Word-of-Mouth and Cause Marketing Are Key Tools for Bringing Women (Back) to Destination Spas

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Word-of-Mouth and Cause Marketing Are Key Tools for Bringing Women (Back) to Destination Spas


As an industry whose customers have long been predominantly female, spas are experts at generating loyalty among women. Their approach to attracting and retaining female consumers can serve as a model for marketers in a variety of other industries, especially in the areas of creating a welcoming environment, acting on customer feedback, understanding and anticipating women's needs, and encouraging referrals.

Nearly seven in 10 spa-goers (69%) are women, according to the International Spa Association's 2006 Spa Traveler Report. Spa marketers interviewed by MARKETING TO WOMEN say women account for 80% or more of their customers. The industry has enjoyed rapid growth in the past decade, thanks largely to women--especially those over 40. In 1990, there were 1,374 spas in the U.S.; as of 2004, there were 12,000.

What's The Appeal For Women?

"What's happened is that spas are no longer a luxury; they've become a necessity because of all the stress women experience," says Susie Ellis, President of Spa Finder, which publishes Luxury SpaFinder magazine and lists destination spas, hotel spa resorts, and day spas on its website.

Ellis says that as Boomer women take their daughters with them to spas, a younger generation is becoming hooked--and viewing spa treatments and vacations as the norm.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Boomer women are also driving a trend toward lifestyle (retirement) communities that are built around spas, in much the same way that they've been built around golf courses, notes Ellis.

In addition to stress reduction and a break from their hectic schedules, women are drawn to the comfortable environment spas offer--and it's not just creature comforts that matter. "It's a safe environment for women to come to by themselves," says Tracey Latkovic of Miraval Resort. "Many women have met other women here and come back together every year."

Spas are making efforts to cater to groups of women who come for special occasions--such as birthdays or weddings--and then decide to come back every year. "The social aspect of spas is interesting," says Ellis. "When people go to a spa, they want to get away--and then they want to bond."

"Women enjoy having conversations that simply don't take place in front of men," adds Peter Jensen of Rancho La Puerta.

Ellis believes women are also drawn to the all-inclusive nature of a spa getaway: "Women like to not have to make decisions [when they're on vacation], because they have to make so many in everyday life," she says.

Word-Of-Mouth And Charitable Tie-Ins

As women's media use becomes increasingly fragmented and hard to track, word-of-mouth is becoming crucial for marketers in all industries. All of the spa marketers MTW interviewed highlight its importance, and say they focus most promotions on returning customers. Several note that 60-75% of their guests at any one time are repeat customers.

"We listen--that's really the driving marketing force. We do what they tell us they want," says Jensen. Much of Rancho La Puerta's programming (and marketing measurement) is built around feedback from open-ended comment cards.

Spas do a lot of direct mail and/or e-mail to previous customers (and prospects who've requested information), highlighting special programs and events and/or discount offers. …

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