Spa and wellness services place a particular focus on being present and in the moment. Thus, a hotel’s spa and wellness experience typically begins as soon as guests walk through the spa door. This is where a comprehensive, in-person, multi-sensory experience can be fully implemented. When a person visits a spa, they are seeking an opportunity to relax and restore their mind, body, and soul.
Unlike other activities that require thought and focus, the spa experience is an opportunity for the mind to simply “be.” All you must do with your body is show up. Therefore, to get visitors to show up, hotels maintain a spa and wellness website page, as well as a brochure that is typically available at the front desk or in the guest’s room. These detail the services and treatments offered and focus on providing this information to the guest to get them to learn about available services, costs, and hours of operation, with the hope that they will book a treatment.
The spa and wellness website is a key opportunity to entice the guest to book a treatment in advance of their arrival, as well as to create a sense of anticipation for their spa experience.
David Hume once stated, “Anticipation of pleasure is, in itself, a very considerable pleasure.” Therefore, hotels and spas have an opportunity to amplify anticipation in order to maximize the pleasure that guests will receive as they journey to the hotel’s spa and wellness center.
The amplification of the anticipation of the spa experience must be combined with the stimulation of multi-sensory experiences. Multi-sensory experiences awaken the guest’s body, mind, and soul, providing a vast array of benefits through holistic rejuvenation. Accordingly, one of the principal goals of every spa is to rejuvenate its guests and ensure that they become more connected, relaxed, and restored.
The simplest way to understand a multi-sensory experience stimulating all five senses (i.e., sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) is by using a simple raisin meditation designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
- By looking at your raisin, you are using the sight sense.
- By feeling the raisin with your fingers, you are using the touch sense.
- By putting the raisin under your nose, you are using the smell sense.
- By bringing the raisin to your ear and squeezing it, you are using the sound sense.
- By putting the raisin on your tongue and noticing the different flavors, you are using the taste sense.
This simple mediation reflects how a person can experience a single object in multiple ways. When thoughtfully combined, the overall experience is accentuated and maximized. The spa experience leverages the multi-sensory experience to amplify the restorative nature of the treatment session.
When a guest arrives at the spa, they will experience stimulation across all five senses.
- The spa design, lighting, and colors, coupled with decorations, all create a visual sense of place.
- The scent and fragrance that is created either through natural means (e.g., flowering plants) or by licensed scents surround the guest from their entrance into the spa to every treatment room.
- Sound is also leveraged, not only through sound therapy, which is offered in a variety of spas, but also through natural means (e.g., wind chimes or ambient music).
- The tactile experience is stimulated through the texture of sitting in the waiting chairs, the texture of the provided robes and towels, and the hands-on experience that the guest will have during treatment.
- Drinking water that is infused with natural ingredients quenches the thirst and satisfies the sense of taste that can be provided to the guest upon arrival, throughout their visit, and upon completion.
The purpose of this digital experience is to accentuate the sense of anticipation and excitement to visit the hotel’s spa and wellness center. As a result, the spa can expect to have more spa visits, spa appointments, and revenue associated with its services. With this in mind, how does the hotel create a dynamic digital experience before arrival, and how does a hotel’s website with a spa or wellness center stimulate the range of senses before a person arrives?
This can be accomplished easily through technology that leverages targeting and personalization to stimulate the imagination and evoke through the power of suggestion each of the senses by displaying strategically placed images, words, and videos.
To understand how a dynamic digital experience can be designed for visitors to prepare them for maximum relaxation and a restorative experience in the spa or wellness center, we must examine each digital spa visitor and their associated buyer’s journey.
The typical buyer’s journey flows through a series of steps: from inspiration to consideration, and finally to a decision. Following this buyer’s journey in the context of the spa experience, the flow can begin with the visitor visiting the hotel’s spa page to be inspired by the location and spa center. They will then look at the available treatments and prices, read reviews, and call or digitally book an appointment. The hotel’s website must be flexible to understand the traveler, recognize where they are in their buyer’s journey, and as the marketers say, deliver the right message at the right time to the right person.
Of course, smell, touch, and taste cannot be physically experienced while visiting a hotel’s spa website. The only two senses that can be physically stimulated are sight and sound. Although sight is obvious, sound is more of a challenge. Websites have attempted to include audio tracks in the background; however, this ultimately creates a negative user experience. Fortunately, by using video on the website, sound can be leveraged as a person opts in to view a video.
It is the power of sight that will virtually stimulate all other senses through powerful images and words that evoke the imagination and can be easily experienced by the viewer.
