18 November 2022
Digitalizing the spa experience: how ESPA implemented a successful omnichannel strategy
79% of consumers see wellness as important. 42% see it as a priority (McKinsey).
Encompassing both the mind and the body and focused on a wide range of aspects from better health to better appearance, wellness is continuing to grow as a key area of interest for consumers, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, where health was brought to the forefront of the minds of millions.
In this $1.5 trillion industry (McKinsey), spas have remained a consumer favorite when it comes to taking care of their wellbeing. The sector is predicted to grow annually by 7.6% through 2030, to reach a global market size of $185 billion by the beginning of the next decade (Statista). But in an increasingly digitalized era, where online and remote channels have become central to the customer journey, how can the spa industry — a traditionally brick-and-mortar oriented sector — cater to a consumer whose needs and expectations now go beyond physical environments?
ESPA: expanding digital reach
When it was founded, in 1992, wellbeing and luxury skincare brand ESPA was, as was befitting to the time, geared towards physical locations and focused on working with their global brand partners to deliver exclusive services in spa environments. Following the acquisition by THG in 2017, the brand started to look for ways to connect with customers on a more global level and began expanding its online presence to bring its wellbeing philosophy to more consumers.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the spa industry to a halt, as all physical locations were forced to close their doors to comply with social distancing measures. While this was a blocker to ESPA and their partners’ spa business, it also presented a valuable opportunity for the brand to continue developing its digital strategy and help consumers boost their wellbeing using remote environments and approaches.
Leveraging its work on digital channels that had started years before, ESPA explored ways to bring the spa experience to consumers' homes with the knowledge that physical spa locations would eventually re-open, thus paving the way for an omnichannel approach to business.
The first thing ESPA did to weather the Covid storm was to create an extensive guide in multiple languages that would allow their partners to reopen the spas at speed once restrictions were lifted. This included detailed information on a wide range of topics, including full property audits, health and safety guidance, non-touch treatments, recruitment and profit and loss support. Thus, by anticipating the return to normal in-person activity, ESPA was able to support partners as the stages of the pandemic slowly progressed.
ESPA also focused on community building with their customers through digital channels by starting a book club. This gave people the opportunity to connect with others at a time where feelings of loneliness and isolation were widespread, creating a space where customers could have a moment to themselves, dedicated to mindful thinking and self-care.
Most importantly, ESPA embraced digital technology to give consumers the chance to experience spa treatments in their own homes. The brand shared tips and techniques customers would normally receive at spas and had their therapists and counter staff host special sessions and workshops through their digital platforms, helping consumers to remain engaged with the brand and look after themselves, despite the lack of physical connection.
Stepping into the ESPA world: an omnichannel experience
Covid-19 marked a turning point in ESPA’s strategy, as it strengthened its digital approach and adapted its offline business to suit the digital space. Realizing the power of having a strategy that was able to meet consumers where they are, the brand worked on an omnichannel Christmas campaign in 2021 that enabled consumers to experience the brand phygitally.
For their ‘Step into our world’ promotional video, ESPA designed full-sized gift boxes as part of a life-sized advent calendar that were later set up at two of their partner spas after filming finalized, enabling customers to experience in person what they had watched on their mobile or computer. By doing so, they created a seamless journey that joined digital and physical experiences, and enabled customers to interact with the brand holistically from different perspectives. Using social media, ESPA then invited users to literally step through the advent calendar and into the ESPA world of wellness.
ESPA designed the Christmas campaign such that each of the different channels had a specific role to play whilst simultaneously working to complement one another and interact in perfect harmony. Spas served as the environment to engage with partners and customers through exclusive in-person events and workshops. Likewise, the ESPA website became more than just a place to buy products; it was the main channel to bring the ESPA story to life and educate consumers on the brand’s products while offering content to help boost conversions, such as gift guides.
Meanwhile, social channels were key in driving engagement and reaching consumers — especially with Covid still hindering socializing. For example, creating a wreath-making tutorial with two ESPA influencers and sending kits out to 10 key content creators drove a significant increase in post-Christmas online sales.
With this omnichannel approach, ESPA enabled consumers to connect with the brand through different environments and experiences, inviting them on a seamless journey of wellness that merged the physical with the digital.
As the consumer’s journey to a purchase becomes decreasingly linear and spans a growing number of channels, it is becoming more and more important for brands to be able to meet customers where they are, offering omnichannel experiences that can support them at every touchpoint. ESPA took the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to deepen their online presence and develop an omnichannel strategy that enabled them to engage more effectively with their customers and invite them to step into their world of wellbeing, seamlessly and smoothly, no matter where their purchase journey took them.
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