What next ? The Future of TimeshareWhat do any number of the most successful companies today—from Apple and Google (iEverything and search engine-plus) to Netflix and Amazon (TV game-changer and retail transformer)—have in common? A culture of innovation. These companies don’t rest on their laurels. Sure, they each found immense success with the launch of their first product(s). But they didn’t stop there. They continued to think “what next?” The same can be said for our industry. From fixed weeks to points to exchange, the timeshare product has continually evolved over the years to satisfy the ever-changing needs and demands of consumers. So, what’s next? At the ARDA-West conference held last month in Denver, Co., one session had that exact focus: what key attributes must tomorrow’s product have in order to appeal to future generations and drive the industry forward? Some say there’s nothing wrong with today’s product, while others say it must change radically to allow the industry to evolve, survive and prosper. But one thing everyone agrees on is that we cannot become complacent about understanding the changing needs and demands of our customers. The session began with an overview of AIF’s latest study, the Shared Vacation Ownership Owner’s Report, highlighting multi-generational research and providing key insights into today’s timeshare owner—who is younger and increasingly diverse. They’re also savvier, with the majority having experienced timeshare prior to purchasing and one-third having attended multiple sales presentations before buying. Yet, while today’s consumer may be different, we learned they are still shaped by many of the same timeless influences. Growing up during the Great Recession affected Millennials in ways similar to the Great Depression-era generations—they’re much more money-conscious than the Gen X or Baby Boomer. They also greatly value family, with more than 50 percent saying being a good parent is one of their most important goals in life. So what needs to change for us in order to better reach tomorrow’s customer? Some key session-findings are as follows:
- We need to realize our product will never be sought after, so our sales approach needs to change. We need to be transparent and honest and tell it like it is.
- Millennials love to vacation, but they’re more spontaneous. They’ll add a few days on either end of business trips and will use any excuse to travel—birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc.
- To meet that need, our products need to be more flexible, shorter term.
- They crave electronic sophistication: not having Wi-Fi at a resort is akin to not having a bathroom.
- Take a consumer-centric approach: a la carte benefits vs. one size fits all. Get to know the customer first and determine their wants, and then create a custom benefits package for them.
- They’re status driven, so earn their loyalty with a rewards program.
- Social media isn’t going anywhere. Engage with them, in real time. Responding to reviews or providing recommendations will drive your credibility.