The way consumers spend money is changing. Last summer, The Wall Street Journal reported that leisure travel spending increased by 8 percent from the year prior. Yet, some lifestyle brands are getting ahead of the trend and making a shift of their own. These brands are entering the hospitality industry in hopes of attracting consumers with curated and familiar spaces. The five branded boutique hotels listed below will target consumers who already align themselves with these companies and the desire to live among the design aesthetic.
Home décor brand West Elm is debuting five boutique hotels in locations where the brand currently has little retail presence. West Elm, which describes itself as designers of clean, simple products for modern living, takes the natural next step into hotels as consumers are already familiar with the brand and its design aesthetic. Hotel visitors will have a strong perception of what they will be experiencing as a guest. West Elm loyalists have the real possibility of having true cohesion between their home and hotel room — allowing guests to truly feel “at home” while traveling.
The announcement of West Elm launching its own line of boutique hotels on the brand’s Facebook page received 8.5K reactions and nearly 700 comments.
Equinox, a self-described “temple of well-being,” could be the go-to hotel for the fitness focused. While most hotel gyms appear to be an afterthought, Equinox’s focus on a healthy lifestyle could create a unique opportunity for travelers not currently seen in mass-chains. The brand plans to eventually have as many hotels as it does gyms. Although not planning to debut until 2018, fitness-focused social users are already saying this move by Equinox solves the problem of having to research the status of hotel gyms before booking. The brand has over 250,000 fans on Facebook and an additional 140,000 Instagram followers.
Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld is also joining the trend, as he plans to launch his own hotel brand, Karl Lagerfeld Hotels & Resorts. The Lagerfeld properties are set to include restaurants, member clubs and residential buildings. Lagerfeld has previously worked in hospitality, having designed hotel spaces in Singapore, Macau, Miami, Monaco and Paris. Vogue’s coverage of Karl Lagerfeld announcing a hotel and resort line received 3.9K Facebook likes and 196 shares.
Shinola, a Detroit-based watch factory, is creating a boutique hotel located in the city. According to the Detroit Free Press, the brand is looking to provide “a unique experience worthy of the city itself.” Similar to an all-up consumer trend, millennials care about the values of a brand and where it focuses its efforts. Social users discussing the upcoming Shinola hotel are in agreement, with one stating, “a new hotel we can’t wait to stay in, and yes, it’s in Detroit!” On Reddit, there have been multiple Shinola-based posts, most often under Detroit specific threads. A post announcing the hotel received 69 upvotes and 44 comments.
Similarly, lifestyle brand Vera Bradley plans to create a boutique hotel in the co-founders’ hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Similarly to Shinola, Vera Bradley hopes to create new opportunities for the growing city. Vera Bradley’s Facebook page has 1.7 million likes.
What it Means From a Social Media Perspective
Brands opening hotels aren't necessarily leaving their retail operations high and dry. With the convergence of retail and tourism comes the opportunity for consumers to interact with brands in ways that are impossible in-store.
Today, 76 percent of social media users post vacation photos to social networks. It’s no secret that guests staying in a West Elm hotel will be more likely to post photos of the experience than shoppers browsing store shelves. Enticing guests to socially share their stay will strengthen the brand’s identity in all aspects. As discussed in a previous post, 83 percent of people trust or somewhat trust recommendations from family and friends posted online. In expanding the brand identity to include hospitality, the aforementioned retailers will see increased visibility where it matters most: the opinions of trusting followers and fans.
Jen Handley is the co-president and co-founder of Fizziology, a social media research firm.