Nandini Nayak

The Love Index: W Hotels, Winning by Design

After years of research involving more than 26,000 participants in the U.S., the UK and Brazil, Fjord and Accenture Interactive recently released The Love Index, a revolutionary new system for measuring brand love based on five key dimensions: Fun, Relevant, Engaging, Social and Helpful.

The extensive 2016 study surveyed participants to gauge their feelings on brands, services and experiences in four industries: hospitality, automotive, retail and banking. The overall winner in the hospitality category in the U.S.—and the brand on which we’re focusing here—is W Hotels, which beat out its competitors by performing well on both the physical and digital fronts and scoring particularly highly in the Fun, Engaging and Social categories.

To explain the real ways the W is dominating via the FRESH dimensions, we need look no further than the description by U.S. News, which has placed W properties on a number of its “Best Hotel” lists, and the way these dimensions are represented in reality:

“These properties receive high praise from travelers for their sleek, vibrant decor [FUN] and their convenient amenities like fitness centers and Bliss and AWAY spas [RELEVANT, HELPFUL]. Meanwhile, the hotels’ WIRED tech-friendly features (including high-speed Internet) [HELPFUL] make them popular among business travelers, and the W brand’s swanky bars and lounges and trendy in-house restaurants appeal to a younger crowd [SOCIAL].”

But what’s more impressive and interesting than the real-life manifestations of these elements is the philosophy behind them. Simply look at the way the W describes itself: “W Hotels is a contemporary, design-led lifestyle brand and the industry innovator.”

This showcases the importance of design as the differentiator. We’re living in a culture of liquid expectations, where each new innovation becomes the standard by which everything else is compared, and whether we’re designing a hotel room or a website, an experience or an app, it’s critical to work with a user-centered mindset. By striving to be an “industry innovator,” the W is setting the bar for other hospitality brands and forcing them to evolve as well, and its forward-thinking, design-minded approach has catapulted it to the No. 1 position and one of the most loved brands in America.

Examining Airbnb

When you look at the complete results of The Love Index in the hospitality category, another notable standout is Airbnb, which scored well across age groups. And that’s not surprising. When it comes to Airbnb’s popularity, the numbers speak for themselves: 2+ million listings, 34,000+ cities and 60+ million guests since the company was founded in 2008.

However, it’s important to look at the way Airbnb really works, how it compares to actual hotels and resorts, and its actual place in the market.

While Airbnb is lauded, much like Uber, as a disruptor, it sees itself as a disruptive digital services company, not a . In other words, Airbnb isn’t providing a traditional hospitality service, like the W, but serving as a digital vehicle designed to connect people for a very specific purpose. The company’s “About Us” page supports that claim: “Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet.”

So while Airbnb and the W may still be competitors in a sense, you can’t compare them directly, as the actual offerings and experiences being provided by Airbnb and traditional hotels are quite different. A hotel, for example, needs to feel like a home away from home. While Airbnb, on the other hand, is more experience oriented, so it allows travelers a taste of what it’s like to live in a new place. This difference can be used to explain why Airbnb lags behind the W on The Love Index in the Fun and Engaging categories. After all, while Airbnb may connect people with accommodations, the company doesn’t have the ability to control users’ experiences when they arrived at their destination and are actually walking in locals’ shoes (or at least sleeping in their beds).

For all the hospitality results, broken down by age group and country, check out the Slideshare.

Nandini Nayak

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