5 marketing strategies for hotel & resort spas in a COVID-19 world

marketing strategies

It’s been a tough time for hospitality but we can get through it. Try these five marketing strategies for hotel and resort spas to thrive in the new world.

By Sean Anderson, VP of Global Sales at Book4Time

Months into the pandemic, many hotel & resort spas are beginning to re-open their doors to the public. With estimates that a COVID-19 vaccine will not be available until January to June of next year according to an article in The Telegraph, and travel forecasts looking dire until then, it is now more important than ever for hotel & resort spas to adjust and adapt their approach in order to survive and thrive in the face of the pandemic. I’ve outlined some marketing strategies to help you pivot your business model and marketing below based on conversations that I’ve had recently.

1. Staycations

While many signs point to a quick rebound for travel in 2021 with people looking to make up for missed travel, hotel & resort spas need to contend with today’s clear and present danger – a lack of hotel guests – and look at creative ways to boost local business. One such solution is to develop a day pass or staycation offering. People are going stir crazy after months in lockdown and looking to find ways to get out of the house. A night or weekend at the Four Seasons, Fairmont, Waldorf Astoria or Ritz Carlton, complete with spa treatments, yoga classes and lounging by the pool, is the perfect remedy for the lockdown blues; it combines the convenience of staying in your own city with the glamour and excitement of a vacation.

2. The Money is in the list and personalization

You’ve probably come across the expression “The money is in the list.” This refers to the database of names, email addresses, phone numbers, and other information you collect from customers (providing that you’re doing this right and not inputting a bogus generic phone number or email in your software in an attempt to save a couple of precious seconds when scheduling appointments or selling retail). Building a list of local customers is a core principle of success in any environment, but now with COVID and low hotel occupancy levels, it’s become absolutely critical. And, all other things being equal, the bigger your list, the more money your spa will make from each campaign you send out.

Now, maybe you’ve tried this but are getting poor response rates from your promotions.  The key to boosting your response rate (the number of people who open your emails and take the action you want them to take – booking an appointment, buying a gift certificate or buying a retail product) is to develop a relationship with your customers. The easier you make it for them to know, like, and trust you, the more likely they will be to open your emails and click on your links. So how, exactly, do you develop a relationship with the people on your list? Get personal! When you write copy for an email, look for ways to inject your personality into the copy and incorporate your personal and client stories. Also try to segment the offers you send out based on past purchase history vs. sending a single generic message to your entire list. Your campaigns should contain a personalized “why you, why you right now” message. And remember, your emails don’t always need to be promotional in nature – make sure you mix in a number of value-added, nurture emails that don’t have a call to action that requires your customer to open up their wallet! If all of your emails contain offers, your customers will turn blind to them and tune them out.

3. Local marketplace promotions for the win

Don’t have an extensive local database to market to? Tight on marketing funds and need to see an instant return on every marketing dollar spent? Still experiencing downtime during off-peak times? Turning to Groupon or Travelzoo to capture local business is a great tactic. These local marketplaces have spent millions of dollars building local databases that can help you to bring in new guests and fill downtime on a moment’s notice when the spa is not as busy and give you a great opportunity to drive trial with new guests, “wow them” and drive repeat, regular business. Concerned about getting an influx of calls or creating lineups in the spa with voucher redemptions? We recently launched OpenBooker to help you curate specific availability (time, date, service, therapist, etc.) for these marketplace promotions to help facilitate voucher redemption and booking online, helping you to free up the front desk, automate bookings and avoid the unpleasant voucher redemption conversations….if you know what I mean!

4. Reputation and referrals are everything

Reviews and word of mouth play a big role in new and local customer acquisition. The first place a customer will look when shopping for a spa is at reviews. Probably now more than ever, because people are concerned with cleanliness and safety standards. Spas should encourage positive reviews and get ahead of negative ones.

This is achieved by sending out NPS (Net Promoter Score) guest surveys after appointments. If a customer is a promoter and rates your service a nine or a 10, they should be encouraged to write a review. If they are a detractor, immediate steps should be taken to intercede and fix the situation BEFORE they blast you and your spa and leave a negative review on Google, Yelp or TripAdvisor. This is crucial. Research has consistently found that reviews matter a great deal. Some findings: 

  • Consumers are willing to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews. They are just looking for evidence that it’s worth spending an extra $75-100 for a massage at your establishment vs. the local day spa.
  • 92% of buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review
  • 94% say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business.
  • Only 13% of consumers will consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating.

We also trust our friends to tell us about their experiences and will take their recommendations. If you have found yourself a new promoter, also encourage that person to refer or bring a friend by offering them a discount or promotion on a product or return visit.

5. Ecommerce and subscription boxes

Both Amazon and Shopify have been aggressively building businesses that have aimed to take advantage of the steady shift in consumers’ buying habits from brick and mortar to e-commerce stores. When the coronavirus forced governments to lock down the economy, that shift became a sudden wave, accelerating the trend to where they thought it would be five years from now. Spas can take advantage of this trend by setting up their own online storefront and by leveraging data to run targeted, personalized campaigns – Amazon’s recommendation engine simply cannot compete with the guest preference and purchase data that is housed within your spa software!

In addition, subscription boxes are literally piling up at doorsteps as consumers increasingly shop from home. Just about every day, I see two or three meal kit boxes sitting at the concierge desk in my condo building. Over the past four months, many U.S. consumers turned toward the direct-to-consumer subscription box market for the first time, with one in five people buying subscription boxes during this time period to have products available to them during the pandemic. Retail sales often make up for 10-15% of a spa’s total revenue but can represent an outsized 20-25% of the profit – why not incorporate a retail product element to your membership offerings or create your own themed subscription box?

Try these strategies to help you survive and thrive, and you’ll be way ahead of the game. 

Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.