Designing The Belmond Experience, From Digital Architecture To The Future of Loyalty

Live Site

2017 - Present

Awards Won

Drum Design Awards, Gold

Best Luxury Website, GWG Awards.

The Challenge

Everyone knows The Cadogan, Hotel Cipriani, the Orient Express. Be it through dinner party stories, headlines or experiences firsthand, they’re names that carry cultural weight and social significance. But the master brand behind them wasn’t always as well known.

Established in 1976, Belmond has been a pioneering force in luxury travel for over 40 years, building a diverse portfolio of the world's most thrilling adventures, cruises, dining experiences, safaris and train journeys for discerning global travellers. In 2017 the Belmond team engaged Matter Of Form in the first phase of a serial creative partnership to make the Belmond brand famous, fuelling their vast growth ambitions alongside an aggressive acquisition strategy.

We did so by firstly creating a digital ecosystem that’s best in class, allowing each of the portfolio properties to express their individuality while sitting within a uniform design, content and technology framework. We then turned our attention to the future of loyalty for Belmond following LVMH’s $3.2 billion procurement of the business, crafting a meaningful model that goes beyond complimentary elevenses, before defining the role of clienteling in the context of luxury hospitality.


A Digital Experience Designed To Scale

The Belmond audience is energetic, and with more travel than ever before, a sense of adventure is found further and further from the norm. A conversion-first approach wasn’t right here, instead, we confidently put content between the customer and conversion to get them to buy into the Belmond lifestyle. 

What resulted was an early example of an experience-first digital ecosystem. Founded in a deep understanding of the luxury travel market and discerning travellers who desire filters that go beyond geography. 

Our interface design bridges the gap between Belmond’s rich heritage and bright future, informed by the spirit of the brand – an eccentricity that was captured in time spent with stakeholders. To ensure the digital user journey matched Belmond’s magnificent destination experiences, our UX team leveraged Matter Of Form’s black book to engage a high net-worth cohort to stress test booking funnels and other business-critical customer journeys. 

We designed and developed an interactive world map to highlight the scope of Belmond’s destinations, adding another method of discovery for prospective guests and a visual means for loyal guests to uncover more of the Belmond portfolio.

Forming Belmond’s Distinct Approach To Loyalty

Following the success of the digital transformation, Belmond re-engaged Matter Of Form to define what loyalty looks like for them; ultimately to design a model far more meaningful than other loyalty schemes while still leveraging the impressive scope of tech LVMH offers.

Starting with narrowing down an expansive brief, we focused our ideation on a more narrowly defined audience as Belmond were firm in their desire that loyalty was taken literally, for only the top 1% of guests to create a real community of ‘insiders’. 

To do this we conducted qualitative research with customers, which in turn informed personas with real needs and expectations. After a series of workshops with Belmond stakeholders, we selected a concept that was then realised in a service blueprint to ensure it would be effective to operationalise. Balancing the use of tech and digital systems with an emphasis on the human touch that’s so central to Belmond service.

We then finally named and branded the concept, developing its value proposition to connect with very important guests (VIGs). Initially piloted by Belmond with 50 VIGs, the loyalty club is now one of luxury travel’s worst-kept secrets and coveted by many generations of adventurers who have a taste for opulence.

Tablet with travel website on being held up in front of mountain landscape scene

Defining Clienteling in Luxury Hospitality

The best inspiration comes from unexpected places, and with LVMH’s prowess in high-end retail, we wanted to facilitate a reimagining of clienteling – that is, the technique of establishing long-term relationships with buyers – in the context of hospitality and then define what it could look like. 

The world leader in luxury goods, LVMH has decades of expertise in building intimate one-on-one bonds with their high-spending clients, then curating tailored and tangible experiences around them. Why couldn’t Belmond be the brand to bring that to hospitality?

Using our Brand Interactions framework, we brought together Matter Of Form creatives and key stakeholders from Belmond and the wider LVMH group for a workshop to ideate meaningful points of service and connection along the end-to-end VIG experience.

After synthesising ideas, we refined and prioritised them based on what each service tangibly meant for the business, packaged into an extensive CX blueprint and a playbook for the Belmond brand to roll out as they see fit. Having witnessed the success of multiple projects within the Belmond x Matter Of Form partnership, we’re looking forward to seeing what unfolds from here.