Learn­ing from ho­tels

The Insider - - CONTENT -

Few peo­ple would ar­gue that now, more than ever, we are liv­ing in an era of mass dis­rup­tion – a phe­nom­e­non that has af­fected ev­ery facet of our lives and ev­ery in­dus­try on the planet. No one is im­mune to its power.

For many it evokes fear, un­cer­tainty and doubt about their fu­ture; for oth­ers, it stirs pas­sion, cre­ativ­ity and con­fi­dence.

To which group do you be­long?

Work­ing in the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, I meet more mem­bers of the first group, while my col­league who works closely with our busi­ness part­ners in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try en­coun­ters more in the sec­ond.

It’s not like hos­pi­tal­ity is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing less dis­rup­tion than pub­lish­ing. Both in­dus­tries are feel­ing the pro­found ef­fects of dra­matic changes in:

Tech­nol­ogy

So­ci­ety

Mar­kets

Com­pe­ti­tion

Own­er­ship

Economies

But as they per­ceive and ad­dress them in dif­fer­ent ways, the pub­lish­ing rev­enues con­tinue to de­cline year af­ter year, while the ho­tel in­dus­try’s, af­ter 2008’s re­ces­sion blip, con­tinue to rise de­spite the threats of atyp­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion (e.g. Airbnb, HomeAway) which is driv­ing to­day’s shar­ing econ­omy.

So what are ho­tel ex­ec­u­tives do­ing dif­fer­ently than tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers? They are fo­cus­ing on peo­ple rather than prof­its, let­ting go of past tra­di­tions of “what worked be­fore”, and re­think­ing the way they do busi­ness.

They say the devil is in the de­tail, so check out some of the spe­cific tac­tics be­hind their strate­gies…

Ho­tels are in­no­vat­ing to cre­ate new prod­ucts and ser­vices peo­ple are will­ing to pay for

By 2017, mil­len­ni­als are ex­pected to re­place Baby Boomers as the lead­ing con­sumer. For peo­ple-cen­tric busi­nesses like ho­tels, it means a dra­matic shift in how they de­fine and de­liver qual­ity.

Less brand-loyal mil­len­ni­als crave nov­elty over “no sur­prises” pre­dictabil­ity, which puts some es­tab­lished brands on the “don’t stay” list with th­ese younger trav­el­ers.

Mean­while other more pro­gres­sive chains are in­no­vat­ing out­side of a Baby Boomer’s com­fort zone with mil­len­ni­al­friendly venues like Tru by Hil­ton, Radis­son Red and cit­i­zenM, where you won’t see bell­boys, pil­low choco­lates or trouser presses, but you will see:

Min­i­mal­ist lux­ury at af­ford­able prices High tech ev­ery­where

Com­pli­men­tary Wi-Fi and on-de­mand movies for the 85% of to­day’s trav­el­ers who be­lieve in­ter­net ac­cess should be free

Open, bar-cen­tric com­mu­nal spa­ces, fa­cil­i­tat­ing so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and multi-task­ing

Food and bev­er­age ser­vices de­signed to meet the needs of the mo­bile trav­eler with more grab-and-go, snack­ing/graz­ing and spe­cial di­etary op­tions

Liv­ing room-like lob­bies with 24/7 food and cock­tails for the 36% of mil­len­ni­als that would pre­fer to work out­side of their rooms

Pub­lish­ers are still look­ing for peo­ple to pur­chase prod­ucts they don’t want to buy

The late me­dia plan­ning guru,

Er­win Ephron once said, “Reach trumps fre­quency. It’s me­dia’s gift to ad­ver­tis­ing.” Fol­low­ing the con­ta­gious drop of com­ment­ing fea­tures off of pub­lish­ers’ web­sites and the rush to post con­tent on the likes of Face­book In­stant Ar­ti­cles and Ap­ple News, it does ap­pear that the drive of read­ers away from pub­lish­ers’ own dig­i­tal prop­er­ties will con­tinue to ac­cel­er­ate this year.

Now, don’t get me wrong, reach is very important, but choos­ing the right dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels should be based on the value they bring be­yond eye­balls to a pub­lisher’s con­tent. Reach is one of the ta­ble stakes in the new fu­ture for news, which ac­cord­ing to fu­tur­ist Ross Daw­son has three pil­lars: trusted ag­gre­ga­tion, com­mu­nity and com­merce.

