How good design can go viral: making washrooms stand out on social media

Armitage Shanks Offices Washrooms

The ever-growing use of online platforms to share images, videos and opinions now impacts every aspect of our everyday life and contemporary culture. More and more experiences, of all kinds, are being shared online – including those in the washroom, with social media bringing spaces into the spotlight like never before.

It goes without saying that in the 21st century reported user satisfaction and online reviews across all commercial sectors have a profound effect on repeat custom and purchasing patterns. For property owners and landlords, it can even impact rental values and vacancy rates. And this notion is increasingly evident when it comes washrooms – in restaurants and hotels, for example. A positive washroom experience can truly enhance a consumer’s perception of an establishment overall, and sharing said experience online can go a long way to attracting new audiences.


This was a key finding in Armitage Shanks’ recent study, Creating Better Washrooms report Through surveys of office workers and washroom designers across Europe, as well as academic research and expert opinion, the study identified the ripe opportunity to harness the power of social media to deliver real business impact.


The commercial impact of sharing

The report found that almost four in 10 (38%) people have posted online about a washroom experience at a restaurant, bar or shopping centre, and the vast majority agreed that their washroom experience, either positive or negative, would have an effect on their likelihood to return.


Online consumer review sites are therefore important sources of information for people making purchasing and travel decisions. Interestingly, in the context of restaurants, bars and shopping centres, it was the positive experiences that had the most impact, with 77% of end users reporting that a positive washroom experience would make them more likely to go back, versus only 13% who said a negative one would put them off.


Review sites are incredibly important tools for business owners who understand the value of positive consumer feedback and ratings, and the potential economic damage of negative content. In fact, The Centre for Hospitality Research found that “higher scores on online travel advisory sites allow hotels to charge up to 11.2% more while maintaining occupancy rates”.


With washroom images and comments frequently posted on these sites, businesses and designers would be wise to consider the design and decoration of these spaces as a core part of their commercial plans.


The rise and rise of the #bathroomselfie

The ‘selfie’ is a ubiquitous phenomenon that shows no sign of going away, with people sharing them to a potentially global audience day in, day out – including from the bathroom, using hashtags such as #bathroomselfie, #restaurantbathrooms and #placesyoupee.


Standout washroom designs, most commonly in hotels and restaurants, therefore vie for attention across key sharing platforms. The images of washroom spaces most often shared and recommended online feature bold colours and patterns or extreme décor, employing eclectic style, unusual fixture shapes and “glamour” finishes in taps and toilet pods – the antithesis of bland, neutral spaces. With this in mind, bar, restaurant and hotel owners are increasingly allowing designers a freer rein to create washrooms spaces that are altogether more photogenic and ‘Insta-ready’.


An opportunity for designers

What’s clear from our research is that washroom design professionals are the future trendsetters across all commercial sectors. Creating washrooms with shareability in mind also gives them an opportunity to push boundaries, confident in the knowledge that social media can positively impact people’s perceptions of washrooms, and the commercial businesses and brands that own them.


As well as examining the impact of social media, our Creating Better Washrooms Report also includes useful findings on current perceptions around factors such as sustainability, user wellbeing and smart technology. The conclusion? That sustained collaboration with stakeholders at every stage of the supply chain, as well as end users, is the key to delivering washrooms that go beyond mere function and truly benefit society. It’s something we’re committed to at Armitage Shanks: working with partners and the wider industry to implement evidence-based design so that commercial washrooms not only play a central role in improving profitability, but ask genuinely enhance the lives of those who use them.


Get more insights and exclusive findings by downloading the full Creating Better Washrooms report.

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