The digitally transformed consumer, friend or foe?
February 15, 2018I used to say that Hospitality has not changed a great deal since the beginning of time, and as we know innkeepers have played their part in many a historical story, but it was then and still is now all about providing a home away from home, a hospitable environment for people to relax, work, meet, eat and unwind, whilst away from home.
And while that is true, the way in which guests make their selection, and evaluate their experience has radically changed. It’s safe to say that it’s the digital transformation of consumers that is the driving force behind these changes in Hospitality. Just think about it – people are now carrying around the equivalent of a computer in their pockets thanks to smartphones, we are worried that manufacturing jobs will be taken by robots, every day there are new hotel booking sites and artificial intelligence is on the up.
The fact is hotel companies are faced with new challenges thanks to this transformation of the consumer. The main competitors that hoteliers face today are actually technology companies – such as the likes of Airbnb, OTA’s and Metasearch sites – and not other hotels. These competitors offer similar services as traditional hotels like distributing inventory and rates, enabling the process of making reservations or viewing images of the rooms, but in such a way that has piqued the interest of potential guests across the globe.
Even with the similarities, these competitors don’t own or manage properties, but they are owning the guest relationship through ease of use, experience, personalization, and predictive analytics. This is putting hoteliers under more pressure than ever to evaluate and increase their investment in technology to offer equal or better ease of use, experience etc. Hoteliers cannot expect to capture and serve the 21st-century consumer with 30-year-old technology. Legacy systems are not equipped to monitor or measure something like the guest experience, nor is it set up to analyze data that is entered and provide users with real-time insights.
Investing in and upgrading your infrastructure is key, however subscribing to an endless number of software products that provide all kind of data in the field of overall demand, ranking, guest comments, rate intelligence, market share intelligence, weather, additional spent, etcetera, is not the answer. Especially not if you throw in the IOT (internet of things) and we soon have data pouring out of every device that is connected to the Internet.
What is needed is a good look at what enhancements and Intelligence are relevant and meaningful for your operations and market, which may differ from property to property, and then select the appropriate solutions that will help move your business to the next level. One step to doing this is to embrace the cloud, if you haven’t already.
When cloud computing first appeared as the new frontier in technology, it was viewed as optional for hoteliers. After all, providing rooms, meals and guest service doesn’t necessarily require the most up-to-date technology. However, today, cloud is no longer an option – it is the way forward. Cloud provides the ultimate flexibility so that, instead of maintaining costly IT systems, hoteliers can focus on the guest. And the availability of subscription models in the cloud have levelled the playing field by putting solutions in the reach of smaller chains and independent hotels which previously only major chains had the resources to implement.
Operating in the cloud also helps to ensure a better experience for everyone, from the back office to the front desk to the guest, allowing for a more personalized experience through use of smart (mobile) devices and solutions.
Another thing to consider when looking to upgrade technology, increase the bottom line, and improve the guest experience is the vendor you choose.To go toe-to-toe with competitors who are focused on technology and meet the expectations of the tech-savvy guest, hoteliers need to evaluate their vendor selection as a partnership. The evaluation cannot be done just on product functionality, but must also be based on a common vision, go-forward technology strategy, the ability and commitment to execute, and of course, world-class customer success programs.
Equally important to the vendor and solution is for hoteliers to review their sales, pricing, distribution, and retention strategy. Keep doing what was always done and adding more distribution channels does not necessarily result in success. Or keep ploughing away at corporate clients the way it was done 10 years ago also may not get the results you are looking for. Ensure that you have the right (commercial) organization, with the right tools and solutions, executing the right strategy to optimize your bottom line.
Stan van Roij CRME is the Vice President of Hospitality Solutions and Program Management at Infor. Prior to this role, he was the Managing Director for EzRMS at Infor, becoming an expert at anything and everything related to revenue management technologies. He previously held positions at NH Hotels, The Rezidor Hotel Group and Marriott International. Van Roij has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and with more than 15 years of that being in managerial roles. He is a member of the HSMAI EMEA advisory board for revenue management. Most recently, Van Roij was named one of HSMAI’s Top 20 Extraordinary minds for 2016 in EMEA.
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