It’s common knowledge that hoteliers lost tremendous amounts of revenue in 2020, but the hospitality industry lost more than revenue — it also lost a year of valuable customer insights and data.
Customer data can be used to inform numerous business strategies ranging from pricing and promotion to staffing and loyalty programs. Now, as travelers return and hoteliers find ways to incorporate COVID-19 safety protocols and operate with a reduced staff, knowing how to best serve guests during these changing times is more important than ever.
Technology provides a unique solution to the challenges caused by COVID-19, as well as the labor shortage by accelerating the recovery of lost customer data. By tapping into AI-driven dynamic pricing, point of sale solutions and personalization strategies, hoteliers can enable deep insights into shifting customer behaviors and preferences, help to drive new business opportunities and add value to the overall customer experience.
UTILIZING DYNAMIC PRICING
Dynamic pricing, or the practice of varying price points depending on market conditions, uses AI to incorporate customer data trends into a hotelier’s strategy. For example, if a hotel room is scheduled to be vacant in just a few days and the price isn’t driving any interest, dynamic pricing software can offer a promotion, encouraging travelers to book a last-minute getaway.
Conversely, if a vacation destination is known for being popular during a holiday, the solution can increase prices based on how far in advance the rooms are selling. The dynamic pricing process is far more complex than simple supply and demand factors. The artificial intelligence powering a dynamic pricing solution can take into consideration a wide variety of factors instantaneously, removing the hassle from the hotel’s leadership team.
Dynamic pricing analyzes market trends as well as localized customer data to ensure the right price point is always offered. This allows hoteliers to protect precious margins and increase sales revenue, even when travel fluctuates due to disruptions like COVID-19. Cost is a key factor for many travelers, so allowing AI to set the best price will benefit both the traveler and the destination host.
SIMPLIFYING THE POINT OF SALE
As retail segments converge and hospitality companies are increasingly offering food and convenience services, incorporating a unified POS solution across all business areas can greatly enhance the customer experience. For example, hoteliers should use the same point-of-sale solution to power the check-in counter, online reservations and any in-resort dining or vacation experiences. This strategy can simplify POS integrations, reduce the time and cost associated with maintenance and give hoteliers the agility needed for innovation.
Additionally, by coordinating all payment options, the hotelier will have a more centralized data source for payment information. This will help the business learn about customer preferences at the point-of-sale and offer relevant checkout advancements. For instance, innovations like AI-driven digital signage designed to promote seasonal items, special deals, or last-minute personalized coupons can all be added at the point-of-sale.
EXPLORING REAL-TIME PERSONALIZATION
Today, customers have high expectations for service, quality and convenience, especially in the wake of COVID-19. In exchange for their personal information, they expect highly relevant offers and communications.
By incorporating a personalization solution into the omnichannel customer experience, hoteliers can utilize recommendations, promotions and automated marketing. While customers shop online, artificial intelligence can track their time on the website, learning which marketing language encourages them to upgrade their room, or what point in the customer journey they are more likely to add a day to their trip. By learning from real-time customer reactions, hoteliers can maximize customer loyalty and earnings.
Another opportunity to explore personalization comes from promotions. By analyzing the customer journey, the AI solution can suggest appropriate promotions and discounts to encourage a potential traveler to book another stay. If the customer tends to plan a new trip six months after the last, a strategic promotion can come in at just the right time to incentivize them to visit revisit that hotel chain again, instead of a competitor.
COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY WITH EVERYONE
Similarly, real-time personalization software can learn the types of messages that each traveler will respond to and incorporate these preferences into the messaging strategy. For example, in many cases young travelers may respond to messaging about adventure and parents may appreciate wording about a “relaxing getaway,” but this strategy might not align everyone in the respective demographic. AI-driven personalization can ensure that each customer receives the right messaging, regardless of whether they mirror their peers or stray from the trends.
Additionally, AI-driven personalization strategies increase the rate of response to marketing measures – including webpage messaging and customer-specific newsletters. Relevant communication based on customer data can turn any visitor into a loyal brand supporter.
STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE
While no one could have predicted the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, there are ways to combat disruption in the future.
By understanding the customer in real-time, hoteliers and other hospitality leaders can adapt to the needs of travelers as quickly as possible to ensure they are providing the best customer experience. Having adequate data and understanding the opportunities for utilizing it will set top-tier hoteliers apart from the competition and enhance customer loyalty regardless of unexpected circumstances.