Where Hospitality Meets Retail: Engaging Through Experience

By Scott Acton CEO & Founder, Forte Specialty Contractors | March 04, 2018

For many years, retailers and hospitality brands have had an intrinsic relationship, in particular, finding ways to wow each guest who walks through the door; and keep them coming back time and time again.

Dating back to the emergence of all-inclusive resorts in the 1950s spurred by the creation of Club Mediterannee (Club Med) to now with fashion retailer Forever 21 who has developed a playground-like experience with a lifestyle mix of beauty essentials, interiors products and accessories to further engage consumers, retail and hospitality brands are continually looking for ways to distinguish themselves and build up their brands with the demands of the consumer in mind.

We’re now seeing one of the biggest trends emerge: hospitality and retail fully integrating in order to provide the ultimate customer experience and create an extension of the brand. Leading retailers like Armani, Muji, West Elm, Nobu Matsuhisa and Parachute have begun opening their own hotels to allow a new level of engagement with the brand that consumers have never experienced before. This intersection between hospitality and retail is being largely driven by Millennials and Gen-Zers who rely heavily on technology and seek out experiential environments.

This comes as no surprise as even several years ago, according to a 2014 study conducted by PKF Hospitality Research, the hotel market dynamics began shifting and lifestyle and boutique hotels were outperforming traditional hotels in terms of revenue, due to the rise of traveling Millennials and their innovative ability to localize and personalize services that put a greater emphasis on technology and created an immersive, lifestyle experience.

As a result, larger hotel brands like Starwood, Hilton and Marriott have all taken notice and gotten in on the action. Hilton@Play has partnered with Live Nation to create a series of live music events and to appeal to the younger generation. To encourage loyalty, concert-goers must also be HHonors members with between 30,000 and 80,000 points in order to attend the live concerts. Starwood’s Aloft brands itself as “stylish, boutique hotels that break the traditional hotel mold for a truly unforgettable stay.” The Aloft brands were specifically designed to appeal to Millennials and Gen-Z consumers through social interaction from the communal pool tables to “Sips & Spins” DJ sets at the WYXZ bar or encouraging guests to tag their photos on social of the property before they even leave the grounds. Marriott’s Moxy Hotels has now brought in top social influencers to entertain guests.

Hotel operators and retailers must now look at the entirety of their mix of products -- from shelving to the guest lobby, social landscapes to event spaces, artwork, health and fitness options, and family entertainment -- in order to create a true sense of destination. Additionally, this has also prompted hoteliers and retailers to look at how they can provide unexpected moments of intrigue that captivate the senses and leave lasting impressions at every touch point.

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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.