The hotel industry has always been slower to adapt when compared to other industries for a variety of reasons. Skepticism over innovation, the expense of new trends that could be quickly vanishing fads, and even a reluctance from the major hotel companies to add to their list of brand standards.
The hospitality industry is at a tipping point where technological change, and the rise of potential disruptors such as Airbnb, will rapidly reshape our industry. It is happening whether we like it or not, so it is critical to pay close attention to, and respond appropriately to those marketplace cues. If we don’t, the innovators and disruptors will gain market share to our detriment.
Technology is driving change in the ways we think about the hotel booking experience, but also how guests want to interact with the property and its staff while on site.
Let’s start with how potential guests interact with the hotel booking experience. Long gone are the days when consumers would sit at a computer and pore over information for hours at a time before making a stay decision. Now, everyone has a powerful computer in their pocket disguised as a phone, so the way people research travel has gravitated to this device. But research is happening in small doses, such as while waiting in line to get a latte, or during the few stolen moments waiting to pick up a child from soccer practice. The arc before someone books a hotel is different than ever before. Now, someone will book a room when the moment feels right for them.
Hoteliers must adapt how their properties are marketed to find ways to impact that decision quickly.
Remember those old ads for Burger King? The ones with the jingle and the tagline “Have it Your Way.” That’s how customers expect their hotel stay to be in 2017. They want it their way, and hotels that do not adapt to give consumers the experience they desire will disappear into the history books; kind of like Burger Shots. Not sure what I mean? Exactly!
Consumers expect to be recognized as individuals and are demanding individualized and personalized stay experiences. In the world of consumer behavior, this phenomenon is called mass personalization, the notion of creating unique experiences for many people simultaneously. It’s why we see loyalty programs moving away from a one size fits all rewards approach, to more focused customer recognition and instant gratification.
The smartphone is also upending the hotel industry through keyless room entry, allowing guests to bypass the front desk and human interaction altogether. While it’s fantastic for customer convenience, it changes the relationship dynamic between that customer and the hotel staff. This shift is a powerful reminder in the new world of consumer behavior, and the fact customers want to interact with hoteliers at their discretion. It also creates a blaring dichotomy where guests both want to avoid checking in at the front desk, even as they demand individualized experiences.
Critical touch points between staff and guests are shifting, making those hosting the breakfast buffet in the morning and the bartender in the evening the chief ambassadors for the hotel. Hoteliers must ensure those staff members interact with guests in a meaningful and memorable way to break through technological interference.
Hoteliers need to be aware of emerging technology including virtual reality (VR) which has great potential to help consumers experience your property from their living room so they can truly make an informed decision when booking. It can also allow your concierge to help guests understand and experience local attractions and activities in advance. This technology will start to be adopted by more individual properties and companies as more solutions specifically for hoteliers become available.
Even with such massive change, the hotel industry’s future is bright. People will always want to connect with people and travel to new places; it’s the way they do it that is morphing. If you pay close attention to these changes and adapt to this shifting reality, you’ll be in a great space to win more business and keep customers coming back for more.
About the Author
Joshua Molina is a marketing communications executive at SkyTouch Technology.