During a fun and informative session by Quicktext at HITEC 2022, Chief Evangelist Officer Benjamin Devisme made the point to his attendees that he was there to inform hoteliers on how to ‘plug in’ to the metaverse.
“It’s not your role to create the metaverse. Your role is to connect to it. So don’t worry about the infrastructure and what that will look like. Instead focus on how you can benefit from the metaverse.”
Of course, many hoteliers may be thinking that this is easier said than done. But Devisme provided some very clear direction on how hoteliers can move from where they are now to the metaverse during the next few years.
EVALUATE YOUR ECOMMERCE STRATEGY
To begin with, hoteliers need to evaluate their eCommerce strategy. More precisely, they need to ask themselves: How can my guests find answers to their questions about my property?
If the answer is: “By searching my website,” your hotel is operating by fairly archaic standards and needs to come into the 21st century. Why? Remember, eCommerce began in the 2000s with search via desktop computers. Back then, consumers were willing to spend time reading websites to find the information they needed.
Today, most consumers use their mobile phones, not desktop computers, to interact with a brand. And mobile phones are not meant for reading information off of text heavy websites; they are meant for interaction and sending and receiving quick bits of information. This desire for receiving information quickly is so powerful, that if you can’t deliver information instantly, consumers will go somewhere else.
GO MOBILE OR GO HOME
The term for this type of content is “dynamic content delivery” and it refers to providing information via automated tools, such as a chat feature either on your website or via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Business chat (and actually preferably via ALL of these methods).
“The idea is that mobile disassociates the platform from the content. So, your challenge is to structure your information in such a way that customers can access it on any platform instantly and on demand.”
But won’t this put associates out of a job? No.
“Humans need to stop doing the job of a machine: Answering repetitive questions. Instead, they need to focus on adding value, which means following up on leads and closing sales.” (More on this later.)
NEW CHANNEL, WHO DIS?
Creating a system that can provide data on demand won’t happen overnight. It will take your hotel some time to identify the necessary data, integrate with the right technology, and create this positive form of interaction between guest and brand. But it can be done.
What can’t be done is leapfrogging this step and going from a website mentality to the metaverse.
“The metaverse will become just one more channel that hotels need to add so that they can communicate with guests. But it will be impossible to jump to the metaverse if you don’t have the data. This is not something you can just pay for. You need to accumulate and learn how to structure your data for it to transfer to the metaverse. This will take years. You cannot skip these steps.”
Google is a great example of a company that saw the need to create a mobile, interactive experience. They saw that they were losing face time with customers to companies such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram because consumers no longer want to click on links to find information. Instead, they want to interact via some form of chat. So, Google created Business Messages which allows businesses – like hotels – to interact with potential customers on demand.
“Remember, if you want people to be immersed in a digital environment, you need to be able to respond to them in the way they want. So, this is taking Google one step closer to the metaverse. It’s not a violent process. It’s a simple improvement, a gradual change.”
ANOTHER REVENUE STREAM
And for CTOs that are trying to convince their CFOs that this tech investment is necessary, consider this: Every age of eCommerce has changed – or should be changing – the way you sell. In the beginning, eCommerce was all about self-service. If a consumer knew what they wanted and came to your website, they could easily book and pay for their room. But what about all the consumers who are “just looking” and don’t know what they really want yet. This is why we’re now in the age of proactive sales-based eCommerce.
As consumers ask your hotel questions via your chat service – Is this hotel good for kids? Does it have a spa? Etc. – that information can be stored and used to re-engage with guests later on. In a matter of minutes, not only can you access the guest’s name, dates of stay, email, phone number, etc. but also you can then re-engage via email with the customer to persuade them to finish the booking process. For hotels with very high-end customers who might be paying thousands of dollars to stay on property, you can connect your chatbot data with your call center so that leads get a high-touch follow up by a human agent to try and close that sale.
“That’s what mobile brings – it transforms any sales process into a relationship,” says Devisme.
And when your hotel is finally ready to enter the metaverse, it will be relatively easy. You’ll be used to thinking about and creating ways for consumers to easily find and interact with important data about your brand. Adding a virtual interface will be just one more way to engage with customers and a new way of presenting the data they want and need to them.
“Your content should be independent from the platform,” Devisme noted. “Whether it's an automated chatbot providing the information via WhatsApp or an AI-based avatar in the metaverse, the point is to have that content readily available to consumers via the platform they want to consume it.”