Silver linings are in short supply lately. This seems especially true for the hospitality industry –arguably the industry hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic – as it struggles to regain its footing and find a way forward.
Yet the truth is, if you look closely, there’s reason to be optimistic. New technologies and an explosion in the amount of data available, offer hospitality companies the chance to reshape their organization for the better. After all, business as usual was never an option. Not before the pandemic, and not now. Not for any hospitality company that planned on moving into the next decade delivering better customer experiences.
A recent study from Futurum Research Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience is Now looked at how brands need to evolve to meet the expectations of future consumers.
According to the study “The brands that survive today and who continue to grow and thrive into and beyond the coming decade are the ones that can not only integrate nimbleness and agility into their business practices, but who also are committed to uncovering new ways to engage with and drive loyalty with consumers.”
In this first of a two-part series, we’ll look at the importance of investing in smart and immersive technologies and making faster decisions through automation. These critical focus areas will not only enable hospitality companies to climb out of the current crisis, but to create sustainable success.
Smart and Immersive Technologies
Today’s consumers are agile, online and often ahead of brands when it comes to the latest tech. Hospitality companies better take notice. According to Futurum’s research, in just five years, 57% of global consumers expect to use smart assistants to engage with brands. Powered by AI and real-time analytics, these technologies will reveal the exact customer touch points that drive loyalty and profitability.
From travel arrangements to hotel bookings to destination activities to contactless dining and food delivery, connected consumers want real-time information and a streamlined experience. For hospitality companies, this level of consumer acceptance – and expectation – opens new opportunities for broadening customer horizons and engagement.
Consider that 56% of respondents expect to be “visiting” remote locations or entertainment events through augmented and virtual reality devices by 2025. This offers enormous possibilities for hospitality companies, which can engage its customers in new ways and according to the research 83% of brands are investing or plan to invest in holographic technology for interactive experiences -- It’s also worth noting that 71% of respondents expect drones to be part of their brand experience by 2030. Room service and extra towels, flying to a hotel room near you.
Agility and Automation
All this smart technology not only creates more opportunities to improve the customer experience, but also to collect valuable data. Of course, before you get to the value part, you need to use that data to make better decisions – sometimes thousands a day.
“Large amounts of well-managed data will deliver a better understanding of operations, customers, and markets when integrated within an analytics or AI program,” says Todd Wright, head of data management of SAS.
Automation can help hospitality companies keep up with these new data demands. In the near term, automating decisions will undoubtedly help companies navigate new health regulations, cleaning protocols and physical space design considerations.
Yet the applications go far beyond that. Imagine checking guests in automatically, as soon as they (and their mobile device) cross the threshold. According to the research by 2030, an estimated 67% of all in-person engagements (e.g., information desk queries, sales assistance, concierge help desk requests) will be completed by a smart machine. Or how about presenting patrons on the gaming floor a next best offer in real-time? Or using customer data – from room temperature preferences to their favorite drink at the bar – to provide tailored experiences?
This level of automation holds the promise of increased accuracy, predictability, and reliability of consumer engagements.
Capitalizing on the Promise of Data
Technology, data and analytics are going to be critical factors in the reopening of the hospitality sector, but so will patience, perseverance and no small amount of creativity. Getting back to normal will not be easy. But normal is relative. What seems cutting edge today will be foundational elements of the customer experience tomorrow.
Certainly not every hospitality organization will need a fleet of drones or a virtual reality system. Yet organizations need to become familiar with these emerging technologies – and how they could help craft a cohesive customer strategy for a post-pandemic world and beyond.
In the next article, we’ll explore two other critical factors that hospitality companies need to focus on to rebuild and grow: customer loyalty and digital trust.