Innovation in Hotels Can Help Build Customer Loyalty


Hotels have always been innovators. But now, with online travel agents (OTA) taking up additional space in the market, it’s more important than ever to maintain the innovative edge, embrace technology and revolutionise customer experience. This article from Equator takes a look at how seamless integration between technologies can benefit the savvy hotelier and focus the budget on genuine ROI-driving technology.


Exploiting mobile

It goes without saying that if you are a hotelier in 2017 and your website is not mobile friendly, your digital strategy is redundant. You won’t rank in Google, you won’t convert traffic and your online brand will be slowly dying. Any traffic you do receive from mobile will be research traffic alone – and likely traffic with high bounce rates and low dwell time.

With many hotels seeing more than 50% of their traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s important to not see mobile as just another browsing platform – but as a channel in its own right.

The aim is for a site that not only adapts to the device the user is using, but also thinks intelligently about what content to show, based on their location, the time of day, whether they are logged in, and what stage they are at in the booking process. This is known as ‘responsive plus’.

After all, a website connected to a smart CRM system and with visibility of its location can tell you that User X is at your hotel, making use of their booked stay. In this environment, the website should look to cross and up sell services on-premise, not try and get another booking there and then.

This underlines the power of the connected world and how a responsive mobile web experience can deliver services at all stages of the purchase and consumption journey, and beyond.


Deepening loyalty through mobile

By comprehensively owning the conversation with your customer from booking to consumption, you can begin to create multiple new paths to revenue generation and deepening loyalty.

The 15-20% you hand over to the OTA as commission starts to pale into insignificance when you compare what the loss of relationship management is worth to your business in terms of cross and up-sell opportunities, brand building and repeat purchase behaviour.

Now, customers are arriving at the hotel with the same device they made their booking on. There is a device that has the potential to finally give you greater insight into the look-to-book-to-stay journey in a way simply previously unavailable.

If the customer journey started on an OTA, the relationship will likely continue with the OTA. Persuading the consumer that the value of your brand experience is worthy of their attention becomes much harder when they’re simply booking a room.

Consider also that returns are diminishing from the “traditional” digital channels (SEO, PPC etc). Natural search on mobile has but a few front-page positions battling with increasingly dominant ads. Additionally, paid search budgets are finding the cost of generic terms too high with budgets being increasingly restricted to brand and hotel ads – and now we find OTAs relentlessly in that space too!

These market pressures once again underline the need for the smart hotelier to create and exhaust their ability to own a customer relationship at every possible stage.


Machine learning

As hoteliers work to bring to life a mobile-focused hotel, the next big innovation on the horizon is machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies.

With the mainstreaming of cloud computing and the efforts of internet goliaths like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, what was once the preserve of the few is increasingly in the hands of the many. The consumer is already feeling the benefit of this technology and they’re barely aware of it.

For example, at Equator we’ve already delivered a ‘digital concierge’ for Village Hotels - essentially an all-powerful helper that can do everything from controlling the television to booking a spa treatment, from arranging a wake-up call to cooling the room temperature.

We cannot pretend that in a hospitality environment, smart assistants can replace human service. When the customer demands hospital corners on their sheets or soya milk in their coffee, machines cannot yet understand many of the subtleties of good service. However, when we are clear about what they can do and then we make them do those tasks swiftly, efficiently, and gracefully, they come alive.

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