Jim and I have often said that the easiest way to get into the experience business is to open a cafe, for it engages all five senses and stages a place where customers can spend time with you.
This strategy was followed by Barnes & Noble, ING Direct (now Capital One with its 360 Cafes in the US and Tangerine in Canada), Umpqua Bank, and countless others – including one hospital I know that, inspired by the original ING Direct Cafes that actually got consumes to want to spend time with a bank, asked itself “What part of our organization do our employees not want to spend time with?” And thus was born its HR Cafe!
Well, there’s a new option on the strategic horizon: open a hotel! It may not be as easy, but many brands are doing just that as marketing experiences, including Restoration Hardware, Equinox, Shinola, Bulgari, Giorgio Armani, Ferragamo, Versace – it does seem to be a specialty of high-end Italian fashion brands. The latest? The furniture store West Elm, a unit of Williams-Sonoma, which just announced it would start a chain of boutique hotels, beginning with Detroit and Savannah in 2018. (See "West Elm to Launch Its Own Boutique Hotels"; subscription may be required.)
Is there a boutique hotel in your company’s future?