- Smell: This may include the image of a flowering eucalyptus plant next to a flowing fountain with floating flower petals.
- Hearing: This may include the image of wind chimes being gently blown outside the spa window next to the flowing fountain.
- Taste: This may include the image of the thirst-quenching infused drink being brought to the lips of a spa-goer.
- Touch: This may include the image of a person picking up a white, fluffy robe.
At this point, it is not possible or practical to create a full multi-sensory experience on the web; however, you can still create a fully personalized experience for the website visitor.
Of course, websites have the advantage of combining targeting and personalization. These two are the yin and yang of the web experience. Targeting is the invisible behind-the-scenes understanding of who the website visitors are, and personalization is the visible display of the message to the visitor based on this targeting. Spa website targeting can be separated into nine distinct components:
- Webpage scroll location is based on where the person is as they view the website.
- Webpage message delays are based on how long they have been on the page.
- Timing is based on the physical date/time someone is viewing the website.
- Demand is based on the selected stay dates.
- Travel party is based on identifying the number of guests.
- Location is based on where the person is physically located when they are browsing the website.
- The source is based on the referral site to the hotel’s website.
- The device is based on the type of device the person is using.
- URL-based targeting is based on custom tracking variables that are part of a weblink that redirects to a hotel’s page.
The first step is targeting to make sure that you can identify a person interested in using the spa. A person can be targeted on the website via several techniques.
- If they came in via a spa-related paid search campaign, the paid links can be tagged with special parameters that identify the person as someone interested in the spa. As a result, on any page they visit, they can be identified as a potential spa-goer.
- If they came in from a spa referral site, they can be tagged as a potential spa-goer.
- If they came in from an e-blast related to spa and wellness services, any links on the email that go to the site can be tagged with special parameters that identify the person as a spa-goer.
- If they came in organically, the website would need to wait for them to visit the spa pages. After they do, they will be tagged as a spa-goer.
- If they are logged into the hotel’s loyalty program, and if the spa is identified as an interest, they can be automatically identified as a spa-goer.
- During any subsequent site visits, they will automatically be identified as a spa-goer.
There is also on-page targeting. Based on the person’s device, this type of targeting indicates where the message will appear on the screen. This includes where it will appear as the person scrolls down the page and also the overall delay that this message will have before it appears.
All of this targeting is invisible to the spa and wellness website guest until they see a message that is triggered based on the targeting. The message display is the personalization.
Let’s start with the spa-seeker’s buyer’s journey when first arriving on the website. The person may or may not have booked a hotel room, but they are looking at the spa. What do we know about them based on the targeting?
We know their device and their location, as well as the date and time that they are viewing the website. We know if this is their first time visiting the spa pages, and we know what site referred them. We also know if they clicked a paid search spa campaign. If they are logged into the hotel’s membership program, we may also know their gender, age, and spa treatment preferences.
For personalization systems that integrate the hotel’s website with the booking engine, we may know whether they are traveling alone, as part of a couple, or as a family, if they searched for a particular stay date. We may also know the days when they are looking to visit the hotel.
With this targeting information, a spa-goer’s buyer’s journey can be designed to create maximum engagement and anticipation. Specifically, multi-sensory images can be combined with relevant messaging to maximize the guest experience.
Let’s create an example where a person in New York is looking for a spa in Napa, California. If they are viewing the website at dusk, they will see an image connecting them with what they are currently experiencing in New York. They will see a full-page image of the spa’s door gently ajar with the sun setting in the background and chimes blowing the wind. The image could link to a sunset video with soothing ambient music in the background.
When they close out of the image and scroll down the page, they will see a message stating, “Flying to Napa can be stressful. When you arrive, you are invited to visit us in the spa. You will be entitled to a welcome amenity gift.” They will then see an image of a tasty treat with a medley of cut fruit surrounding the treat on the plate. This message connects the website visitor with their geographic location, knowing that they will need to fly to the spa.
As the person continues to scroll down the page, they see an image of a person in the spa uniform, holding a fluffy towel and a drink stating, “When you arrive, you will want to relax from your long plane journey and be pampered.” Here, there will be a link to a menu of treatments, massages, and other spa services. Again, this message reinforces the understanding that they have to fly to the spa.
As the person scrolls further down the page, it can be assumed that they are very interested in learning more about spa services at the hotel. At this point, a message can be displayed that shows a treatment bed waiting for them, with a drink, fragrant flowers, and fluffy towels. The message will also include the hours and contact information of the spa with a link to call, email, or book. There can also be a link to dedicated third-party spa reviews to social proof the spa experience by sharing the hotel rating and displaying reviews associated with the spa and wellness experience.
