A tipping point has been reached where it’s no longer possible for hotels to survive without technology. From marketing to operations to sales, the modern hospitality industry relies on a range of tools and software to support virtually every area of business.
As the digital industry matures, is your hotel equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead?
Just recently, executives from Travel Tripper, StayNTouch, LodgIQ, and Fuel Travel hosted a lively discussion on the changing role of technology. The conversation covered three maxims that will define the coming year for hotels:
1. Technology is not your ticket to get ahead, it’s your way to stay alive.
2. Technology and service must go hand in hand.
3. The technology of the future will be felt, not seen.
Click below to listen to a full recording of the webinar and read on to discover the top takeaways from our discussion.
Maxim #1: Technology is not your ticket to get ahead, it’s your way to stay alive
Guest expectations are now higher than ever. They expect to get what they want, the way they want it, when they want it. This mindset is a relatively recent one, heavily influenced by the rise of mobile technology and on-demand services
The likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix have taught consumers they don’t need to wait for things, and that they can have a frictionless experience. In turn, this has brought about a fundamental shift in the way consumers interact with brands.
Applied to travel, this shift translates into a digitally-connected guest that wants to engage with hotels on their own terms through a seamless mobile experience.
A demand for mobile
A study by Gartner found that 73% of consumers have a more positive view of a company if it provides a mobile service experience. Based on this fact, how can your hotel capitalize on the consumer demand for mobility?
First, start by thinking how your guests would like to be serviced. Maybe they want to skip the front desk on arrival and head straight to their room. Perhaps they’re keen to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable phone call down to the front desk to request a longer stay in their room.
The technology you provide needs to be built around the choices and preferences of the customer you’re serving.
A lot of hotels also wonder whether having a mobile app is worthwhile. While useful for chains, the truth is that mobile apps aren’t really that useful for independent hotels. However, it is imperative to have a great mobile-friendly website.
Having a website that loads quickly is crucial to meet the demands of less patient mobile customers. Making your site incredibly easy to use is also important for the same reason. Sites such as usertesting.com are great for quickly running lots of inexpensive usability tests.
But the big game changer for both brands and independents is mobile payment.
At present, most hotels receive around 50% of traffic from mobile, but this channel rarely gets more than 20% of bookings. In contrast, OTAs receive around 50% of bookings via mobile. The option of mobile payment is a major reason for this disparity.
By linking with payment services such as Apple Pay, OTAs enable customers to book a hotel room securely on mobile without much friction. This naturally represents a major leap forward compared with having to awkwardly fill in lots of form fields using a small keyboard.
In the interests of providing an enhanced guest experience on-property, and a superior user experience online, hotels need to place mobile at the heart of everything they do — not to stay ahead, but to stay alive.
Maxim #2: Technology and service must go hand in hand
Hoteliers now rely on technology more than ever before. In large part, this reliance is about being able to meet the needs of an always-connected, tech-savvy guest.
This places huge importance on partnering with the right technology provider—not only to provide a great experience, but to ensure this experience is consistent and isn’t hampered by technical issues and bugs.
With that in mind, what should your hotel be looking for from a tech provider before committing to them?
Reliability is critical
Look for someone that can quickly respond to market conditions and stay on top of industry trends. Having an open dialogue and trust is also critical. You don’t want to be left managing the vendor and forced to follow-up on concerns.
When working with a marketing agency, be sure to ask what attribution model they’re using (e.g. first click, any click, last click attribution). Unless you ask, it’s likely a vendor claiming a high ROI will use the most generous attribution to put them in the most favorable light.
It’s also worth doing the math yourself to double check the attribution your vendor has promised. If it all adds up to 300% of your bookings for sales, you know something isn’t right.
Own your data
If you’re relying on a third party to deliver results with whatever technology or service you’re buying, you need a method to verify the information they’re giving you. For example, when it comes to hotel websites, setting up Google Tag Manager is one way you can independently check the data and keep tabs on the performance of the vendors you’re working with.
Test your product
Before you invest in a new product, give it a trial. If possible, ask your vendor to help you carry out some A/B testing with and without the technology you’re considering. Based on the results, you can make an informed decision on the potential impact of your investment.
Reflect on your own evolution
It’s also important to be honest about your own knowledge and capabilities. In the interests of developing a healthy long-term relationship, you want to find a technology partner that can add value and guide you along the way based on your own experience.
Maxim #3: The technology of the future will be felt and not seen
Personalization is a huge buzzword in the hospitality industry right now. Guests are beginning to reject the cookie-cutter hotel experience in favor of properties that provide a tailored approach around their personal tastes and preferences.
But how far might hotels go to deliver the ultimate personalized experience?
Offering a potential glimpse into the future, Hilton is beginning to experiment with the personalization of the room itself. Using past stay data, a guest can walk into a Hilton hotel room to find their favorite channel playing on the TV, with the room temperature set to their exact liking.
The question is, how far should personalization go?
Personal privacy is a key consideration in this debate. There’s only so much consumers will accept before personalization feels invasive. In the age of big data, having access to unlimited information can be empowering, but it needs to be used sensitively. In the end, it’s essential to establish how much privacy guests are happy to exchange to receive an enhanced level of service.
Personalizing the hotel website
The technology of the future will also drive AI-based personalized websites. In truth, these have been discussed for a while now, but they haven’t really come to fruition. Yet they represent an invaluable way for hotels to collect data on guests in order to provide a richer, more intuitive browsing and booking experience.
In general, travel websites need to become more dynamic, personalized, and serve relevant information by being both context and geographically aware.
This might involve featuring a “welcome back” message to a returning customer, offering them a loyalty discount, or providing a mobile-only offer if they’re accessing your website on a smartphone.
While basic stuff, these examples illustrate the way that technology can work behind the scenes to deliver relevant content at the right place, in the right time, and on the right device.
Enhancing human-to-human interaction
Alongside improving machine to human interaction, AI can (and should) be used to enrich human-to-human interaction.
For instance, by looking at historical booking data, a front desk has the ability to identify a past guest and greet them accordingly on arrival. Looking at past preferences and spending habits is also an easy way to make specific recommendations and propose potential upselling or cross-selling opportunities.
Again, this is simple stuff but so easy to forget when looking to invest in the cutting-edge applications of AI to augment guest experience.
The maxims that will make or break your hotel
Investing in technology is no longer about gaining a competitive advantage. It’s become fundamental for all hotels in the interests of surviving in the digital age.
Virtually every aspect of the modern hotel now relies on technology to operate efficiently and meet the demands of the next-generation traveler. As a result, it’s imperative to develop a lasting relationship with a reliable tech partner that adds value, seeks to have an ongoing dialogue with you, and understands your hotel’s unique requirements.
Moving forward, the three tech maxims we’ve discussed will hopefully provide you with the kind of insights that ensure your hotel meets the challenges and seizes the opportunities that lie ahead in 2018.
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