How the Hospitality Industry Can Attract Guests with Design

There’s no doubt that the hospitality industry is in a unique position to thrive when it comes to design. From physical spaces to customer journeys, hospitality brands have nearly limitless opportunities to get creative with the design of their offerings.

But just as how great power comes with great responsibility, brands need to remember to be purposeful with their efforts. Design can have a powerful effect on others, so leverage it strategically to attract the customers you want and fuel growth for your brand.

The Emotional Power of Design

More than just visual aesthetics, powerful design affects the entire guest experience and drives business results for your brand. Whether it’s a website’s layout or product packaging, when you approach design with purpose, the return on investment is sure to be positive.

As Skift and Accor Group put it, “Designing with your business’s health and long-term success front of mind can help build revenue and financial gains, fuel sustainable business growth in the long term, and inspire the kinds of awards and acclaim from both critics and consumers that put your brand on the map.”

While that may seem like a tall order, it makes sense when you consider how design can make you feel — how flashes of red can draw our attention or retro fonts can inspire nostalgia.

Design is the key ingredient that transforms a basic function into one that invokes an emotional connection. When the experience is enjoyable from beginning to end, guests are left with positive memories that forever connects the brand with a beautiful moment in their life. In short, design’s ability to craft stand-out experiences can directly lead to brand loyalty.

Ultimately, though, design would be powerless without the most essential player: the customers themselves. Your guests are the ones that bring your designs to life, so it’s crucial to design your brand with them at the forefront of your strategy. And to do that, you need to know exactly who your target customers are.

Market Segmentation

It’s by no accident that staying at a Holiday Inn will be drastically different from your time at a Kimpton Hotel. Each brand serves different market segments and has strategically designed the guest experience to attract its target audience and customers.

The process of identifying those different segments is called market segmentation, which involves grouping customers into various segments based on a web of similar characteristics. These could include traits that are:

  • Geographical, such as the country, region, city, or town the guests are from.
  • Demographical, including age, gender, income level, and educational level.
  • Psychographic, such as goals, lifestyles, hobbies, personality traits, values, etc.
  • Behavioral, which includes spending habits, preferred amenities, loyalty status, and other trends regarding their past actions.

A combination of these traits could then be compiled to make up a customer persona, or a theoretical profile of someone you’d want as a customer. As a classic strategic tool, customer personas help you better visualize your target market and understand how to please them.

So, for example, rather than simply being a “family-focused” brand, you could cater to “American families made up of Millennial parents and children under 10, who love taking yearly trips to the beach.” See how those extra details can lead to more impactful insights for your design strategy?

When it comes to segmentation, don’t be afraid to niche down and get specific. This will require detailed market research, but luckily there are plenty of resources that can help you understand the nature of your current and potential customers. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Survey your own customers. Go straight to the source. Learn more about who your guests are, why they chose you, what they prefer, etc. by asking them directly.
  • Check out online reviews. Take notes when a guest drops an interesting insight about their experience in a public comment.
  • Look into the analytics of online activity. See what kind of customers your website currently attracts or who makes up most of your social media followers.
  • Draw insights from your sales and CRM data. Analyze information about the consumers you’ve interacted with in the past. What does it tell you about your guests?
  • Social listening. Keep an ear out for trending discussions and opinions being shared online. You might just discover new developments in customers’ attitudes and behaviors.

If you need a bit of guidance along the way, we’d be happy to provide industry insights and walk you through best practices for segmentation.

Designing for the Customers You Want

Once your target audience and personas are established, it’s time for the fun part: designing the creative elements that will draw them in.

Heads Up: Throughout the design process, remember not to get hung up on personal preferences. To successfully design creative that speaks to your target audience, you have to prioritize elevating their overall experience above all else.

Whether you’re looking to develop a powerful brand identity or create head-turning packaging and print collateral, here are some tips to keep in mind when designing for your target customers:

1) Start with the basics

Identify the design elements that are industry necessities. These are the features that your customers would 100% expect you to have—the bare minimum pieces that keep you in the game, so to speak.

To get an idea of what those elements are, check out your competitors. See if you can notice any common trends and get an understanding of what purpose they serve.

With your guests’ POV in mind, take note of what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. When it comes to the basics, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but if there are opportunities to realign it or add some more air, that could be your strategic advantage.

2) No detail is too small

Even the most minute design details can make an impact on your guests’ experience.

Color, for instance, can invoke human emotions, affect customers’ impressions of a brand, and drive them towards action. By leveraging color psychology in your designs and utilizing color palettes that fit with your target customers, you can directly influence brand loyalty and purchasing habits.

Typography, too, has the same effect. From the serif vs. sans-serif divide to the controversial overuse of Comic Sans (see: Comic Sans Criminal), there are plenty of emotions tied to the use of certain fonts.

Ultimately, when these small details come together, they should present a cohesive design that appeals to and attracts your desired audience. It’s not just aesthetics, but a deliberate effort to create with purpose. It’s why PH3’s creative services, which combine proven strategy and smart design, have consistently been able to deliver results for our clients.

3) Get strategic with personalization

Did you know that 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging?

These days, hyper-targeted and personalized campaigns are one of the most effective ways to engage with your target audience and expand your customer base. This approach relies on leveraging data and insights about your guests in order to craft a message that resonates.

Designing with personalization in mind means being flexible with the order and inclusion of various brand elements. After all, certain aspects of your brand may be more effective at engaging a customer segment than others.

From the images you spotlight to the order of the content, choose the right combination of design elements based on who your message is intended for.

4) Be open to feedback and collaboration

Part of the beauty of design is in its subjectivity. A design is brought to life by those who experience it and different interpretations can arise depending on who the audience is. While this makes for exciting opportunities, it can also be tricky to get it right every time on your own.

That’s why it’s so important to seek out collaborators and feedback.

Work with experts, either internally or externally, who have proven track records of strategic creative work. Gather opinions about the designs from peers and colleagues, making sure to assess the comments within the context of your goal and audience. Then, test the designs with your target customers, such as through online discussions, surveys, or A/B testing.

Welcome to Results-Driven Design

Whether you’d like to have someone to bounce ideas off of or need an experienced creative team to handle the full scope of your brand’s design work, PH3 is here to be that partner for you. Taking a custom-tailored approach for every business, we’ve helped our clients achieve 2-3x the results of their previous efforts. Ready to reap the rewards of effective design? Let's talk.