the images, graphics).
  • No to stock photos. They’ll make you look like everyone else. Plus, we’re living in a time when authenticity is paramount, so make it real and “you”.
  • Give specifics in copy, rather than overloading it with keywords. For instance, list the water sports you offer if you have a resort, nifty things to do that are nearby. And combine that with story telling.
  • To be sure sales conversion is important. You have to make it easy and quick for the traveler to buy so except for maybe a very small, exclusive hotel or resort, the outcome should be a compromise, not a one sided street.

For more on websites, check out my earlier post.

Latest Trends: Men, The Rich Opportunity for Luxury Segment

luxury latest trends

New Berluti Shop in New York

 

Most everything comes full circle at some point, so in that sense it’s not surprising that men, once far surpassing women in sales of luxury goods, are back as a major target. And nowhere is this more evident than in luxury retail. LVMH, whom we know is the lead to follow, is investing tens of millions of dollars in the male market segment. This week they’re opening the first New York store of Berluti, the maker of expensive men’s shoes that they’ve turned into a full apparel and accessories line and are showcasing this in their new outpost. This is part of a $137 million investment they’re making according to the Wall Street Journal. During the Great Recession many women who previously traded up become introduced to the likes of H & M, Zara, Forever 21 and others, and realized they could get knockoffs of the latest trends, such as an “it” bag or clothing items, for a lot less. And it’s unlikely they’ll return to shopping as before. Not so men, who, according to the article, are more loyal to brands and care less about the latest trends. Plus, according to Bain & Co., between 2009 and 2013 men’s luxury spending increased 55% compared with 37% for women. So the luxury heavyweights are opening men only stores. In the past year alone, for example, in Miami’s Design District, Dior and Christian Louboutin have opened shops for men only along with a Berluti store.  If fashion leads the way in luxury latest trends, then what can we expect to see  for men in other lifestyle categories like hotels and spas?  Sounds like a real business opportunity.

 

Media trends 2014: celebs and content

Everything seems to constantly change – except the public’s appetite for celebrities. Sometimes it’s just too much, especially when it comes to Justin Bieber these days. But back to the point at hand…..

Celebs images, even “B” list it seems, are front and center in the media who chronicle their every step and, ideally in their eyes, misstep. But that’s nothing new. And now, it seems we’re getting the benefits of their wisdom as magazine columnists as the printed product in particular struggles to keep front and center in the public eye. As recounted in Adweek in article “It’s Written in the Stars”, this month kicked off A list celebs picking up the pen for magazines from Brides and Vanity Fair to Redbook, InStyle and Glamour. 

The lineup includes Drew Barrymore on beauty for Brides, Pippa Middleton on a guide to watching rugby for Vanity Fair, Alison Sweeney for Redbook, Q &A for InStyle with Diane von Furstenberg, and Girls’ Zosia Mamet for Glamour.  Does it build readership? The jury is still out but results are promising. Actress Olivia Wilde’s “The Dos and Don’ts of Turning 30” was among the top 10 most shared stories of 2013 on Glamour.com.

 

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Rent a Slum Dwelling, the Newest Hospitality Niche

 

 

The favela of Rocinho in Rio de Janeiro

The favela of Rocinho in Rio de Janeiro

We’ve written about tourism microniches from danger and grief to scandal and slum tourism. But all of that was about visiting sites – an in and out kind of thing. Now a new company is offering a chance to get up close and personal with Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, promising “cultural immersion, stunning views, and an alternative to expensive and boring hotels”. Fueled by the scarcity of rooms projected during the upcoming World Cup, a new start up called Favela Experience begun by an American is promising “affordable World Cup accommodations” in Rio’s slums. This can range from bunk beds to a private room or entire apartment. Many of the accommodations have WiFi and large screen TV as well as the promise of a favela tour by the owner, and rooftop terraces. Plus, they talk of an opportunity to do good as in helping to supplement the income of the favela dwellers. Part of the profits go to fund a DJ school for neighborhood youth. It’s very easy to believe that we could see the beginning of the gentrification of the favelas, already being snapped up  by investors who see the potential in the dramatic views commanded from the hilltop locations.

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 2

Using psychographics rather than demographics (see Part 1) what are the options and new directions in hotel lifestyle branding for the hospitality and cruise industries?

The oldest lifestyle branding route is still through a celebrity recognized in a specific category, primarily food/chefs (Daniel Boulud), golf (Jack Nicklaus), and architecture/design (Philippe Starck).

Major hotel brands like Starwood Hotels and Resorts and IHG are segmenting by special interests. Starwood has been a leader in this over several decades, with its fashion brand (W), wellness (Westin) and the newest, eco-luxury (1Hotel) and entertainment (Aloft). At the same time, they continue to build their straight luxury portfolios, with high end appeal (The Luxury Collection and St. Regis).

Lifestyle brands especially from the fashion world – Versace, Armani, Bulgari, Missoni and others – are creating immersive hotel brand experiences at the high end. In a very interesting development, at the other budget end of the spectrum, Marriott is doing a partnership with IKEA. My prediction: always one to watch, LVMH will use its hotel acquisitions to showcase its full range of lifestyle product lines. Imagine this: you walk into their hotel and are greeted by runway models, offered a glass of Moet et Chandon. Want more? Visit the Moet et Chandon Ice Lounge (already in existence). Choose your fashion suite – Celine, Donna Karan, Fendi, Pucci maybe with Acqua di Parma bath amenities. It’s dinner time and you’re hungry? Head down to the restaurant through the lobby fragrant with the newest perfume from Dior, order a lobster and a glass of Chateau d’Yquem. And before heading home, stop off in the hotel shop and pick up a Bulgari or Chaumet watch as a memento of your stay.

