Wednesday, January 7, 2009

High Heals

The new Spa Finder Trend Report, Susie Ellis' excellent overview of industry influences, cites as a key trend the increasing acceptance of "energy work" in spas. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we know that cosmeceutical ingredients and medical aesthetic technologies continue to grow in sophistication. What do these two trends have in common?

At our recent Holiday Client Appreciation Party, we offered an array of free mini spa treatments to our guests. The two most popular "attractions"? An esthetician who was giving Reike facial treatments, and a therapist who specializes in Intuitive Flower Essence Readings.

Now, we're located in the very workaday Silicon Valley. For all our innovations in technology, we are not a terribly adventurous lot. (We're not Marin County. We wear sensible shoes and carefully sanitize our yoga mats.)

Cosmeceutical and medical spa innovations appeal to the client who wants to receive profound benefits from their self-care investment. Energy work is sought out by clients who want to go beyond the basic spa benefit of relaxation. But within these very different modalities, there's a common thread, and that's healing. We may not think of aesthetic medical procedures as healing, but the end result is repaired self esteem. That's emotional healing.

These distinctions may seem like semantics, but they are actually clues to your clients' deeper needs, the kind of needs that will motivate them to spend discretionary income during a severe recession.

The rules of the game have changed. Clients still want--more than ever--what we have to offer. But to justify their choices, the benefits they receive from spa services must be unassailable. How effective are you at articulating the benefits of what you offer?

Because your clients must take their cue from you: they need to be able to explain why they do what they do. They will have to make a case for their choices to family members, friends, colleagues. "I'm worth it!" just doesn't cut in the the cold light of 2009. Why is your spa worth it?

Have you retooled your marketing copy to bring it into alignment with the newly sober mood of today's consumer? (Hint: "indulgence," "luxury," "exclusivity" are soooo 2008!)I can't emphasize enough the importance of relanguaging the spa experience, not just in your brochure or website, but for your employees. We can't win the new game playing by yesterday's rules, or with yesterday's scripts.

Most spas have understood for years that at the heart of what we do is healing. We may have lesser or greater degrees of comfort with that concept. But during a year when everyone is "hurting," healing is one of very few activities everyone can justify.

Another deep need that spas have almost unwittingly found themselves meeting is consumers' craving for fostering deeper connections and more meaningful relationships with special people in their lives. Where do you foster this sort of connection? Perhaps over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, but also, particularly during special occasions, within the sanctuary provided by spas. The notion of spa-as-sanctuary is hardly new (as evidenced by the number of spas bearing this name or a version of it.) But the reason for seeking sanctuary now is not just about zoning out in splendid isolation--increasingly, it's about finding the ideal environment for enjoying quality time with friends and family. ("Girlfriend Getaways" were one of the few categories of travel that grew last year.)

American consumer culture has turned a page. To find our place in this unfamiliar new story, spas must make sure we remain relevant. And that relevance comes from meeting our clients' needs for healing, meaning, and connection.


Lisa said...

Going green and creating shared experiences. These are the foundations for the future of the spa industry. Spa goers are looking for "greener" ways to pamper themselves and/or a shared experience during a spa reconnecting between a friend, husband, or sister. I have seen these trends locally at many of my favorite Chicago Spas. This is where the spa industry is heading as far as I can see.

Peggy Wynne Borgman said...

Absolutely! The healing imperative extends to our environment as well. Great point.