Secret Escapes entered the luxury-for-less travel market in 2011 and, with a little help from a certain whispering woman, the brand surged to popularity just as the first wave of daily discount websites began to falter in the face of fierce competition and a saturated market. But how did this plucky startup successfully stake a claim to a niche in such a busy sector?
Going the extra mile
As with most discount sites, the offers available on Secret Escapes aren’t always as exclusive as the site’s owners might like you to think – many of the hotels are available from other vendors at similarly reduced rates. What Secret Escapes does really well is dressing up its deals, to make the shopping experience that little bit more enjoyable. The combination of beautiful photography, guides to local attractions and a detailed description of each hotel convincingly sells a similar product, in a way that is more appealing than many of the site’s competitors. Add these features to the smooth user experience and you have a site that, seemingly, has customers coming back to check out new deals again and again.
Inclusivity is the new exclusivity
Everyone wants to feel like they’re on the inside of something, to have the smug feeling of knowing what others don’t. It’s not the nicest characteristic, but one we’ve probably all experienced or exhibited. Secret Escapes plays on this by creating an air of exclusivity; deals are only available to members of the website, mirroring the practices of more traditional luxury and bespoke travel agents. In truth, membership is absolutely free and requires only an email address or Facebook account, neither of which is particularly hard to attain, nevertheless the excitement of ‘membership’ remains. They drive this home by really emphasising the curation aspect of what they do too, “we hand-pick the best hotels and holidays and curate exclusive offers available only to our members”. Makes you feel special and catered for, doesn’t it?
Editorially does it
The third ingredient in the Secret Escapes formula for success is the use of editorial to support the e-commerce experience. In the last three years the brand has built a sumptuous looking blog that covers all things travel and tourism; from news of low-cost flight routes, to the best afternoon teas in London, to reviews of films set in glamourous world cities. Beyond the boost in page views that creating a blog brings (typically around 55%), from a brand standpoint the Secret Escapes blog adds another level to the site as a whole, keeping it from becoming ‘just’ a list of ‘% off’ discounts.
By making the extra effort, creating an air of exclusivity and boosting its appeal with content Secret Escapes has successfully marked itself out as an individual and appealing brand in a sector that is bristling with competitors.