I read an interesting article this morning around the personalisation of a retail experience. Specifically in the hotel industry. There was some good advice for all industries…..
Hotels are a different kind of retail experience. Customers do not come to purchase products to take home, rather, the hotel experience, in itself, is the product. As such, hotel chains must exceed customer expectations, delivering cozy arrangements that visitors value.
Christopher Baer, Senior Director of Marriott’s Global Learning & Development platform, speaks about how the hotel chain is refining the customer experience—not only to ensure consistent quality, but to continually provide its guests curated experiences.
What are three key aspects of the way a hotel thinks about customer experiences that a retailer can learn from?
Hotel teams are very much about anticipating the customer need—be it practical, emotional or physical. Unlike many present retail models, we know in advance when a guest will show up, and often we can learn about the context of their journey.
That said, three areas that can transform retail are:
1) Surprise and Delight – Retail is historically transactional almost by definition. I once walked into Sephora in Paris only to have the entire staff lined up and clapping for the customers when they arrived. The experience bowled me over and made me smile. To this day, I remember it far and above the product I sent to retrieve for my wife. Retail that is experiential is sticky, shareable and memorable.
2) Reframe Retail – If someone goes to the trouble to make a appearance at a store, think how to provide added value to their physical presence. For example, what if the customer arrived to learn or upskill themselves and the products sold were in support of that? Food and beverage are a natural extension of living also so allow that to be part of the retail model. How could you get out of a retail mindset and engage a customer in a new way?
3) Reserve Space – For premium brands, see what happens when you encourage customers to make an appointment. Learn about their needs in advance of arrival to the store. Provide an incentive of some kind for them to “book in advance” so that you can plan for their arrival. See how they go right to social media when you create a winning experience.
How is that vision operationalised?
Operationalising any of these new ideas requires new skill sets that cut across UX, physical design, partner curation and social/mobile platforms. Brands are hiring and baking experience designers into their operational teams, doing similar work that agencies might typically be engaged to do. This kind of talent uses a rolling design thinking approach to test, measure and learn how the model can be morphed or extended around customer needs. That agility is key.