19 Jul 2018 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Breaking the Mould

Industry insights

Breaking the Mould


Is your spa ready for post-demographic consumerism? Trendwatching.com explains why it’s time to throw out the traditional (and tired) demographic models of consumer behaviour

Luxury meets the selfie: Mandarin Oriental in Paris offers guests a tour of the best selfie spots in a car with a private driver photo: shutterstock/ Yulia Mayorova
Consumers are behaving in ways we least expect says the briefing
Rebranding: Thug Kitchen gives veganism an aggressive makeover
The choice and freedom in cities enables people to construct their own identities outside of traditional demographics photo: shutterstock/ Creativemarc
Zen Float is one of the many new innovations backed by crowdfunding
Zen Float is one of the many new innovations backed by crowdfunding
ex-wrester Diamond Dallas Page

Consumer behaviour can seem increasingly chaotic. In September 2014, Canada-based yoga wear brand Lululemon announced plans to open its first men’s-only store in New York. The move followed a successful Man Camp pop-up store in North Carolina and the launch of a popular Lululemon Men Twitter Account. In the UK, women account for the majority of video game players and there are more gamers aged over 44 than under 18. Meanwhile, in August 2014, luxury hotel chain Mandarin Oriental launched its Selfie in Paris initiative, offering guests a tour of the French capital’s best ‘selfie’ spots with a private car and driver.

Confused? You should be: consumers are increasingly behaving in ways we least expect. These examples give glimpses of one of the most important shifts in consumerism and one which will require a fundamental overhaul of the demographic-focused approach that businesses have used to understand and predict consumer behaviour for decades. Trendwatching.com focuses on this topic in its Post-Demographic Consumer briefing and in this article it details what this means for the global spa and wellness industry.

WELCOME TO POST-DEMOGRAPHIC
So what’s driving this shift in consumerism? Well, we’re entering an age of post-demographic consumerism: one in which the traditional demographic segments – age, gender, income bracket, nationality and more – are becoming less meaningful as predictors of consumer behaviour. Instead, consumers are more free than ever to construct identities and lifestyles of their own choosing.

This trend will have a fundamental impact on hotel and spa businesses that previously relied on traditional demographic models to target and connect with consumers. But it will also have a far-reaching implication for all consumer-facing businesses: namely that few new products, services and experiences, if any, will remain the preserve of a single demographic for long.

This new era is driven by the merging of many of the mega-trends that have shaped the economy and society over the past few decades: globalisation, urbanisation, mass affluence and expanding consumer markets, widespread adoption of digital technologies and increasing socio-cultural diversity.

WHY THE CHANGE?
Four powerful forces are driving the shift towards post-demographic consumerism. These include: the global brain, the decline of old social norms, increased product and service choice and new ways of accruing and displaying status.

The emergence of an online global brain is seeing consumers from all walks of life buying and using services from the same top brands: think Facebook, Apple, Amazon and more. The worldwide reach of information has caused the emergence of a global shared consciousness and left consumers from Seattle to Shanghai lusting after the same sneakers, smartphones and sushi.

Meanwhile, urbanisation has shattered traditional social structures and values/norms such as the family unit and gender roles, giving consumers permission to live the lives they choose, rather than those determined for them by age, gender, location and other traditional demographic labels. Exposures to different lifestyles and cultures have caused millennials to become more accepting of alternative and non-mainstream lifestyles. According to JWT Intelligence, 87 per cent of the BRIC millennials believe that the freedom and exposure of living in the city has widened their world view. The choice and freedom found in cities gives individuals more opportunities to construct their own identities outside of the traditions of their specific demographic.

A greater variety in product choice and an international expansion of the global class has allowed people to personalise and express themselves through their consumptions at a greater degree than ever before. All demographics are using social media to relate and associate themselves with brands even if they don’t necessarily use or buy the product.

Consumers are ignoring demographic convictions and are picking, as well as identifying with a wide range of brands. They’re frequently stepping across demographic boundaries. As BBC Radio 1’s head of music George Ergatoudis observes, “if you look at the list of the 1,000 favourite artists for 60-year-olds and the 1,000 favourite artists for 13-year-olds, there’s a 40 per cent overlap.”