And finally, the newest option is to brand by a niche, special interest category. Examples include the Food Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Only Hotel, and the Pet Hotel.  Interestingly enough, most of these have come out of Europe. Marketing associations with a niche such as Design Hotels are yet another choice, also a European invention.

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 1

Branding

Special interests and passions are driving travel decisions more and more, from themed weeks at hotels and cruise ships and tour operator offerings to learning vacations and now, hotel brands. Drivers in travel buying decisions are increasingly about psychographics – behavior rather than demographic determinants.

Let’s take a look first at the traditional “big four” of demographics: gender, age, geography and income and their influence today:

  • Gender lines continue to blur with women taking on more of the traditional role of men and vice versa, and the advent of same sex marriage.
  • Age is also less important. Whether it’s the “coveted” 18-34 males or moms from 25-44, this is an outdated way to target for many reasons. First, people are age shifting and not living lives based on their chronological age. Second, the top end of a demographic (34) has almost nothing in common with the low end (18). Also, age demos leave out influencers and others for whom a message may be relevant. Finally, focusing on age can take you away from emotional or other relevant benefits.
  •  Then we have geography. In this global, highly mobile world, people often spend their lives in multiple cities.
  • Of the four determinants, the only one that is still very important is income, especially at the two ends of the spectrum: budget and high end.  Price will trump passion if you’re on a budget and at the high-end, travelers are reluctant to compromise their comforts and service.

However, these traditional measurements don’t tell you “why they buy”- why consumers would choose one brand over another. Psychographics, or lifestyle and behavioral information are playing a larger role in hotel branding, which was my topic as a panelist for the Urban Land Institute, Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter, last month. What are some of these options and new directions for the hospitality and cruise industries? Check out the answer in Part 2 tomorrow.

By Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

Hotel Websites Gone Wrong

 

 

Four Seasons Weddings Website

Four Seasons Weddings Website

Since starting this blog and newsletter on luxury travel and lifestyle trends in 2005, we have always focused on what’s next and new opportunities in travel and lifestyle – all positive. For once we’re making a departure – and writing about something gone wrong. Hotel websites. Granted, we haven’t seen all of the websites in existence, but we’ve seen hundreds. And the overwhelming majority are boring and have obviously used website templates. Speaking about the luxury segment  (the universe of hotels is too large to opine on), most websites have no personality, no point of view, are weak on compelling content, and don’t say “luxury”. So, you say – and are correct to say – what do we think are effective, aspirational websites? Here are some of our current favorites and why:

A special hats off to Four Seasons Hotels for its weddings website. The site reads like an online publication, rich in interesting content, with feeds from various social media channels and a section promoting gift cards.

Peninsula  Hotels – they do contemporary classic and luxury so well: gorgeous images, clean, and with a point of view. Their current campaign is “Glamour Redefined” and the site conveys that.

Standard Hotels – leave it up to Andre Balaz and his team to have a point of view – in t heir case, cool, now, and with its own culture. In fact, “culture” and community are their rallying point.

Le Cheval Blanc – In thinking of whose website to go to, who is always right there on the touch point of luxury lifestyle – LVMH. Sure enough, their website for their two Le Cheval Blanc hotels is stunning. Two full screen images pack an emotional punch as well as the strong  design element and sense of texture. Fabulous.

For an individual hotel, effective for its destination and audience, The Puli in Shanghai’s site gets high marks for sophistication, style, and classic contemporary luxury.

Which hotel websites get your vote?

 

 

Managing Your Personal Reputation Online

 

Newsle.com Home Page

Newsle.com Home Page

The other day I was reading a sad tale of woe in the New York Times about a college student who was charged with a felony but not convicted, and how his mug shot ended up on numerous for-profit internet sites such as Busted Mugshots, Just Mugshots, and Mugshots. The sites obtain photos from public record and keep them online until people pay anywhere from $30 to $400 to have them removed (or in a few cases, sites will allow people to prove they were judged not guilty and the photo is removed).  As you’ve probably heard often, the internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy if you’re not careful. One of the better articles out there which had a solid list of tips was “Tending your Image in an Age of Online Permanence”. The main point of the article was how to push the “good stuff’ about you to the top of Google search.  Here are the highlights:

  • Get on as many online platforms as possible and links as well. Articles, videos on lectures, anything that says “authority” is the best. All this helps your ranking and if there is something negative, pushes down the negative.
  • Buy your name. That includes not just buy yourfirstnamelastname.com, but also .net and .org, and populate each with different content. On .net include your academic history and extracurricular activities and on .org your writings on business or career related subjects.
  • Sent up two accounts to monitor your name: Google Alerts, and  Newsle.com . They’re both free.
  • And once you’ve done this, take the next step to proactively build your reputation by populating these profile sites with the latest information and activities you’re proud of — i.e. a new job, professional accomplishments, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, etc. This will help you professionally in everything from getting a job offer and engagements as an industry panelist to being called upon to be quoted as an authority or source.

For more tips, on getting known as an industry authority, check out our article .

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist