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Three CX Trends Are Changing Hospitality. Here’s How to Keep Up.

Discover how centralizing data, embracing AI, and focusing on identity can enhance customer experiences and foster loyalty.

As we roll into summer and the hospitality industry gears up for its busiest season, how are you looking at the current trends and customer expectations from a tech perspective? The pace of innovation and the continued advancement of generative AI, coupled with the government’s privacy regulations and big tech’s continued control over data and signals, keeps us all on our toes. 

So, weeding through this wave of change, how should brands think about digitally led CX to increase travel and ultimately revenue? Let’s review the high-level trends and how to apply technology to capitalize on them.

CX is Not Just Marketing

The days of a siloed organization with marketing, service, and commerce teams separated are over. Customers expect seamless interaction with brands, whether online, on the app, in a hotel, or on the phone with a customer service rep. Each touch point is part of the customer experience. To become an organization that excels at digital CX, customers must be at the center of the organization. Marketing is only one small piece of the puzzle. Business outcomes need to drive technology decisions with the C-suite all at the table, understanding the same goals and leading the organization. 

How to act on CX is not Just Marketing

Centralize customer data. Simply put – be in the cloud (any cloud) and bring data together in an infrastructure that supports governance, democratization, and the integration of data across the business. Customer data has applications across the entire business. For example, call center data can influence the digital strategy, but the digital marketing team would never see this if they only focus on data from marketing channels. 

Therefore, the only way to meet customers where they are is to arm your business counterparts with the right data and the ability to use it when that customer interaction happens. This requires an infrastructure that is cloud driven, with the ability to use the data. All companies have customer data, whether it’s online or offline, anonymized or personally identifiable, segmented or unstructured. Merkle’s Customer Engagement Report found that “Less than a quarter [of CX, marketing, and IT decision makers] have migrated all customer data to the cloud” and “only 24% manage all their campaign data in a central repository.” There is a large opportunity to become an innovator in the hospitality space if 76% of organizations still need to bring their data together. 

Meet Customers Where They Are

This trend is vital to the hospitality industry. It’s not enough to convert a customer to a sale; the actual experience matters, whether that’s onsite, in a hotel, at a theme park. Consider a loyalty program member who books a stay with your hotel. Even after they’ve made a reservation, you can elevate the experience by personalizing their stay based on their previous hotel preferences.

Hospitality interactions offer myriad opportunities to provide your customer with what they need. The key to delivering real value is ensuring that the identity of your customer is clear no matter the touch point.

How to act on Meet the Customer Where they Are

One of the most complex topics today is identity and identity resolution. As signal loss and privacy regulation become more prevalent, this topic gains importance because customer identities are breaking as signals deprecate. It’s getting harder to identify anonymous digital traffic and the solution landscape is fragmented and confusing. The proper way to address such hurdles is to take back control, build an identity graph, and use it to meet customers and prospects where they are. 

Identity resolution solutions can take the data you own, reconcile and bolster it with second- and third-party data, then build a cookieless private identity graph for cross-channel targeting, personalized marketing, and accurate measurement. While this solution is one of many in the market, it’s unique because it puts control in the brand’s hands – it gives the identity ownership to them and allows the brand to dial up, dial down, and build that private graph to find their customers in media, on site, and in the digital space. An owned identity graph generates unique intellectual property that directly supports customer engagement and revenue. The identity graph forms the foundation of an enterprise’s first-party data strategy to connect identifiers and data sources, enable data monetization, and support customer engagement.

Build the Relationship; Anticipate the Next Best ‘X’

Customers require ongoing maintenance; it’s not a one-and-done interaction. Building a relationship with a customer and then continuing that conversation is all part of the new world order brands live in now. To do so, anticipating needs and providing the next most relevant experience, offer, or trip is important. Once you have your data ready and identity in place, it becomes that much easier to take advantage of cutting-edge innovations like generative AI. GenAI can help pull insights out of your first-party data and provide your business partners with the information needed to anticipate their audience’s next CX needs at scale.

How to act on Build the Relationship; Anticipate the Next Best ‘X’

Generative AI is transforming a lot of how we work and it’s inspiring fundamental shifts in processes, people, and skills to adapt. The initial requirement for technology teams is to understand that AI is not a fix for all problems but rather something that can solve key challenges. For example, an insights engine accessible to business users can use natural language to get insights and understand next-best practices for their customers. Data readiness and identity will be key requirements, but on top of that, using your own first-party data coupled with the power of the large knowledge models/large language models (LKM/LLM) and the right training can provide a market differentiator for your brand. Imagine an on-site guest experience where you can push an offer for a guest’s favorite drink the moment they are in vicinity. This is the power of anticipating next best actions. 

The hospitality industry is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these trends in CX. By using first-party data, known identities, and insights, brands can provide not only a digital experience but use the innovations to enhance all areas of the in-person experience too. Getting the data and identity foundation right will be a key driver for success, but once achieved the path to competitive advantage becomes wide open. 



As SVP of Technology Strategy, Courtney Trudeau supports Merkle’s marketing technology consulting team, focusing on solution strategy and technology enablement. She is an accomplished marketing technology leader with over 22 years of agency and in-house experience and expertise guiding digital experience strategy, B2B, and ecommerce website development, and driving marketing technology strategy and implementation. 

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