This may well be the nicest massage studio you’ll ever see. A lush ring of live tropical plants surrounds you as a team of infinitely serene relaxation professionals soothe away all your earthly cares.
Where might you expect to find this room?
- A ritzy day spa?
- An up-market hotel?
- A boutique city gymnasium?
No, in fact, the photo above was taken at the Qantas First Class Lounge at Sydney airport. Qantas employed French botanist Patrick Blanc to design the 8,500-plant indoor garden walls that line large swathes of their airport lounge. Customers are lovingly indulged while a stone’s throw away, mammoth jet engines whine and airport terminals surge with sweaty travelers. The contrast in user experiences couldn’t be more stark.
Of course, Qantas isn’t alone. For years international carriers have been locked in an escalating ‘arms race’ of lounge luxury. For instance:
- Virgin Atlantic’s JFK Clubhouse looks a space-age casino.
- Turkish Airlines offer a golf simulator and Scaletrix slot car track that includes a scale model Hagia Sophia
- Swiss Air’s Senator Lounge has a 5-star restaurant and 120 bottle whiskey bar.
Obviously, this kind of luxury costs airlines a fortune to run yet it is offered free of (direct) charge to many customers.
So, why do they do it?
Getting Customers is Hard
Airlines have come to understand the true value of a customer. Winning them is difficult and expensive, so spending money to make sure they stay is just good business sense.
This is an area we don’t do as well at on the web.
We talk about ‘customers’ a lot – but we usually use words like ‘acquisition’ and ‘conversion rates’ and ‘customer funnels’. Like Loch Ness monsters, online we spend much more time thinking about how to catch them, than what we’ll do if we succeed.
Flickr is a classic example. I’ve been a member since 2004, yet when I return, their big blue button is asking me to become a member. Signing in seems a boring afterthought.
While we may have no way to gift returning customers free drinks and massages, we can make them feel more special by simply recognizing they have been here before (even before they’ve logged in). This is no more than you’d expect from any good cafe owner or publican. A simple smile and nod.
Maybe we’re just scared of being seen as creepy or overly familiar? That’s a reasonable concern.
But I think it’s time we – at the very least- learn to stop pitching current customers chances to ‘Join now’ and ‘Sign Up Today!’.
What do you think?
Alex has been doing cruel and unusual things to CSS since 2001. He is the lead front-end design and dev for SitePoint and one-time SitePoint's Design and UX editor with over 150+ newsletter written. Now Alex is involved in the planning, development, production, and marketing of a huge range of printed and online products and references. He has designed over 40+ of SitePoint's book covers.