New research contracted by the International Spa Association by The Hartman Group to identify significant consumer spa trends and provide business insights for ISPA members. Hartman studied motivators and barriers to spa use, consumers expectations of the spa experience, "gateway" experiences that encourage spa visits, and language and imagery related to spas. The company used a combination of techniques, including one-on-one interviews, online focus groups, and language analysis.

Hartman defined the "World" of Spas into three segments, defined by consume values and behaviors within the world of spas. The segments-- Core, Mid-level, and Periphery-- are based on "intensity of lifestyle and experience." To the core spa consumer, "spas represent a way of thinking as well as a way of living. This group, estimated to be only six percent of the market, consider regular spa-going "an integral part of her health and wellness routine."Mid-level spa consumer are more price sensitive with esoteric treatments, and are likely to question the authenticity of spa as well as spa therapist qualifications of the therapist. Peripheral spa-goers are the least likely to approach spas with health and wellness in mind.

Hartman identified three primary reasons why people go to spas: Indulgence, Escape, and Work. "Work" has different meanings as consumers move from periphery to mid-level to core, from maintenance of physical appearance to caring for the emotional state, to transformation.

The study revealed the following consumer trends:

Most consumers are untrained in the etiquette of spa-going. First timers have anxiety about the spa experience and appreciate fore-warning about what to expect. For example, they don't know how long to linger after the treatment. "Stay as long as you need to" is too ambiguous. "Newbies" are worried about pain during massage. They do not feel comfortable telling their therapists to ease up." Series pricing encourages a lifestyle incorporation of spa-going. Also attractive to women caught up in a tussle with partners over what is necessary in their spa-going.

There is an increased trend towards adult children introducing their parents to the benefits of spas. Gifts for anniversaries, birthdays and Mother's and Father's Day appear to be the catalysts for children sending their parents on an expense-paid visit to a spa. Gen Xers are removing the 'old taboos' of spa-going - such as it being a luxury or an unnecessary indulgence - and are teaching their parents the value of taking care of themselves from the inside out.

Keep it Simple - when consumers are dabbling in activities that are not part of everyday life - excessive choice can be overwhelming. Consumers appreciate spa menus that are simple, basic and short. Spa-users generally seek out dependable, reliable experiences that have a low risk of 'wasting' their time and money. Also, better loyalty emerges when the menu is simple, because it automatically necessitates that clients ask questions of their therapist. This kind of interaction can more easily form the beginning of an ongoing relationship - much like people form with their hair stylists.

Customization is increasingly becoming a point in consumers' decision-making process. By keeping the menu simple, we just mentioned the importance of a relationship between therapist and guest. One way to reach out with a therapeutic, healing-oriented approach to spa going is to focus on customization during every service session. For example - a simple menu with massages of various lengths allows therapists to customize a healing regimen for each client. Therapist-driven customization is an effective way to make each client feel like they are being treated specially and individually.
An enhanced interest in local and indigenous spa experiences. The Hartman Group expects this trend will continue for years to come and is likely to become mainstream. Spas and product suppliers that are able to leverage their geographic location and indigenous traditions will provide more distinctive and compelling spa experiences. Examples of this at spas around the country include - treatments incorporating grape seeds in Napa and Sonoma, cactus flower in the Southwest and maple in the Northeast. This also includes local traditions such as receiving a Lomi Lomi massage while in Hawaii.