How the hotel sector is using technology to bond with customers
When you check in to your hotel what do you actually want in the way of technology? Whether you’re travelling for business or leisure, the first thing that probably comes to mind is getting the Wi-Fi password and going online. These days, free Wi-Fi is a given but what else are customers coming to expect or want? The hotel industry is spending billions on raising their game in this arena, and getting it wrong is not an option.
Social media as building block of engagement
One key way the sector is responding is through personalisation. Marriott, the world’s biggest hotel group, has developed ‘M Live Studio’, which seeks to leverage the huge growth in the importance of social media in shaping travel and leisure behaviours (just think about how TripAdvisor has changed things). Marriott has opened four ‘Marketing Real Time Command Centres’, which employ people whose role is purely about engaging with guests on social media platforms. This is a savvy means of creating competitive advantage as it taps into the growing thirst for bespoke options and true local knowledge. In one example, they linked up with a New Zealand backpacker who was travelling the globe with his favourite Lego figurines (we don’t judge). He was hosted at their AC Hotel Ciudad de Sevilla; social media went mad for the story and Marriott gained over 370,000 new followers. The brand has said this initiative means it can now “engage with travellers in more regionally and culturally relevant ways”, and it looks to have stolen a march on rivals in acknowledging that the battleground for winning custom has shifted.
The digital concierge
Meanwhile, the Hilton Honors app allows guests to check in, select their own room and enter it with a digital key. They can also access Uber and get trending recommendations about local restaurants, bars and clubs etc. In September 2016, Hilton took things one step further by incorporating a feature that acts as a personal travel guide. This provides recommendations based on your arrival and departure information, the preferences collected in a pre-arrival survey and your precise location in the resort.
This move towards the use of technology in achieving greater personalisation is of particular interest to ABA as it echoes the insights emerging from our 5Drivers model, which unpicks the emotions that underpin consumer actions. Whilst free and efficient Wi-Fi plays to #control, the emphasis on individual consideration very much appeals to the human need for #belonging. This sense is hard for any brand to foster as there is a natural suspicion that any attempts to connect are freighted with commercial self-interest. However, in offering genuinely personalised benefits and a more organic, non-corporate, social media-led persona, Marriott and Hilton have made customers feel good about belonging to something bigger than simply a hotel chain. This means each venue feels less like the mere start point of a traveller’s stay and more like an integral element.