Now, if the person leaves the spa page and returns to the booking engine, the system will know that they are interested in the spa. Messages can then be populated based on where they go. In lieu of visual messages tantalizing the senses, targeted messages will be displayed, thus creating a sense of personalized engagement.
If we continue with this example of the New Yorker visiting the spa in California, what if they proceed to the booking engine and enter their expected Friday arrival and Sunday departure date at the hotel, and indicate that they are not traveling alone? Joining them will be an additional adult and child. With this in mind, there can be an image that shows a couples’ massages with a link identifying discounted two-hour babysitting services. The image would show a couple holding hands on adjoining tables with smooth stones placed along the curvatures of their spines. The copy could read, “Don’t worry. Our babysitting services allow you to focus on growing the bond with your partner.” Now, imagine the same family traveling. The message could also say, “Stay an extra day and leave on Monday to enjoy a complimentary spa treatment and free babysitting services.”
What if the same family happens to view the spa website around their child’s bedtime? The message can then state, “When you book your stay with us, you’ll have access to our library of children’s picture books that focus on themes of wellness, healthy eating, and exercise.”
Let’s examine a scenario in which this person is traveling alone from New York, but selected the same dates. The message could read, “Although the hotel check-in time is at 3:00 PM, you can check in to the spa early and leave your bags at the front desk.” Conversely, the message can be, “Although check-out is noon, you can stay at the spa as long as you’d like.” The guest can be encouraged to book their appointment now to guarantee their treatment time.
Now, if the identified spa treatment seeker leaves the booking engine and returns to the hotel’s website, powerful spa-related messaging can be used throughout the entire website.
- On the local area page, when the person views it in the morning, a layered sunrise image based on the time of day there can include a link to a video of a guided morning nature walk.
- On the dining page, an image of healthy food and drinks available at the spa can be revealed with a link to confirm a spa treatment before or after lunch and gain access to special spa snacks.
- On the rooms page, an image appears showing the provided robes and slippers in the room and how close the spa and wellness center is with easy access from the room.
- On the offers page, the guest would see a promotion for spa services before any other promotions.
- On the fitness room page, messaging can showcase on-site or in-room yoga and meditation classes.
If the person goes to the Contact Us or FAQ pages, they would include an image of the spa/wellness center with easy contact information to reach them in the event that they have any questions.
As they are looking at the gallery page, the first image that they will see will be an image to view the spa wellness gallery.
There can be a phone icon along the bottom of every page. When clicked, it will provide the friendly face of the spa service provider, along with their contact information, hours of operation, and ways to book a spa service.
In the footer of every page, there will be an email capture field identifying the person as interested in spa services and encouraging them to sign up for offers.
When the person tries to leave any page on the site, there will be an exit message regarding a special discounted spa offer if they book their treatment now or purchase a voucher.
Notably, locals can also be strategically messaged. Imagine that the person is local, and they are looking at the website within a 10-mile radius. If they are looking at the site on their mobile phone, the site will display directions and parking information. It can be assumed that they are en route to the spa or researching.
If the same local resident is looking at the site on their laptop in the morning, messaging can be displayed to book a treatment by 3:00 PM and receive a limited-time local discount. Alternatively, if it is their first time visiting the website, a message can be displayed that only displays once to first-time visitors to purchase a discounted multi-treatment pack for future treatment sessions.
There is no limit to the number of relevant messages that can target the spa-goer on the hotel’s website. Through targeting and personalization with relevant messages specific to the person by leveraging multi-sensory images and words, the spa-seeker’s anticipation of their trip will be amplified with the feeling that this spa understands them, knows them, and truly connects with them.
The hotel team may wonder whether this messaging that leverages multi-sensory images to amplify the anticipated spa experience is working. Additionally, the team may wonder if the messages, images, and placement are resonating with audiences. The team may also question whether the targeting was created properly. The answer to these questions is easily discovered by A/B testing.
Sometimes, what seems intuitive and is assumed to be true is not. Moreover, when it comes to websites and creativity, everyone has an opinion. The best way to make sure that owners and leaders are heard and validated is to test out what they believe to be true. If it works out, then that is terrific. If not, then you have the data to support why it was not successful and what the better approach might be.
Hotels that have spas should think comprehensively, not just about the services and treatments they provide, but also about the messaging that will evoke the strongest sense of anticipation to encourage them to book treatments during their stay. Remember the simple raisin mediation stimulating the five senses. The website can also stimulate all of the senses, but to accomplish this, it must leverage the right technology, images, messages, and targeting to maximize website visitor engagement.