Technology is having a big impact on hotels, both in terms of how they are managed and what the customer experiences. Hotels that make good use of the key technology trends can expect to see technology become a point of competitive differentiation, and those that don’t will find themselves increasingly alienated from their customers and lacking the efficiency that a well-oiled modern business should be aiming for.
Social media is both the biggest risk facing hotels, and its biggest opportunity. Customers can now share reviews online instantly, and others read these reviews before making a booking. And, networks such as Facebook and Instagram are highly visual, allowing potential guests to see both the best and worst they can expect from the hotel experience.
Hotels are going to need to be part of the conversation, in order to address customer concerns as they arise, as well as proactively engage potential customers. By being active in sharing photos and information about things to do while staying at the hotel, its facilities, and the food in its restaurants, hotels have access to a vital new marketing channel, and one that is only going to grow in importance over time.
Customers will be using their mobile phones a lot when engaging with social media, but for hotels the importance of understanding mobility extends far beyond that. For one thing, customers now expect to be able to use their mobile devices in hotels, with “free Wi-Fi” actually being one of the most searched-for terms when researching hotels to stay at. In fact, 86 per cent of customers expect Wi-Fi to be free of charge. This is an opportunity for hotels, however, who can take advantage of mobile technology to encourage customers to use their phones to check in and out, check maps, hire services, and make purchases through the hotel. It is possible to send customers targeted advertising through the Wi-Fi network, and there are even more innovative uses of mobile devices on the horizon, such as allowing people to use their phones as their hotel key, or downloading an app to control the room’s TV, air conditioner, and other features.
Studies have shown that people are more concerned about losing their smartphones than their wallets – so hotels would do well to tap into the modern consumer’s love for their device.
Big Data is a technology marketing buzzword that can sound quite intimidating, but for hotels it’s going to be an invaluable resource. Collecting masses of customer data, and then having the data analytics technology behind it to make proper sense of the data, allows a hotel to send far more targeted and effective promotions and the like to the customer. The now-infamous example of Target in the US being able to identify that a woman was pregnant before she had even announced it to her family caused some troubles for the retailer courtesy of an angry father, but it shows just how powerful a good data collection and analysis strategy can be in letting hotels “get to know” their customers. If used well, this is an opportunity to really grow the relationship with customers.
Modernised guest TVs
The days of rental TV services are numbered. Hotel guests will increasingly have large movie and music libraries on their laptops or mobile devices, and hotels that enable them to experience that content on the big screen in their room will find themselves with a real competitive advantage. Guests appreciate the dedication to enabling their preferred way to experience entertainment. There are cheap devices now available such as the Apple TV or Google Chromecast that allow the hotel guest to seamlessly project their content from their devices to the TV, and even login with their Netflix or other online entertainment accounts.
Hotels that want to go the extra mile might also want to consider that gaming is now a part of people’s lives from all walks of life. A study in 2013 found that 44 per cent of the world’s online population play games, and this number is growing yearly. With gaming services themselves increasingly Cloud-enabled (and therefore a login will enable the consumer to access their games anywhere in the world), giving patrons the technology to catch up on their gaming while staying at the hotel is a service that will be increasingly appreciated – especially for families travelling with younger children.
About the author
Bill Freeman is an experienced leader, having held Senior Management and Director positions in Sales and Customer Service oriented roles, while providing Enterprise IT products and services to large corporate, financial, government and retail organisations. He is now Director of Touchpoint Technology, enterprise class hardware procurements specialists, whose vision is to provide outstanding and completely satisfying customer service experiences that raise the benchmark of what’s possible in the Australian IT industry.