I’m thinking about going to Dubai or Capetown…for my next pedicure. I’m only half kidding. Earlier this year at the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, I got hooked on the Reverence de Bastien pedicure, available only at One&Only resorts and a handful of Paris spas. As a travel writer, I can conceivably plan my next several trips around natural, baby-soft feet.
It sounds a bit ridiculous, but many frequent travellers I know tell similar stories about the powerful loyalties they’ve developed to goods and services while travelling. Take the emotional rush I get drinking a French 75 cocktail; it’s not just the champagne bubbles or the memory of the silver fox who once ordered one for me at a Lower East Side speakeasy, but an alchemic memory of both. These strong loyalties and emotions help set the Transumer apart from the jet-setting shopper.
Their wants and tastes fueled by global lifestyle magazines like Monocle and Wallpaper, Transumers aren’t satisfied with garden variety items from the shop around the corner. Though Montreal-based magazine editor Claude Laframboise must nose dozens of new fragrances a month, he relies on trips to New York to buy the Krizia cologne he’s worn since the 1980s from its flagship store on Madison Avenue. Exclusivity has always meant cachet, but a product that a discerning consumer not only deems valuable but self-defining? That’s priceless.
Toronto power-publicist Ann Layton flies frequently to London for clients and cashmere, which she buys only at Ocabini. The hand-knit, hand-died garments are imported directly through the owner’s sister in Kathmandu. In an era of cheap Chinese cashmere, Layton could buy a poncho anywhere, but she seeks out the most authentic, ethically-produced goods. Sure, she could order online, but I’d say her carbon footprint is lighter walking over to the boutique while in the city on business. And eBay wouldn’t provide her with Nepalese anecdotes to share over drinks at the Dorchester.
Spafax editorial director Arjun Basu often gets asked on Twitter and Flyertalk about his distinctive eyewear, which he gets from Ottico in Vancouver. Basu lives in Montreal—roughly 3700 kilometers (2300 miles) away. Here’s a personal, recurring Transumer relationship created by one chance visit to fix broken eyeglasses on a business trip. “Our optician Anita has a photographic memory for faces,” says Dr. Brad McDougall, the store’s co-owner. “Now, when he needs glasses, we just send him a selection.” The clinic also draws repeat visits from actors and their families filming in Hollywood North, which McDougall attributes to hotel-concierge referrals (a strategy the practice has focused on) and highly personal service.
Sometimes there is not only a qualitative preference but a quantitative difference in these relationships. The Transumer seeks out the best and most efficient services and “trip chains” them on to existing travels, the way a soccer mom lines up dry-cleaning and kiddie drop-offs. Vancouver writer Neal McLennan packs brogues that need a good working over when he returns to his former lawyering base in Calgary, a corporate town with a “disproportionate amount of good shoe shine stands,” he says. Spafax’s Raymond Girard swears by the world-class toothsmithing he gets from a Harvard-trained dentist while he’s on business trips in Santiago, Chile—at a fraction of the going rate in Toronto, his home base.
So how do brands get in touch with this border-blurring demographic? Client databases and e-mail lists are a first step in establishing where your far-flung customers might be located, how to keep in touch with them, and what will bring them back. Tools like Backtype can help track in real-time who’s buzzing about your brand across a vast swath of the online world, what social media monitoring company Radian6 calls “finding your brand evangelists.” The next step might be partnering with travel applications like Dopplr or TripIt, customizing promotions, or even syncing CalTweet-ed events with peak travel periods.
Online travel and lifestyle information is a powerful tool in cultivating a nomadic following, but think, too, of these high-flying consumers as you drop your URL or IATA code onto your packaging or ads. A shopping bag on a plane might just be better than a business card in hand to reach this transitory tribe.