4 ways ecommerce is impacting the hospitality industry

ecommerce in hotelsThe ecommerce explosion has impacted the way business is done online for a variety of industries. Enhanced customer service, automated marketing, customer-specific advertising — the list goes on.

And the hospitality industry is no exception. Read on to discover four ways ecommerce is impacting the hospitality industry in 2019.

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A personalized service tailored to the customer

More and more, we are seeing consumers demand a bespoke, personalized experience in the way they interact with brands.

Customers shopping online provide brands with a wealth of data: their name, birthday, gender, purchase behaviour, and more. Online stores use this information to deliver a personalized experience to the customer, from sending a discount code on their birthday to providing product recommendations that are tailored to the customer’s specific tastes.

Such an approach drives engagement by making the customer feel, not like just another shopper, but an individual. It also boosts sales by showing the customer more of what they want, increasing the chances of them converting.

Virtually every online store uses personalization to its advantage. Amazon, eBay, ASOS — each has a “Because you liked…” section offering a selection of products based on your past purchases.

And the hospitality industry incorporates personalization into its online strategy too. There are plenty of visitor tracking tools (like ShinyStat) that let hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses track specific customers as they navigate a brand’s website.

Armed with this customer data, hospitality businesses can then customize destination recommendations, special offers, and other elements specific to individual customers. For instance, if a visitor to your hotel website regularly looks for party-friendly hostels, you could then provide special offers and deals capitalizing on that, driving up bookings as a result.

It’s important for hospitality brands to stay ahead when anticipating customer needs, and personalization is an important method of doing so.

Virtual reality brings the experience to the customer

Virtual and augmented reality is fast becoming a normal part of everyday life, most noticeably in ecommerce.

Take the Swedish furniture brand IKEA, for instance. Its IKEA Place app lets customers position virtual furniture in their own homes using their smartphone’s camera.

Desks, chairs, tables, shelves — all can be placed virtually in the home for consumers to decide whether or not it will suit their decor.

It’s a popular app that drives ecommerce by letting customers sample products virtually before they buy, and the same can be applied to the hospitality industry too.

Many hotels now let customers take a virtual tour of their building right there on the hotel’s website. The Thai hotel and resort chain Amari, for example, offers virtual tours of all its premises, including 360° panoramic views of its lobbies, exterior, and hotel rooms.

Embracing VR/AR in this way helps those in the hospitality industry drive sales by helping customers replicate the experience from the comfort of their own home. No, you can’t make guests feel the softness of the sheets or taste the quality of the food, but VR tours go some way towards that.

Tapping into an increasingly international market using data

Ecommerce has blown the international market wide open. Always-on stores powered by automation and AI chatbots, combined with growing markets overseas, have opened up consumer bases that were previously out-of-bounds for merchants.

Merchants are looking to global ecommerce solutions such as Shopify Plus that can handle the demands of an international market from one centralized location — without the need to invest in costly custom development. International delivery logistics, currencies and exchange rates, and country-specific seasonal trends are just a few of the points ecommerce merchants expect to be able to resolve from one centralized platform — often bringing in sales data from channels like Walmart and Amazon into one data dashboard.

This level of connectivity and adaptability enabled by technology is something that hospitality brands could learn from — and are in fact leveraging to great success.

For example, the international hotelier Marriott is using big data to get the best possible room rates from travelers. By analyzing weather reports, local events schedules and more, Marriott is able to forecast demand and calculate the value of individual rooms during busy — and not so busy — periods of the season.

In today’s connected age, where customers are able to scan comparison sites to find the best possible deals, using big data to analyze worldwide weather, events and other economic factors increase the scope to tap into the international market significantly.

Imagine knowing your potential customer lives in Georgia and they are searching for a holiday in southern Italy. Big data sets will allow you to predict that cold weather is coming to Georgia and that is shortly carnival and festival season in Europe. Alternatively, a heatwave might be imminent back home and a recession about to hit Italy. Armed with this information, you will be better placed to decide the price customers are willing to pay and whether you need to launch promotions to get that all-important booking.

Retargeting to chase up lost sales

Another way ecommerce is impacting the hospitality industry is through the normalization of sophisticated tracking and retargeting.

Many online stores use retargeting to chase up leads who dropped out of the sales funnel before converting. Once a customer navigates to a different website, the original store can chase them by displaying ads on those sites. Tools like Retargeter make this easy for merchants to chase up on otherwise lost sales.

And the same applies to hospitality brands too, especially travel sites.

The journey a traveler takes when they book a journey is by no means simple. It might start with research, taking to search engines to look for what hotels are available in a certain destination.

After this, the traveler might delve further into each hotel, or take to a site like TripAdvisor to check what previous customers reviewed it. They will likely trawl social media too for independent reviews of prospective hotels. Only then will they finally book the journey — and even then, they might shop around for the best price.

In short: the customer journey is a complex one. But hospitality brands can retarget customers in the exact same way as ecommerce businesses do to narrow the margin of lost sales considerably.

The examples listed above are just a few ways that ecommerce is impacting the hospitality industry. As time goes on and more technologies arrive, we can expect to see even more innovations arrive on the hospitality scene. Keep your eye on the horizon and prepare to stay ahead of the game in 2019.

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