The hospitality industry’s “data explosion” continues to grow, along with a host of new tools and technologies designed to keep guests coming in and coming back. How will hoteliers manage all of these new sources and insights to improve guest experience, loyalty and revenues? This article from Medallia offers six predictions for the hospitality industry in the coming year.
1. A mobile-first strategy
Tech interactions with guests used to be about making investments to place technology within reach of the guest, like iPads in every room, but that’s just not practical. “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) is much more flexible and comfortable for guests, and we’re starting to see more hotels leveraging apps for better experience with booking, check-in, front desk calls and other services, as well as collecting feedback and continuing to optimize the guest experience after the stay. However, two key questions remain: First, how are guests actually using these apps, and second, are the big investments working? The industry will start seeing more formalized metrics and analysis as brands put more sophisticated mobile strategies in place, along with the associated feedback collection to ensure it is all paying off.
2. More creative digital marketing
Customers value authenticity, and that’s changed how hospitality brands are engaging with guests. Video bloggers, or reality shows like the Delta Airlines miniseries, are focused on bringing more personalized experiences to digital media channels. In 2018, there will be more content that highlights the experience versus the brand, and leverages customers as brand advocates over traditional marketing.
3. Continuing explosion of social/online reviews
Social media reviews are increasingly important, and hotels will be paying even more attention to this element of customer engagement in the coming year. There’s good reason for this focus: Social data is directly tied to business impact. TripAdvisor now has more than 350 million unique monthly visitors, and hotels see both increased scores and revenue from encouraging and responding to TripAdvisor reviews.
Also, expect to see Google become a bigger and more influential player in social data process as it continues to focus on its travel properties. Still, social data can’t capture everything -- so hospitality businesses will begin looking at both verified reviews through direct surveys as well as social reviews to get a holistic understanding of the guest experience.
4. The rise of hospitality’s Chief Customer Experience Officer
Speaking of social media, hospitality brands still are figuring out what to do with the huge amount of customer feedback that’s pouring in across all areas of the business, both solicited and unsolicited. A big area for growth in the near term is the shaping digital guest experience with continued attention to growing direct bookings. Marriott, Hilton, the Dorchester Collection and more have already appointed a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Customer Experience Officer to oversee the guest journey according to the customer experience, rather than focused by the internal organization’s structure. Next year, more companies will dedicate a C-suite officer to understanding that broader view of the guest journey.
5. Leveraging owner relationships to fuel record growth
In 2017, nearly all of the largest hotel companies reported record openings, a pipeline that was fueled by new and existing relationships with hotel owners. For 2018, the savviest companies are starting to think about how to make their relationships with owners more valuable by collecting, analyzing and acting on owner feedback in new ways by using a process that closely resembles what hotels already do with guest feedback. This model works well in non-hospitality settings. For example, it has been used to measure satisfaction at a large telco company among high-value accounts. There’s a powerful opportunity here for companies to layer guest, owner and employee feedback data for a true 360 view of all key stakeholders to evaluate brand programs, competitive positioning and overall performance.
6. Exploring virtual reality and other emerging tech
More businesses are dipping their toes into emerging technologies like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. Investments in these areas will only grow in 2018. Virtual reality in particular is intriguing for its potential influence on intent to purchase. It has a lot of appeal for families with kids, for example, who want to be able to look at property tours, amenities and activities, or guests who want to seek out specific experiences onsite. Best Western has already launched virtual reality tours for hundreds of North American hotels this year. While the industry is relatively early in the adoption of this technology, as VR becomes more mainstream, it could play an important role in the current push around guest personalization