Is Kimpton pioneering is the digital world?


Number one US boutique brand, Kimpton, seems to stepping it up a gear in a bid to drive its expansion plans since its acquisition at the start of the year. We look at a few ways the savvy brand is doing things differently.

Since IHG acquired leading US boutique brand Kimpton in February 2015, the world has been waiting to see what waves the new partnership will bring to the industry. IHG paid a whopping £275m for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and has already put in a place a few interesting innovations that we could see really take off in the next few months.

It is carving out its niche in the digital era in a few non-traditional ways, shying away from the OTAs, in a bid to make the customer experience more personable and bang on trend.

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1. Still maintaining the one-to-one engagement
While many hotels are going the whole hog when it comes to the digital world, implementing everything from mobile check-in to digital door readers, Kimpton doesn’t seem too spooked by the ideas emerging. From studying the brand’s key customer demographic, Kimpton has found that the element of one-to-one engagement is really what works.

“What we know is that consumers really start to feel the love for our brand once they get on property, and interact with our employees,” said Connor Smith, the group’s senior director brand.

He continues: “Because we are so focused on customer care and creating a personal experience, we need to be careful not put too much of a digital wall between the front desk and the guest.”

This doesn’t mean that they are ignoring the digital aspect altogether; they are currently looking at ideas such as ordering room service from an app, or requesting pillows from your phone.

2. The move to lifestyle
Kimpton’s main market is business travel, and the big wigs up at head office know this, yet they have still chosen to position the brand as a lifestyle one. Clearly noticing the trend for millennials to merge business travel with pleasure, the move was inevitable.

Data again plays a big part, highlighting that although the majority of guests tend to be on business, this doesn’t mean they want a typically stuffy ‘business’ hotel. If they like somewhere they will often become the most loyal customers. Kimpton’s customers are the urban-minded, adventurous type, covering a range of age brackets, preferring to eat at a local food stall than dine in the hotel restaurant.

3. Breaking the brand mould
Being part of a group doesn’t always have to mean big brand standards being stamped on each property, and Kimpton is a prime example to this. The brand attempted to appeal to everyone and ended up losing its ability to satisfy the majority, under delivering on promises.

Kimpton acted to change this, and worked together with a branding agency to arm each hotel with a new, unique and simple set of in-house tools that clearly and concisely capture the original vision for each boutique hotel brand.

4. Social media has become king
Kimpton realises the huge potential of social media and has a dedicated social team focused on surprising and delighting guests in order to yield and loyal and devoted following.

Social media is taken very seriously at each property, seen as the digital equivalent of positive human interaction. The online team are based within the property, and empowered to care for guests as they see fit. The 24/7 social team closely monitors compliments and complaints, but interestingly aims to resolve any issues offline.