Successful Spas Need to Leverage Technology to Optimize Customer Engagement and Revenue Opportunities

By Kimberley Matheson Shedrick Senior Vice President, WTS International | July 08, 2012

The new economy, partnered with the explosive and dynamic growth of "always on" technology, has created multiple channels for hotel spas to engage a highly demanding, knowledgeable and connected clientele. The holdover of skepticism that remains a result of the global financial crisis has today's consumers using unprecedented technological innovations to demand honest, accurate, timely, and engaging information.

Traditional marketing efforts must be accompanied by a shrewd Internet strategy to effectively engage and deepen the relationship with customers. Spas and Hotels can benefit significantly from exploring and implementing new promotions that are tailored to the channel. Loyalty will be strengthened and new revenue opportunities will present themselves with higher communication with the client base / guests through multiple touch points.

According to "The Affluence Collaborative", a research powerhouse that dives deep into the habits of high-end consumers, the affluent seek out companies and brands that can simplify and improve their lives. In the spa and travel sector, this translates into broadly increased expectations of personalization which cuts across all touch points – including digital media platforms – as luxury travelers research, purchase, engage in and reflect on their travel and spa experiences in a trusted social community.

Internet strategy is not optional. In an incredibly short span of time, the question has evolved from "Do you have a website?" to "Are you effectively engaged across all channels?" It is now possible to market your message to the masses while also successfully tailoring specific promotions to targeted customer segments. Much can be automated (ie newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs and community forums). Leverage local marketing and reviews with Google Places, Bing Local, Yelp, FourSquare, Yellow Pages and CitySearch, and use the tools available to monitor these sources for reviews of your organization as well as a dynamic understanding of key market trends.

Through new digital and social media, consumers can maintain dialogue with their favorite brands, who in turn can respond in a more relevant and customized way. The ability to know your customers has never been easier, or more important.

How well would your business rate if put to the test on L2's Digital IQ Index? Ranking #1 (Genius) in the Hotels report is Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, so recognized for its commitment to the brand's long term strategic investment in digital. "Our guests have signaled a clear choice for brands that have recognized the larger role digital is playing in their lives. Four Seasons has fostered an environment of innovation and excellence in digital engagement that resonates with our guests at every touch point." Susan Helstab, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Four Seasons. The L2 ranking measures the digital competency of 52 hotel brands via 350 data points across four dimensions: Site, Digital Marketing, Social Media, and Mobile.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.