GSS gets a look at the future

This morning, the Global Spa Summit delegation was treated a keynote presentation entitled "A View from the Future" from Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich & Brown (, a futurist consulting group.  What, you may ask, is a futurist?  According to Weiner's web site, her company "identifies opportunities" for clients ranging from the U.S. Congress to Fortune 500 companies.  What that really means is, people like Weiner and her firm are adept at stepping back from everyday activities and seeing the big picture, both of what is happening now, and what is likely to happen in the future.  They don't see the world like most of us do; they seem to have a sixth sense that intuits the meaning in the white spaces around everyday events, and they see trends coming WAY before we average spa folks do.

Weiner spoke about historical transformations; we have gone from an agricultural society (lasting thousands of years) to an industrial society (200 or so years) to post-industrial (45 years) to the current state, which she called "emotile" based on the fact that the current growth industries are based on our wants and needs, and the cycles are more and more compressed.  According to Weiner, we are reaching the end of the emotile age and will be entering the "Virtual" age, which will be defined by the value proposition of all kinds of space; inner-, outer-, micro-, cyber-, time- and a few other space dimensions. 

Her message to the spa industry was to stop doing things because "that's what we've always done" and make sure we stay ahead of the needs of our clients through this changing time.  She urged us to "think like an alien;" imagine you are an alien who has just landed on earth, and you are asking these earthlings why they are doing what they are doing.  For example; Weiner asked members of the delegation where they buy their clothes.  Some said online, some said in a store because I like to try them on before I buy them.  So, Weiner asked, if the only value proposition of the brick and mortar store is that you get to try the clothes on before you buy them, why is the dressing room some dark cramped room with a broken mirror in the back of the store that you have to get somebody to unlock for you, while we juggle our clothes and a plastic card that tells us how many things we can try on?  Hmmmm, she's right.

Some of Weiner's prescient observations:

  • Don't be wedded to your strategies; vision matters, not strategy.  (i.e. Sony/Napster/Apple Ipod).

  • Retirement age of 65 and older is an OLD model!  People who are 67 resent being lumped in with those who are 81! (Do your spa intake forms ask if clients are 65 and older?)

  • We can't just focus on the physically fit; we are living longer but we all have physical issues of some sort; why do you need to wear glasses and use a flashlight so that you can read the TV remote and change your channel?   (Why do beauty products and spa menus have such tiny writing?)

  • 1 in 9 baby boomers will live to be 100. (We need activities and treatments for them!)

  • Pets have a very important place in society and the lives of many people.  (Pet treatments?  Pet spas?  Bring your pet to the spa with you?)

  • Today, all we want is information, and yet we can't get a person on the phone when we call a company.  (Auto attendant overload.)

  • Luxury will be redefined; not reflective of high-price, but more related to the thing we have increasingly less of, time.  (We need to help our clients maximize time, minimize stress, sleep better.)

  • Why do we sign a medical release before a spa treatment, but not before an airplane flight????

Weiner discussed the positive effect of smiling and laughter, and then asked why spas are so serious?  She said they feel like libraries, no one can smile!  Perhaps, she suggested, we should have a service that allows clients to play with kittens or puppies, everyone feels good after that!  She also suggested combining personalization and virtual experiences; if a client says their favorite thing to do is go diving in the Caribbean, then we should be able to make them think that's what they're doing while they receive a spa service.

Big takeaway; spas right now tend to do a lot of the same thing.  Yes, we decorate differently, and have fancy names on the menus, but the fact is we are mostly all doing the same stuff in the same way.  We need more differentiation, which will make us stronger.  We need to do more than just give massages and facials; we need to help clients negotiate the challenges of their changing lives and reduce their stress levels for more than just the hour they're with us.  It was an excellent presentation and left us looking at our spa industry with a fresh lens.