Big Thinks is the Digital Magazine of the Global Mastermind Group

The Digital Transformation of the Hospitality Business

The pandemic has catapulted businesses everywhere into the digital-first world.  This digital transformation includes the Hospitality Industry.  Those who do not pivot quickly and adapt to using even more technology will be left behind in this very competitive industry. The hospitality industry has always been on the look-out for new trends as they aim to attract and keep customers through various digital channels.

According to a 2018 ABTA survey, 81% of travelers book their holidays online, which provides its challenges as the industry attempts to analyze online behavior and personalize offers.

3 Accelerated Digital Transformation Trends: Business Effectiveness

Several technology trends are disrupting the hospitality industry, and these disruptions drive operational efficiencies, reduced processing errors, improved customer experience, and increased customer service. These disruptive technologies can address the growing demands of tech-savvy customers. They are in the driver’s seat as they navigate through the various digital channel in search of their next vacation.

Robotics Process Automation (RPA)

RPA refers to a software that can easily be programmed to do repetitive tasks, by mimicking keystrokes, just as a human would do.

RPA technology has unlimited potential in the hospitality industry.  Room availability and pricing are key levers that have a direct impact on the bottom line.  Price Optimization is important as Hotel Revenue Managers look to maximize their revenue, thus the company’s bottom line.

Robots can quickly scan all available rooms and prices in the area and quickly make pricing recommendations. This leads to faster and more efficient pricing and more satisfied employees working in an agile operating environment.

Blockchain is an immutable ledger with an unprecedented level of security that provides an auditable record of transactions to secure both digital assets and their value. Every participant in the network has a copy of all transactions disseminating third parties.

Blockchain

An immutable ledger with an unprecedented level of security that provides an auditable record of transactions to secure both digital assets and their value. Every participant in the network has a copy of all transactions disseminating third parties.

 There are many use cases for blockchain in the hospitality industry.  However, the Loyalty and Rewards Management programs are where blockchain technology can make one of the most significant positive impacts on revenue and growth. With the increased competition in the Hospitality Industry, the cost of retaining a customer is less than the cost of new customer acquisition.

The rewards ecosystem is very complex, and the introduction of blockchain would simplify on and off-boarding partners and vendors, availability of real-time transactions, secure network, and auditable transactions. Given the complexity of the ecosystem without blockchain, multiple integration points need to be created, daily reports from multiple systems generating invoices resulting in complex and cumbersome reconciliations.

In the hospitality industry, we are always looking for ways to improve the customer experience at every point of contact.  A blockchain Loyalty and Rewards system could be expanded into gifting loyalty points, making the program even more flexible and customer friendly.

Data Analytics

The science of analyzing raw data and making conclusions and predictions based on the data.

All companies have access to data about their customers and their behavioral patterns.  Monetizing this data allows companies to personalize offers to customers through the application of data analytics. Through the combination of structured and unstructured data, companies learn about customers’ habits, buying patterns, preferences, behaviors, which are all factors impacting their decision making.

Call center agents now have relevant customer information, including personal preferences, floor level preferences, and other information from past stays. The available customer information allows insights for agents to upsell to the caller. Applying Attribute Pricing to each selected feature of the room, the customer gets their choice, and the hotel gets rewarded for the customer service experience and drives higher revenue and margin. Monetizing the data hotels have about their customers using all data points available benefits both the customer and the hotel.

3 Accelerated Digital Transformation Trends: Customer Experience

Traditionally hotels delivered on a consistent brand quality, which meant a building style, room style, and level of service.  The industry has reached a tipping point where this approach will not be enough.

Marketers have seen a shift in consumer buying habits.  It is no longer enough to show a picture of the hotel room, a list of nearby restaurants and things to do.  They are buying experiences.  Hotels are where their vacation, business trip, or adventure begins.  More people want a better preview of what the experience will be before they step in the door.  The hospitality industry is turning to 360 videos, augmented reality, and virtual reality to give the customers that preview of the experience.

1.) 360 videos have been especially important for the Hospitality Industry. Given the multiple channels, customers can now book hotels anywhere online. Hotels have been using 360 videos to help customers’ decision making. The experience could be compared to ‘try before you buy.’ This is a great marketing tool that enhances the customer experience during the booking process and sets accurate expectations with the guest on what to expect upon arrival. During these unprecedented times, use of 360 Videos can be key decision factors for customers who have an increased focused on social distancing and cleanliness.

2.) Augmented Reality (AR) serves to alter a person’s perception of their physical surroundings through the use of computer technology. This technology has become an important marketing tool as it allows hotels to market the hotels physical surroundings to customers and businesses. In January 2020, IHG launched its AR/VR tool for Hotel event planning. The tool was piloted at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, and it recreates the hotel’s Hollywood Ballroom in 3D. The tool allows the user to modify meeting room layouts, adjust tables, chairs, location of the podium, and other items. This is all done remotely before committing to an event. 

Events and Conferences were in high demand before the pandemic. In the new reality, this tool will be even more important, helping event organizers create a safe environment, including applying the rules of social distancing. In the past, event planning had a long sales cycle and high bookings cost. This tool can accelerate the sales cycle, increase brand loyalty, and increase hotel revenue.

According to Jeff Edwards, SVP of global hotel and owner solutions for IHG, “This tool equips hotels, such as InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, to close event sales even faster and increase productivity, while simultaneously helping clients experience event spaces without having to travel, in a new, dynamic way that brings the event to life during the planning process.” 

3.) Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer technology, which utilizes images, sounds, and physical sensations allowing the user to feel as if they were physically in that location by using headsets and equipment.  Marriott has pioneered this technology in 2015, including the First-ever in-room Virtual Reality experience for its guests. 

Technology has forever changed not only the booking experience but the entire guest experience. Customers can experience the ‘look-and-feel’ of any hotel and its surroundings before making the purchasing decision. The industry is competitive, but technology could give an edge to those who embrace it and innovate swiftly. With the pandemic severely impacting the industry, there is an opportunity to not only retain but also capture new guests through technology innovation.

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