Marketing has changed. Consumer behavior has changed. One of the most published statistics being printed over and over again is how by 2017 millennials will have the biggest percentage of buying power.
Not only is this generational group growing up, earning money and becoming the majority of spenders, but they are also the most drastically different group to come of age since baby boomers. The timeshare industry blossomed as baby boomers grew up, made higher incomes and started families. Timeshare was the perfect opportunity for them to own something that their parents did not and guarantee their families a lifetime of annual travel opportunities.
As the millennial generation sits on the verge of achieving the same landmarks in their lives, gaining them as customers is essential to the long term survival of legacy resorts.
While these resorts may be older, they are not incapable of adaption. The bones of what every generation wants is there. Prime vacation locations that are easy to access. Ability to travel more, cheaper, easier and longer. Safety. Experiences. Stories.
Experience is the root of the desire to travel and millennials place experience over tangible objects more than any group throughout history. Embracing them means adapting. Adapting resorts and what they offer. Adapting strategy. Adapting marketing.
Defender Resorts is an example of a company adapting in unique ways to make sure their owners continue to get increased value while not forgetting that planning and changing is required unless a fate similar to Blockbuster wants to be faced.
They are adapting their resorts. Most millennials rank connectivity more important than cable TV and in room telephones so Defender Resorts is betting big on fiber optic cable. The Links Golf and Racquet Club is a 112-unit resort which spreads across more than 12 acres and has notoriously had problems with getting a wireless signal strong enough for all patrons to stream their media, but all of that just changed with the pricey installation of property-wide fiber optic Wi-Fi.
“Wi-Fi has become like having electricity, it’s not a novelty. It’s a demanded necessity like any other utility. Places that advertise it in today’s society is similar to advertising colored TV years ago, it used to be you better have colored TV, now it’s you better have strong internet, or else,” said Rick Bachman Regional General Manager at Defender Resorts who oversees the Links Resort.
Almost more than anything marketing has changed. Marketing used to be placing ad, people see the ads and voila you have business. Try that now and failure is inevitable. Customer service is marketing. Wi-Fi signals are marketing. Reviews are marketing. Content is marketing. Precision targeting is marketing. Social media is marketing.
Businesses across every industry have transitioned from business-driven to consumer-driven and marketing now consists of identifying and meeting consumer wants and needs.
So, how do legacy resorts meet and market those needs? They focus on making their resorts desirable places to be, the great thing about a consumer-driven economy is that when you have a great product and showcase that product, your consumers will help you spread that.
At Defender Resorts that meant hiring a millennial who understood all the social platforms and technology, revamping websites to make them responsive, putting priority on social media and responding to every single review that can be found.
“As we have brought our resorts online through online travel agents, enhanced websites, social media and review platforms we have seen a consistent increase in rental revenue year-over-year and we know will continue to keep evolving as rapidly as the market continues to change,” said Mark Westbrook, COO of Defender Resorts.
Thankfully for the travel industry, people, especially millennials love a good public brag and nothing is a better platform for bragging than traveling. Build social networks that when millennials “check-in” you can piggy-back off of and stay top of mind anytime they or their friends are planning a vacation. Have those social accounts connected to easy-to-use web sites with clear calls to actions and visuals and the millennials will help you market all of it.
While this up-and-coming generation may get a bad reputation for being lazy, many sources just call them different. The ways they think, function and prefer to live are different, but regardless of your passion for or distaste of them they are here and they are the future. If we don’t embrace them internally in our organizations and externally as desired and valued customers…well, just ask Blockbuster and AOL.