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Selling experiences – not rooms: Exploring the future of luxury travel through digital strategy

Navdeep-WhitePaper-Luxury

Can a holiday make you a better parent, or more creative? Luxury hospitality consumers aren’t satisfied with a great view – they want a substantive change borne out of amazing experiences, suggests Dr Navdeep Athwal.

Luxury consumption has shifted away from goods and towards experiences, so how can the premium hospitality market capitalise on this? Navdeep’s white paper, co-authored with digital agency Verb Brands, argues that the key to growth is brands getting their digital and marketing strategies right.

Social media and luxury travel goes hand in hand – customers are generally tech-savvy and self-sufficient deeming the high street travel agent redundant. They favour mobile apps over web browsers so are likely to interact with a provider from a hand-held device at one point in the process, leading brands to address their digital and social media approaches in order to remain competitive.

A brand’s social media must showcase the aspirational experience while also demonstrating customer care and relationship management. User-generated, story-based content trumps traditional advertising so many brands employ online ‘influencers’ to contribute to visual platforms like Instagram. While they can be effective, Navdeep suggests brands introduce a comprehensive vetting process prior to appointment, as well as exploring people without an online presence who have “priceless Rolodexes” for accessing high-earning, hard-to-reach spenders.

An ‘Instagrammable’ destination has become a primary influencing factor for millennials choosing their holidays, and with 25-34 year olds spending much of their disposable income on travel, this paper highlights the importance of brands understanding how to deploy digital to best meet market requirements. Navdeep indicates that AI is the future of customer engagement – meanwhile Airbnb is adapting its sharing economy model to meet the expectations of luxury travellers. The landscape is changing, and quickly.

In this paper, Navdeep also identifies successful strategies for businesses based on offline consumer behaviour. Luxury consumers are pursuing experiences over possessions – “a better me” is the product and key themes are wellness, personalisation and dining.

One of the market’s primary challenges is building brand love and loyalty, though defining the latter is complex as it can be driven by behavioural (earning perks) or attitudinal (emotional) motivations. Navdeep suggests that arriving at a combination of both in a brand’s marketing strategy is ideal. She continues: “Globalisation necessitated a one-size-fits-all approach, but the changing luxury market demands a more personalised response. Brand authenticity is vital, as is a marketing and digital strategy shaped around accurately collected and analysed data.”

“Over the next ten years, growth in luxury travel is expected to exceed that of overall travel – brands must tap-in to consumers’ spiritual and emotional motives for spending their money on travel. Happily, we’re already starting to see premium brands such as major hotel chains react by refining their digital approach.”

Click here to read the full report (‘The Evolving Luxury Hospitality Market – what’s the key to its growth?’).

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