Engaging the Millennial Consumer Through a Multi-Sensory Approach

By Scott Acton CEO & Founder, Forte Specialty Contractors | June 26, 2016

Millennials have become the fastest growing consumer segment in the hospitality industry. Therefore, changes in quality and experiences provided in hotels across the nation are essential in ensuring greater competitiveness and overall success.

Millennials, who are heavily reliant on technology and seek non-traditional features in services provided, are looking for a different approach to hospitality; with immersive lifestyle experiences their main priority, resulting in a rising demand for special visual imagery and more comprehensive sensual engagement. Accordingly, it is necessary for the hospitality industry to adjust to this new trend in consumer preferences, demanding that hotels put substantial effort into creating a new environment, appealing to consumers’ five senses.

While the younger part of the millennial demographic group is still heavily reliant financially on their parents, on the older end, the generation has already become efficient consumers. According to estimates by HVS Global Hospitality Services, millennials’ average spending power will start climaxing in 2017, and by year 2030, this generation will outnumber all other age groups combined, becoming the main force behind US consumer demand, driving over two-thirds of the nation’s economy.

Therefore, a broad scope of the US services sector are bound to adapt to the new patterns in personal consumption set by millennials’ shift of attitudes toward lifestyles and living standards. The hospitality industry is no exception.

The Importance of a Theme Park-Inspired Multi-Sensory Approach

A key concept in the new approach to customer service is the introduction of multi-sensory design similar to that found in theme parks during the past several decades. Traditionally, theme parks tend to create an immersive environment by engaging all five senses. For instance, Disneyland’s approach to designing its various locations within the park includes authentic visual imagery such as architecture, sonic experiences including music and other sounds, smells and tastes of the cuisine, all corresponding to the customer’s stereotypical perception of a given era being recreated – be that the Old West or futuristic scenery of the Star Wars saga.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.