8 Secrets to Success From the Sharing Economy

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8 Secrets to Success From the Sharing Economy

By Lisa Terry, Contributing Editor - 10/13/2016
The concepts at the core of peer-to-peer networks — more efficient use of resources, a strong sense of community, great user interfaces, access to new markets — all offer game-changing opportunities for hospitality organizations to improve the customer experience.

“The big question for the industry is: Do we copy or be consciously different?” asks Julie Fawcett, managing director for Qbic Hotels (www.qbichotels.com), which uses TravelClick.

Hotels — and restaurants — nimble enough to identify and incorporate adapted ideas from the sharing economy into their businesses will not just survive, but will keep up with or even surpass these upstarts.

1 Track and analyze the activity of peer-to-peer networks. Gaining granular insight into sharing economy businesses is the key to identifying when and where they act as true competition to a hotel’s business and responding to those specific markets. Business Intelligence tools such as TravelClick’s (www.travelclick.com) Demand360 offers visibility into hotel market and share performance, helping hotels understand how they compare to a local Airbnb (www.Airbnb.com) rental on square footage or WiFi speeds.

Similarly, hotels using LodgIQ’s (www.lodgiq.com) revenue management platform monitor alternative lodging activity and make decisions based on that information. For example, accounting for the different timing of alternative booking (90 days+) to hotel booking (30 days) in making rate decisions in anticipation of demand, as well as in long-term new-build planning. As alternative lodging begins infiltrating the business market, through integrations into corporate travel tools, the need for visibility only increases.

As HomeAway (www.homeaway.com) becomes integrated with Expedia (www.expedia.com), both hotel rooms and property owner rentals will be displayed side-by-side — making it more important than ever that hotels are able to deliver the data to OTA providers that differentiates them, says TravelClick.

2 Adopt a similar community approach. The “we’re all in this together” culture is an important part of many sharing economy success stories, and both hotels and restaurants already have the assets where they can encourage a similar feeling. The Waffle House (www.wafflehouse.com) is a restaurant chain that has partnered with Roadie (www.roadie.com), an app that matches people’s delivery needs with drivers already headed to their destinations.

People already use the restaurant as a meeting place, says Pat Warner, vice president of culture for Waffle House. It made sense to extend special offers to drivers, who get free drinks whenever they stop and a free waffle the first time they stop. Five thousand offers have already been redeemed.

3 Seek complementary partnerships. Aligning with a sharing economy business could deliver value without adding cost. For example, hotels offering Roadie or a similar service to quickly deliver items that were left behind such as keys or glasses. Or they could offer guests access to Uber (www.uber.com) or Lyft (www.lyft.com) to make travel from the airport to the hotel or hotel to restaurant simple. Many of these services offer APIs so they can be integrated right into the hospitality organization’s app or site and provide availability data, which adds value. For example, the customer could view on the hotel app or restaurant website that he could have a burger delivered in eight minutes. Companies such as Button (www.usebutton.com) act as middleware for integration.

AccorHotels (www.accorhotels.com) took partnership with a sharing economy business one step further when it acquired luxury private home rental provider onefinestay (www.onefinestay.com) earlier this year. This model is similar to the one advocated by Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies (www.crowdcompanies.com). He suggests hotels approach individual owners directly to offer support services and access to a steady flow of trusted loyalty guests in exchange for a transaction fee, cross-sell/upsell opportunity and access to a new type of guest.

4 Rebuild software to put customers at the center. Qbic’s cloud-based CRS can’t tell Fawcett how many people are in the hotel, it can only inform her as to how many rooms are rented, rates, whether the hotel room is clean, and so on. However, Qbic recently unveiled a new customer portal and is launching a new app that adopts a guest-centric orientation.

5 Increase efficiency through sharing. Hotels should consider taking advantage of another company’s assets, similar to the way Starbucks (www.starbucks.com) partnered with Lyft to give its staff free rides to work — a strategy that also frees up parking, says Adam Kennedy, U.S. advisory and hospitality and leisure leader for PwC (www.pwc.com). From another perspective, delivery and supply chain-focused sharing networks such as Cargomatic (www.cargomatic.com) can reduce demand on hotel staff and assets to transfer goods among properties, as Cohealo (www.cohealo.com) does in healthcare.

Internal social media networks expose staff talents and expertise across the brand. For example, Intercontinental Hotels Group’s (www.ihg.com) e-learning portal taps the wisdom of the crowd to help sales staff share successful group sales ideas.

6 Leverage personalization and localization. Hotels launching lifestyle brands and dining brands enabling local managers to run their own social media, are two ways to respond to guests’ interest in curated experiences that are personalized and local. More effective customer analytics and integration with local services and destinations make each site feel authentic and unique.

7 Unbundle services. Sites like Airbnb separate room costs from everything else, such as cleaning frequency or laundry services.

“There is no reason that technology cannot allow us to facilitate much more choice in the hotel stay,” Fawcett says. 

Some hotels eliminating room service are starting to offer food delivery orders from services such as DoorDash (www.doordash.com) right in their app.

8  Learn from their mobile tech savvy. To begin with, a great mobile UX — clean, image-heavy, personalized, frictionless — is a hallmark of sharing economy apps and mobile-friendly web sites. Hospitality companies would do well to imitate the design of these platforms when creating their own mobile apps. Additionally, offering length-of-stay pricing, area entertainment booking and social integration are other powerful features worth imitating.

“Making the digital experience really satisfying for the customer is a huge extension for the brand and drives loyalty,” Kennedy says.

When hotels and restaurants partner with peer-to-peer network businesses, they are often able to learn. Working with Roadie helped Waffle House learn about e-coupons, digital redemption and using analytics.

Engaging with the sharing economy is becoming mandatory.

“I think the industry is generally behind on this topic,” Owyang warns, saying that hospitality organizations need to act now because “customer expectations are changing.”