How Millennials Are Changing The Way You (Should) Work

This year Cosmoprof Bologna, the leading global event for beauty and spa, celebrated its 50th anniversary hosting 2,677 exhibitors showcasing 69 different countries.

This continuously growing trade show attracted a melting pot of over a quarter of a million international visitors in just three days, with more than 73% attending from over 150 countries.

Michelle Reeve, founder and managing director of Waterlily, Australia’s professionally exclusive spa collection of performance skincare and luxury rituals, attended as a representative for SPA+CLINIC.

She gives us the highlights for the benefit of your business:

The spotlight at Cosmoprof was on spa and wellness with the new initiative Spa Symposium, in collaboration with ISPA (International Spa Association), hosted by nine industry leaders sharing their experiences and expertise to deliver a professional two-day forum for analysis and networking on the future of spa and wellness for international decision makers.

The program started with the ISPA consumer report and the key trends in day spas, destination spas, retreats and wellness.

Monopolising the opening session and underpinning all others was the evolution of technology and how the digital age is diversifying and disrupting the traditional day spa model.

Central to this theme are the cyber savvy Millennials driving demand. But this didn’t necessarily translate to a single conversation about high tech, nor did it mean the industry is becoming more homogenous yielding to the needs of just one sector.

If anything, the conversation embraced the expanding demands around diversity, specialisation and authenticity.

“In the US Millennials make up 25% of the population – that’s one in four!” said Sharilyn Abbajay, spa consultant and former vice president for Marriot Corporation global spas and retail.

“Born 1982 to 2004 they are reported to be not somewhat or sometimes stressed but always stressed!”

The digital natives of our time are a contrast to the well-established Baby Boomer thought patterns, behaviour and traditional values.

The mindset of Millennials is not linear. They have grown up on and consumed technology as a daily extension of their work, social and recreational lives. They are the quintessential “digital native”.

Their focus is on time and quality experiences and, more importantly, personal health instead of material wealth.

The Millennials think globally and are about the journey not so much the destination. And unlike their Baby Boomer counterparts they are willing to spend disproportionate amounts for big experiences.

These experiences, however, need to be authentic, unique and compelling. The offerings in spas and salon services are seeing a broader separation into express cost efficient services and luxe indulgent experiences with a dedicated market for each.

Multi-tasking treatments, shorter treatment time, express services juxtaposed with big experiences/rituals which can be seen as mini breaks or getaways from a 24/7 intensive lifestyle.

Millennials are also extremely aware of their personal brand, and want to interact only with brands that match their own tribal culture, values and authenticity. Integrity is key.

They want to know the story behind the brand and will only align themselves if the purpose is convincing.

The spa model as we currently know it has not changed in decades. It is now being hurled into a space of fast and radical disruption.

Spas have traditionally been sanctuaries for rest and relaxation. Havens of tranquillity which embrace silence, nature and solitary reflection.

Technology is forcing our industry to rethink the current model and the Millennials are powering the pressure for change.

From online check-in to automated check-out the new digital natives are changing the way we think about service.

Once inside the spa the experience is all about community: Think Wi-Fi on demand, selfie stations, charging stations in relax areas.

Lounges that were once a tranquil oasis are now transforming into social spaces to enjoy with friends. This generation also wants to experience their spa treatment with friends creating a party or group atmosphere. We may need to rethink room sizes and group spaces.

Millennials go to a spa to have fun, as opposed to traditional Baby Boomers who go to relax. Millennials want communal spaces where they can sauna, relax, and have treatments with each other. So just how will Boomers and Millennials interact?

While the model in Europe is already more social, the Anglo-Saxon model is heading for real transformation.

Interestingly, as the demand and disruption within spa grows, our traditional hotel and resort general managers are Baby Boomers, often reluctant to take on technology to reform and renovate for a digital-friendly industry.

Michelle Reeve

So how do we communicate with the new digital consumers? Ella Stimpson, Director of Spa at Sea Island in Georgia, US, reinforced that spa guests don’t want marketing. They want stories, conversations, the true heart and soul from the brand and company.

So look for innovative ways to market. Organic social media linking into authentic tribal influencers. They also want to see civic responsibility. How are you giving back?

There is also a growing interest in unique services and specialised prescriptions.

The internet has driven a savvy and knowledgeable demographic. So when guests arrive at a spa or salon already educated on skincare, ingredients and dermal treatments the demand is for industry experts in beauty and spa who are more educated and skilled than the guests are. Don’t expect that trust for the therapist as an authority to be intrinsic.

Specialisation is attractive to Millennials. While they will pay big bucks for extraordinary experience, they are budget-aware on maintenance treatments.

You will see the arrival of pop up bars offering specialised facilities including nails, blow-dries and cosmeceutical services.

Gaining momentum in the US at the moment are the advent of Injectable Bars. The largest consumer of these are Millennials, comprising a whopping 60% of the client demographic. The 20 to 30 Somethings see this as prevention and are not queasy to promote and share the experience on social media.

On the flip side of this digital desire is the demand for digital detox; the need to disconnect from Wi-Fi, work and the online social community.

Some spas are redefining their space and language by creating an “architecture of disconnection”. Some of us have never experienced a separation from technology, and as a result we are seeing sacrifices in posture, fitness, eyesight and even brain wiring.

The positive reinforcement that usually came from close intimate relationships (think a hug from your mum) is now the emotional equivalent to 12 likes on Facebook!

Some major hotels are taking on the challenge. The Mandarin Orient group have partnered with the renowned Mayo Clinic to put wellness at the centre of their spa treatments.

Stress is the precursor to disease and as such they have curated not only treatments to authenticate personal experiences but encourage guests to disconnect by offering ‘cell phone sleeping bags’.

Jeremy McCarthy, Group Director of Spa, discussed how these are encouraging people to “disconnect to reconnect” with a take-home guide to inspire room for stillness.

Relax areas are technology-free and offer colouring in books. The selfie station on offer before you enter is a signal to friends and family that you’ll be offline for the next 90 minutes.

The take-home experience is equally important with retail areas linking into off-line lifestyle offerings, including meditation CDs.

So what does the future hold? While the spa industry is constantly challenging and evolving, industry experts agree that the values around service, engagement and consistency continue to underpin the industry.

The client experience is still at the heart of our industry, and the challenge is to integrate technology to escalate the experience and service demand.

No matter how you see your spa or salon, awareness around who your tribe is and how they interact with your menu, space and team is key. The future is now.