Personalised, memorable and detail-driven micro-moments are becoming the cornerstone of the luxury guest experience says Piers Schmidt, the founder of Luxury Branding
The hospitality industry in recent years has spawned a profusion of new hotel brands, each striving to achieve differentiation and outdo their competitors by creating an exciting and exceptional experience for their chosen target audience.
Now, as these grand brand activations become ubiquitous, carving out a distinctive brand identity becomes even more challenging. Furthermore, where signature programming was once the exclusive preserve of the luxury segment, it is now solidly ingrained across most hotel categories, reflecting the pervasive reach of the experience economy and its design principles.
For this reason, a perceptible shift is afoot as savvy luxury hoteliers recognise that the essence of guest delight may not necessarily be found in grandiose but generic displays. Instead, their focus is shifting back to a previous era when meticulous attention to detail was what set the most successful brands apart.
The rise of branded differentiators
Numerous hotel brands and independent properties have invested heavily in developing and promoting ‘Branded Differentiators’ (BRADs) to enhance guest journeys and set themselves apart. Notably, Luxury Branding has curated and choreographed over 600 BRADs for its roster of luxury hotel clients, providing guests with a multitude of engaging and immersive experiences.
The zero-sum game
Yet, as these BRADs become the norm, the struggle for differentiation becomes a zero-sum game. While the surge in unique experiences benefits the consumer, it paradoxically leaves hotel brands grappling with distinguishing themselves amidst growing uniformity, a phenomenon I was the first to describe as ‘the sea of sameness’. The sharply escalating costs of devising and delivering standout BRADs further heightens the challenge. Hence, the need for alternative approaches to guest satisfaction becomes apparent.
Introducing the power of micro-moments
Our firm, whose purpose is helping luxury organisations define and deliver how they are special, different and better, operates at the crux of this dilemma, so of late, I’ve been pondering new sources of competitive advantage.
Which brings me to the concept and power of ‘micro-moments’, a compilation of relatively minor but collectively impactful details that sophisticated operators can weave together intricately to fashion a personalised and magnificent whole.
In contrast to the broad appeal of BRADs in Guest Experience Innovation 1.0, the micro-moments that will characterise Guest Experience Innovation 2.0, are uniquely tailored to each guest’s individual needs and preferences.
Several hotel brands have already adopted this approach. The Ritz-Carlton, for instance, empowers its employees to spend up to $2,000 to solve any guest issue, thereby epitomising detail-oriented, personalised service. For a brand that some may consider old fashioned, perhaps its old-school brand of ‘proper’ hospitality is overdue a return to favour.
Recently the Four Seasons, in its slightly awkwardly titled ‘Luxury is Our Love Language’ brand campaign, chose to depict real-life instances of staff going above and beyond to surprise and delight specific individual guests.
One current client of ours will shortly open an impressive series of new ultra-luxury hotels in prime locations worldwide. We initially thought they might be disadvantaged by not owning a proprietary set of marquee signatures via which to demarcate their brand. But then, ironically, we realised that the absence of BRADs was the basis for truer differentiation and has freed us to probe more deeply into what sets their brand apart. Liberated from the distraction of these set-piece performances, an array of smaller details has come into focus – a moment of epiphany like being able to see and appreciate the Milky Way when the polluting lights of the city are left behind.
Adapting to Guest Experience Innovation 2.0
Cultivating micro-moments necessitates a distinctive set of skills and mindsets. It requires acute observation, meticulous attention to detail, constant alertness to guests’ changing needs, creativity in identifying unique enhancement opportunities, and the inexhaustible energy of a team that’s empowered to make the right difference at the right moment.
Emphasising micro-moments can profoundly impact hotel brands. Enhanced guest satisfaction yields positive reviews and invaluable word-of-mouth referrals, fostering loyalty and encouraging repeat visits. Significantly, this approach is cost-efficient, enabling brands to deliver memorable experiences through small, individualised details that are not dependent on extravagant expenditures.
In the shifting landscape of the hospitality industry, I forecast that progressively the focus will gravitate away from monumental brand activations to an era where the most cherished experiential currency will be meticulous attention to detail. As a result, personalised, memorable, and detail-driven micro-moments will emerge as a more reliable and sustainable cornerstone of the luxury guest experience. Adopting this innovative approach is not merely desirable but essential for hoteliers aiming for long-term success.
In the realm of luxury hospitality, it is apparent that it is no longer the devil that resides in the details, but delight.