As technology continues to evolve and influence how people travel, hoteliers can expect to see shifts in digital strategies across the industry—from marketing and in-house guest interactions to how brands interact with owners. Geoffrey Ryskamp, the principal director of global hospitality at software and customer experience company Medallia, names six digital hospitality trends that the industry should look out for in 2018.
1. Rise of chief customer experience officers
“Hospitality brands still are figuring out what to do with the huge amount of customer feedback that’s pouring in across all areas of the business, both solicited and unsolicited.
“A big area for growth in the near term is the shaping digital guest experience with continued attention to growing direct bookings. We’re seeing businesses like Marriott, Hilton, and the Dorchester Collection appoint a chief customer officer or chief customer experience officer to oversee the guest journey according to the customer experience, rather than focused by the internal organization’s structure. That broader view of the guest journey is going to become more widely adopted across the industry.”
2. Mobile-first strategies with formalized metrics
“Tech interactions with guests used to be about making investments to place technology within reach of the guest—like iPads in every room—but that’s just not practical.
“BYOD is much more flexible and comfortable for guests, and now more hotels are focused on leveraging apps for better experience with requests like booking, check-in, and front desk calls, as well as collecting feedback and continuing to optimize the guest experience after the stay.
“The questions remain first, how is guest experience using these apps, and second, are the big investments working? We’ll start seeing more formalized metrics and analysis as brands put more sophisticated mobile strategies in place along with the associated feedback collection to ensure it is all paying off.”
3. More creative, authentic digital marketing
“Customers value authenticity, and that’s changed a lot about how hospitality brands are engaging with guests. Video bloggers, or reality shows like the Delta Airlines miniseries, are about bringing more personalized experiences to digital media channels. We’re going to see more content that highlights the experience versus the brand and leverages customers as brand advocates over traditional marketing.”
4. Continued explosion of social/online reviews
“Social media reviews are increasingly important, and attention to this element of customer engagement will continue to grow. Social data is directly tied to business impact—TripAdvisor now has more than 350 million unique monthly visitors, and hotels see both increased scores and revenue from encouraging and responding to TripAdvisor reviews.
“Google will become a bigger and more influential player in social data process as they continue to focus on their travel properties. But social data still can’t capture everything—both verified reviews through direct surveys, as well as social reviews, are important for a holistic understanding of guest experience.”
5. Leveraging owner relationships to fuel record growth
“In 2017, nearly all of the largest hotel companies reported record openings, a pipeline fueled by new and existing relationships with hotel owners. The savviest companies are starting to think about how to make their relationships with owners more valuable by collecting, analyzing, and acting on owner feedback in new ways—more closely resembling what hotels already do with guest feedback.
“We’ve seen this work well in non-hospitality settings, for example, measuring satisfaction at a large telco company among high-value accounts. There’s a powerful opportunity here for companies to layer guest, owner, and employee feedback data for a true 360 view of all key stakeholders to evaluate brand programs, competitive positioning, and overall performance.”
6. Exploring virtual reality and other emerging technologies
“More businesses are dipping their toes into emerging technologies like Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, and we’ll see more investments here in 2018.
“Virtual reality, in particular, is intriguing for its potential influence on intent to purchase—it has a lot of appeal for families with kids, for example, who want to be able to look at property tours, amenities, and activities, or guests who want to seek out specific experiences onsite. Best Western launched virtual reality tours for hundreds of North American hotels this year. While we are relatively early in the adoption of this technology, as VR becomes more mainstream, it could play an important role in the current push around guest personalization.”