Making hotels and resorts shoppable: Suzanne Mahoney, co-founder of LiBi (Love it, Buy it)
How often do you have guests inquire about goods displayed or in use on property and not had an easy way to sell to them? Or maybe you've been on a trip yourself and thought, "ooh, I wish I could buy that!" Thankfully, entrepreneur Suzanne Mahoney has come up with an ingenious solution to both of those situations! Hoteliers can now max every inch of real estate with LiBi, a new eCommerce platform that offers partnerships with consumer lifestyle brands, enabling guests to buy products they get to see, try and interact with at the click of a button. Utilizing QR code technology, LiBi, allows you to sell literally everything and anything without the headache of setting up a retail arm or needing to hold stock. We chat with Suzanne to find out how she and her two partners have made immersive shopping a reality, and how you can get your hotel involved.
Your background is in hotel retail, do people actually shop more when they travel?
The amount of money people spend when they travel really varies depending on their reason for traveling (whether that be work, leisure or bleisure), the type of holiday and the demographic. What we do know, though, is that the dwell time has a big impact on spending as does the guest or traveler’s ‘mindset’. Guests of hotels, resorts, and cruises have far more time to engage and discover brands than they would have in an airport or high street environment. We also know from our experience in the travel and cruise industry that guests are in a relaxed ‘holiday retail’ mindset when they are away from home, so have a great openness to purchase and to bring a little bit of their holiday back home with them.
Dwell time has a big impact on spending as does the guest or traveler’s ‘mindset.’ Guests of hotels, resorts, and cruises have far more time to engage and discover brands than they would have in an airport or high street environment
As the industry is seeing a shift from RevPar to Total RevPar (according to real estate experts at JLL), LiBi seems like a genius and timely idea for maximizing revenue, what inspired you?
We believe that hotels and resorts provide the perfect backdrop for brands to tell their stories as part of a uniquely immersive shopping experience for consumers. We have spent many years in the travel retail industry and identified that there were so many similarities between cruise line guests and hotel and resort guests.
Just like the cruise lines, hotels and resorts are experts in hospitality and delivering excellent guest experiences but by their own admission are not retailers. LiBi gives hotels and resorts an extra commercial dimension with incremental revenue and an enhanced guest experience, but without the headache of setting up a retail arm or needing to hold stock. So, yes – LiBi is a no-hassle way to increase Total RevPar and deliver a great guest experience! (And we will take the ‘genius’ tag, thanks!)
How did you finance the company and get it started?
We are a female-led and founded business and were very aware of the stark facts regarding female entrepreneurs and investment. Less than 1% of investment in the UK is spent on female-led businesses. We joined a female entrepreneur support group called ‘We Are Radikl’, and from there decided to go for our first round of investment at the end of last year. We were delighted to have secured all our SEIS investments within 5 weeks and closed our first round in November. (For those that don't know, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) was introduced in April 2012 by the UK Government to help small, early-stage companies raise funds through individual investors by providing a series of tax reliefs on investments made into qualifying companies.)
Starting a business usually means some steep learning curves and failures, has that been your experience?
Yes, there have definitely been some steep learning curves but honestly, we have been surrounded by some amazing friends, ex-colleagues, and industry experts who have been beyond generous with their time and advice. We haven’t been afraid to fail fast and learn fast. We started off the business as a consultancy, for example, but soon flexed and changed after seeing the challenges that the hospitality industry faced in terms of lost revenue and staffing. We saw an opportunity to connect hotel guests with brands at a time when physical retail is in decline and, as I have mentioned, with hotels looking for incremental revenue. The ability to be a storyteller for brands as well as an eCommerce partner has been valuable as we continue to grow our ambition.
What is the best lesson you have learned so far?
The best lesson so far has been not to be afraid to rethink and learn. Don’t be so determined and resilient that you are not prepared to alter your path slightly if necessary. Additionally, it’s important to listen and take advice.
Do you feel it is harder to be an entrepreneur as a woman?
Statistics show that it’s harder to be an entrepreneur as a woman and yes, it is tough––but being an entrepreneur is tough, full stop. We are certainly looking to champion brands and companies that support women, local communities and brands with purpose, as well as partnering with like-minded companies.
LiBi only launched this month, do you have hotels signed up already? What is the implementation process like?
We are working with brand partners including Hypnos (mattresses), Comfort Zone (spa brands), Red Dog Glass Design, Pulseroll, Edmunds Cocktails, and Cotivision, alongside other notable local artists and producers that already have hotel and resort clients. In fact, we are just about to launch our first pilot hotels, so watch this space!
LiBi seems like a great solution for hoteliers that want to expand and profit from retail, if you are looking into the future how much do you see this impacting the bottom line for hotels?
We really see this as a great opportunity to not only drive additional revenue for hotels but also to showcase the facilities and amenities around the hotel. For example, a guest not intending to go to the hotel bar or spa may be encouraged to do so after reading more about the artisan drinks or sustainable spa products on the LiBi site. We can help grow the guest experience and do a broad support job for our hotel partners – maximizing all they have to offer.
How do hotels sign up?
We’d love to hear from hotels and brands about partnering and we’d encourage them to contact us at email@example.com. The onboarding process is simple and does not require time and effort from teams, even though the results for each partner will be bespoke to them and their needs.