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Building tech-enabled spa experiences

Driven by a facilitated digitization of the world around us, the spa industry is currently evolving with advanced technologies in order to remain relevant in the digital age

By Sean Tarry

A number of things have changed over the course of the past three-and-a-half years or so, sparking an accelerated digitization of the world around us. As a result, advances in technology and its use within a range of different settings and environments are presenting spa operators everywhere with opportunities to enhance the services they provide and experiences that are enjoyed by their customers. In fact, according to Elena Zinchenko, director at Ten Spa in Winnipeg, the intelligent use of the right technologies will increasingly serve to grow the spa business and differentiate establishments from their competitors.
“Over the last number of years, technology has really become a driving force within the industry,” she asserts. “It’s being leveraged by most spas across the country and around the world in order to provide the highest quality service and results-oriented treatments. If you look at the spa operation, just about every aspect of it is enabled or supported by technology, from computer operational systems and reservation systems, to communications and payments. There are also the technologies and equipment that are being used to administer the treatments and services within a spa. And, looking forward, it seems, with the continued advancement of technologies, its use within the industry is only going to increase.”

The rise of wellness facilities
Zinchenko goes on to explain that she envisions the proliferation of a trend that’s currently taking off in California will soon find a place within the Canadian industry. It’s one that is enabled completely by technology, and supported by people.
“There’s going to be real growth among the spas that are calling themselves wellness facilities,” she says. “The use of technology in these facilities is really allowing for the broadening of the term spa, where guests experience more than the traditional spa services like manicures, facials, and massages. Today, in some parts of North America, there are these facilities where people are supporting the technology, enabling the equipment that administers the treatments. There aren’t any hands-on services applied at all, only knowledgeable therapists that provide consultation and setup. It’s a concept that’s really gaining momentum in California. And, I anticipate wellness facilities emerging in Canada soon.”

Be wary of gimmicks
She points out that there have been a number of different types of technologies used within a range of spa environments for many years, supporting a host of treatments and services, from facials to manicures and pedicures. And, it seems to be only a matter of time before even more advanced technologies are deployed to further improve operations and enhance customer service and experience. However, she warns that not every new toy is worth the investment made by spa owners.
“Virtually every spa owner across the entire country is looking into the latest technologies and cutting-edge equipment that they think might be able to enhance their business and the quality of the treatments and services they offer customers,” she asserts. “But the problem is that the market is becoming saturated with innovations, and the industry is being bombarded with offers that are really, in the end, just gimmicks—and ineffective. It’s the reason it’s so incredibly important for spas to work closely with national associations like Health Canada in order to understand which suppliers are approved in the country as well as the products that have been approved for use.”

The spa of the future
It’s also important, Zinchenko adds, to understand how to properly train staff with respect to the use of new technologies, and to develop standard operating procedures and protocols related to the use of equipment. And, the importance of doing so seems to take on added significance when considering the rate at which technology is being developed and introduced to the market and relevant industries. The technology will increasingly be implemented into the operations of spas everywhere, she says, helping to create the spa of the future.
“What I see happening within the industry over the course of the next decade or so is the creation of the next generation of spas,” she explains. “Based around wellness, advanced technologies, and human expertise, I think a sort of hybrid spa is going to be developed and will go a long way toward setting the standard for the industry going forward. There will be very sophisticated pieces of equipment used to produce experiential types of treatments. And, it will all be assisted by expert therapists who are trained. For instance, we’re currently looking at bringing in loungers that have vibration therapy built into them. They can be used to help guests reach a much deeper state of relaxation, even sleep, than they ever could on their own. These types of services are going to become more commonplace, as people are increasingly looking for ways to boost their energy and performance levels. And, spas are constantly looking for ways to help their clients find the results they’re looking for.”

Customer-centric approach
Despite the technology or piece of equipment that’s invested in and implemented, however, Zinchenko stresses the need for spa owners and directors to do their homework in order to ensure they’re truly making an enhancement to their business. And, if they have any doubt, she has one piece of important advice to share.
“No matter what you’re doing, whether you’re installing new equipment or researching new software to make online bookings easier, or anything else, you have to think of your customer and the experience they receive when engaging with your brand. That should guide virtually every single decision you make for your business. Ask yourself, ‘Will this technology or piece of equipment improve the treatments or service provided to the customer or enhance the experience they receive?’ Your answer to this question should inform your decision-making every time, including the digitization of your spa. But it’s clear there are opportunities presented by technology. And, the right investments made by spa owners going forward could really differentiate the top establishments from the rest of the industry.”

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