Discover the Art of Hospitality Retail
Consumers aren't just shoppers; they're guests who explore, discover, immerse and buy. This alone demonstrates the disconnect between the guest experience vs. the customer retail shopping experience which uses vocabulary such as filter, select and purchase.
Hospitality is designed to entertain and cater to guests' needs, comfort, satisfaction and loyalty. From the very start of the consumer journey, the world’s best hospitality groups build an environment and menu of offerings to suit the guest’s needs, while encouraging them to stay longer and experience the property’s amenities and restaurants. This is, in fact, shopping.
In fact, hospitality groups introduced boutiques and gift stores into the guest experience for convenience and to satisfy the indulgence of the guest. Is it any surprise that loyalty metrics are so well defined in the hospitality industry? The result of this "guest first" model is the perfect platform for a captive audience, meaningful engagement, client relationship building, product sampling, and loyalty programs.
And some hospitality players have taken the guest experience one step further to provide value and reasons for guests to visit, remain on or return to the property. For example, Kimpton hotels in Miami and Palm Springs, Calif. have co-hosted the Brand Closet Showroom Social, an immersive experience platform that allows travelers and members of its community to experience the property by bringing designers, artists, experts and food/wine/spirits purveyors on-site to transform the hotel into a destination within a destination, while offering emerging and established brands a curated, multicity showroom.
The retail industry is also looking for ways to bring life to the physical space, as well as connect with the consumer beyond Instagram. To that end, retailers should rethink their whole ecosystem and look to the hospitality model for insight into how to cultivate consumer experiences, focus on loyalty-based metrics, and create spaces that encourage leisure dwell time. Specifically:
- Give customers a safe space to explore. Relaxed guests who feel comfortable, safe and free to explore will be more willing to get out of their comfort zone and explore new things. Guests who arrive at hotels are encouraged to explore the property and the amenities vs. being asked to book their dining reservation or spa appointment. The cadence of welcoming and suggestions are a different type of customer engagement conversation.
- Create a story for customers to explore. Guests who are open to discovering new people, things and experiences will share their point of view and spend more time sharing rather than browsing. This mindset almost always leads to conversion; enthusiasm translates into advocacy and the purchase of some form. Retailers must rethink the story and move beyond the editorial pick and magazine style column. The story starts with the consumer and not the retail brand. Identify a consumer who uses your products, exudes the essence of your ideal customer, and socially engages in an authentic way and share their discovery story by connecting them to your social ecosystem via Instagram, invite them to a VIP event not specific to your product alone.
- Connect with customers on social media. Consumers don’t just shop; they acquire experiences and opportunities to share stories, the pleasure of the discovery and selection. Encourage them to directly communicate with the brand ambassador through social media. Brands rely on the consumer’s organic posts, but forget that the individual consumer loves to be acknowledged even if they're not a known "influencer" on Instagram.
- Loyalty should expand beyond the purchase, basket size, email registration and referral. Loyalty metrics in hospitality start with the minute the consumer consents to sharing their identity and is connected to the rest of their lifestyle choices, such as gym memberships, social clubs, credit cards, airline miles, etc.
The stores of the future that will be favored by the consumer will deliver more than a single retail experience. It will be one that has been designed to offer a unique destination filled with elevated personalized experiences, mixed use space, and social shopping opportunities.
Michelle Collins is CEO and president of A Non-Agency, a consumer experience marketing consultancy and curators of the A\N/A Brand Closet Showroom Social based in New York.