Yes, younger consumers are still the most frequent first adopters for new and compelling inventions. They’re more open, more experimental and have fewer commitments. However, the world has become too blurred, too fluid for new innovations to remain the preserve of the young for long. Now, all demographics are taking an active role as users of new and revolutionary gadgets and inventions.

Indeed, we see this again and again when looking at the adoption of novel and supposedly niche consumption habits. A 2014 study by Crowd Companies shows that while 48 per cent of those who had used ‘neo-sharing’ collaborative consumption platforms (such as Airbnb, Zipcar and Kickstarter) were aged 18-34, 33 per cent were aged 35-54 and 19 per cent were aged over 55.

SPA ACTION PLAN
So, how should businesses respond to these shifts in consumerism? Below, we detail four axis along which spa businesses can plot their response:

Embrace the new normal. Celebrate new normal racial, social, cultural and sexual norms. Coca Cola’s (in)famous 2014 Super Bowl spot, featuring America the Beautiful sung in a wide variety of languages (including Tagalog, Hindi and Hebrew) and by people from various races, religions and families caused controversy with its non-traditional depiction of US society. But the beverage giant knew that demographics were on its side: the US saw a 32 per cent increase in the multiracial population between 2000 and 2010.

Similarly, in October 2013 Indian jewellery brand Tanishq promoted its wedding collection in a commercial featuring a bride with her daughter from a previous union – the first campaign of its kind in India.

Be heretical towards your brand heritage. That means brands should be willing to reinterpret or even overturn decades of brand history and tradition and do the opposite of what everyone expects: a powerful way to win the attention of new customers. In 2014, the Thug Kitchen vegan diet blog abandoned the ‘new age’ image typically associated with veganism, and gave itself a sweary, aggressive makeover. It now bills itself, “the only website dedicated to verbally abusing you into a healthier diet”. Another example? For decades the Harley Davidson brand could be summed up by one word: rebel. But in October 2014 the brand went heretical: it embraced environmental responsibility by partnering with The Nature Conservancy on a pledge to plant 50 million trees by 2020.

Encouraging cross-demographic fertilisation. With consumer preferences being ever more universal, the opportunities to transfer innovations from an initial demographic to another have never been greater: a very potent play for health and wellness brands. Ex-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page created DDP Yoga after finding that practising yoga helped him recover from injury. Targeting men who might be sceptical of conventional spiritual yoga programmes, the variant incorporates additional muscle strengthening elements. Similarly, Crossfit Kids, a variant of the high-intensity workout phenomenon of recent years, can now be found in over 1,800 gyms and 1,000 schools around the world.

Finally, companies should focus on small niches. Thanks to expanding and online markets there’s a real opportunity for businesses to focus on small groups and fringe niches that weren’t previously accessible. Kickstarter, the online crowdfunding platform, for example, is enabling creators to pre-sell and therefore test demand for their products and services. It’s seen US$1.3bn (€1.2bn, £8.4m) worth of pledges to over 70,000 projects, including US$296,000 (€264,670, £192,160) raised by Zen Float: a US-based isolation tank company that’s designed the first affordable floatation tank for the home.

BRAVE NEW WORLD
It’s now a brave new post-demographic world, where consumer tastes and behaviours can no longer be understood by traditional demographic approaches.

As a result, businesses which continue to attempt to navigate using demographic maps with their borders defined by age, gender, location, income will be ill-prepared for the speed, scale and direction of change.

By contrast, organisations which look for examples of innovations in often seemingly dissimilar or even opposite demographics to which they usually target – and which can incorporate their learning into strategies – will succeed. For its the products, services and brands that transcend their initial demographics almost instantaneously that will be the winners in a post-demographic society.


ABOUT trendwatching.com
As one of the world’s leading trend firms, Trendwatching.com sends out its free, monthly Trends Briefings in nine languages to more than 160,000 subscribers. Sign up at www.trendwatching.com

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2015 issue 1

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