Author of www.HotelLawBlog.com
29 November 2006
What do women really want? Women want more power . . . for their internet connections and their hair dryers!
Nancy Pelosi will soon be Speaker of the House, Senator Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are contenders for their respective parties’ presidential nominations, and Oprah Winfrey has earned her way to Forbes’ list of billionaires. 2006 is drawing to a close — is anyone still asking what it is that women really want?
According to a number of studies, it’s still a very good question — particularly when considering that women consumers demonstrate a higher degree of loyalty and are willing to pay more for service and quality. Who wouldn’t be interested in a sizeable market segment with those characteristics? Let’s take a look at how important this question is and what answers the latest research provides.
Why should hotels care?
Let’s face it. Women’s purchasing power is beyond impressive. It’s compelling.
In her book, Marketing to Women: How to Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market Segment, marketing expert Martha Barletta tells us that consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy and that women make 85 percent of all consumer buying decisions; that the majority of corporate purchasing agents and managers are women; and that women entrepreneurs account for 70 percent of new business start-ups.
Some hotels have noticed. According to an October 26, 2006 New York Times article by Micky Meece, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants COO (Niki Leondakis) said that” Women are making 70 percent of travel decisions, for the family, for their own getaways or for people at work.”
In case you missed that, women are responsible for:
- 85% of all consumer decisions!
- 70% of all travel decisions!
Do women want anything different in their hotel rooms?
Some of the latest research on the subject has been released in the 2006 National Travel Monitor by Peter Yesawich, President and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, Inc. (YPBR). (See the YPBR website at www.ypbr.com) Their research reveals statistically significant differences between men and women’s preferences in certain hotel attributes. Among those differences are:
- Security — Women value extra measures that ensure their safety and security
- Cleanliness — Women care more than men about cleanliness
- Transportation — Women want complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, and to areas other than the airport
- Simplification — Women care more about express check-in and checkout, and are more interested than men in an interactive system through the guest room television set that provides information about local events
- Business Services — Women want the same business services that men want, but more women want service enabling them to send and receive faxes from their laptops
- Creature Comforts — Women want full-length mirrors, make up mirrors and hair dryers; they want spa services and more diversity of restaurants on the premises
- Ambience — Women value the ambience of small boutique hotels, as well as distinctive hotel décor
- Perks — Frequent guest points are more important than frequent flyer miles—women want to be rewarded for their loyalty
What Do Women Want? Just Ask!
I can’t top Mickey Meece’s title for her October 26, 2006 New York Times article: “What do women want? Just ask!”
Some hotel brands are approaching market segmentation in a methodical and sophisticated manner, looking for profitable niches beyond the confines of the “luxury-midscale-economy” segments familiar to the industry. Those targeting women do far more than merely “cater” to their desires. They are garnering loyalty through continuous market research and analysis — and by implementing changes that respond to their findings. Many in the industry are watching the Kimpton Hotels’ “Women in Touch” promotions and Wyndham’s “Women on Their Way” program.
In a Chicago Tribune story earlier this year, writer Dawn Klingensmith wrote: “Focus group discussions and input from its Women Business Travelers Advisory Board helped Wyndham improve its attention to detail.” Both Wyndham’s focus groups and Yesawich’s study suggest that women are generally more discerning and more discriminating about their expectations. It is logical to assume that the brands that identify those expectations and meet them, will garner a loyal clientele.
There is a broader message here.
Still, I cannot help but stating the obvious — that of none of the attributes women hotel guests identify as important are earth-shattering revelations. In many cases they simply point to excellent customer service, and a level of service detail that many first-rate properties already provide. If your guest surveys show that your guests don’t want to have to call to get an iron — put an iron in the rooms, for heaven sake! If focus groups reveal that better bedding means more nights spent in your hotel, do the math and upgrade the linens! This is just good business sense. But you have to ask. And you have to act on the information you receive.
It turns out, in many cases, that what women want is what we all want — to be asked our preferences and then be provided with them. But women do notice the differences more often than men (mostly likely because of how their brains are wired, scientists tell us). If the bathtub isn’t perfectly scoured, she will notice. No skirt hangers? Wimpy hair dryers? You’ve got more than one lady guest you will not see again.
Women’s buying power has contributed to making positive changes in the hospitality industry. During my research for this blog, I was interested to learn that many of the creature comforts that I have come to appreciate when I travel may have been first implemented because of women’s preferences: good lighting, luxurious bedding, squeaky clean fitness facilities that are open late at night. Just a few more good things I have to thank women for.
Demographics and the Power of Market Segmentation
I recently hosted the annual Industry Outlook Roundtable, sponsored by JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®. “Demographics” emerged as one of the themes of our dialogue, as we discussed the challenges and opportunities presented to the industry as a result of rapid demographic changes.
Women are a critical demographic segment, as are baby boomers, Gen-Xers, seniors, Generation Y, families, gays, and the disabled community — not to mention a full spectrum of ethnic groups. How do hotels reach these various groups and convert them into loyal guests? I will address demographics in future blog entries, and I hope you will share your experiences and thoughts on the subject with me! Oh yes, and my wife really does want that powerful Internet connection in her hotel room — as much as she wants that powerful hair dryer. Hoteliers, take note!
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Jim devotes 100% of his practice to hospitality, representing hotel owners, developers and lenders. Jim leads JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® — a team of 50 seasoned professionals with more than $50 billion of hotel transactional experience, involving more than 1,000 properties located around the globe.
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Jim Butler is a Founding Partner of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro LLP and he is Chairman of the firm’s Global Hospitality Group®. If you would like to discuss any hospitality or condo hotel matters, Jim would like to hear from you. Contact him at email@example.com or 310.201.3526. For his views on current industry issues, visit www.HotelLawBlog.com.