Ag­gre­ga­tion of­fers op­por­tu­nity for dis­cov­ery and reach, but to truly grow and mon­e­tize a com­mu­nity, pub­lish­ers need to find new in­no­va­tive ways to cre­ate con­nec­tions be­tween peo­ple through con­tent.

For­give me if I sound like a bro­ken record, but I can’t help but preach how crit­i­cal it is for pub­lish­ers to in­vest in the rein­ven­tion of their busi­ness mod­els, con­tent, prod­ucts, ser­vices and mar­ket­ing to cre­ate a more prof­itable fu­ture.

Think out­side the broad­sheet peo­ple! Ex­per­i­ment, pro­to­type and build prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences that sur­prise and de­light to­day’s con­sumers…

- Di­ver­sify be­yond the printed word to en­gage with read­ers be­tween page flips

- Adopt new ad­ver­tis­ing so­lu­tions that en­gage rather than en­rage read­ers

- Build loy­alty by lis­ten­ing, learn­ing and evolv­ing to give peo­ple what they want

- In­vite read­ers to par­tic­i­pate in the news and re­ward them for their con­tri­bu­tions

- Cap­i­tal­ize on mil­len­ni­als’ will­ing­ness to pay for mem­o­ries and new ex­pe­ri­ences by in­te­grat­ing con­tent into new busi­ness lines such as im­mer­sive en­ter­tain­ment (e.g. vir­tual re­al­ity and gam­ing).

- Ex­ploit new tech­nolo­gies (e.g. geo-tar­get­ing, IoT) where your con­tent adds value. Did you know that by 2020 a quar­ter bil­lon ve­hi­cles will be con­nected? Will your con­tent be in them?

And above all else, al­ways re­mem­ber to put “the per­son” at the cen­ter of ev­ery­thing you do!

Ho­tels are in­vest­ing in be­hav­ioral an­a­lyt­ics to per­son­al­ize mar­ket­ing and ex­pe­ri­ences

The hos­pi­tal­ity and travel in­dus­tries were putting cus­tomer experience at the top of their agen­das long be­fore Big Data be­came so pop­u­lar. So it’s no sur­prise that when data and be­hav­ioral an­a­lyt­ics started to take off, some of the more tech-savvy ho­tels started us­ing it to en­hance de­ci­sion mak­ing, an­tic­i­pate guest needs and be more proac­tive on de­liv­er­ing su­pe­rior ser­vices through­out the cus­tomer’s jour­ney with the brand.

Here are how some ho­tels are their guests’ experience based on their needs and pref­er­ences to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from the com­pe­ti­tion.

- Four Sea­sons al­lows guests to choose from one of three mat­tress top­pers and re­mem­bers their choice for fu­ture stays.

- Mar­riott and Hil­ton keep track of guests’ floor and fea­ture choices and uses that data to au­to­mat­i­cally book them in a room that closely meets their past se­lec­tions.

- Kimp­ton Ho­tels track what mem­bers eat, drink and share on so­cial me­dia. It then re­wards them from time to time by sur­pris­ing them with their favourite Ac­cord­ing to news­pa­per in­dus­try author, Martha Stone, “Big Data is a huge op­por­tu­nity for me­dia com­pa­nies, but me­dia com­pa­nies in gen­eral are still far away from ex­tract­ing max­i­mum ben­e­fit from a Big Data strat­egy.”

Well-known me­dia an­a­lyst,

Ken Doc­tor, agrees, “I’ve been urg­ing pub­lish­ers to think about busi­ness in­tel­li­gence, also called an­a­lyt­ics, or data sci­ence. It is be­com­ing the cen­ter of ev­ery me­dia busi­ness. You have to have knowl­edge bev­er­age and snacks in their rooms at check-in.

- Hil­ton tracks user data and uses it in real time to let staff know to which guests they should of­fer perks based on their loy­alty and prof­itabil­ity to the chain.

- Best West­ern tai­lors in real time which email vari­ants reach their 20 mil­lion cus­tomers based on their de­tected de­vice. The re­sults show a 143% lift in down­loads of their app by non-mem­bers. It is also see­ing higher click-through rates in email cam­paigns by us­ing geo-tar­get­ing to pro­vide more rel­e­vant of­fers to cus­tomers based on where they are at any point in time.

Most news­pa­pers are not cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the power of Big Data

of your cus­tomers and what they’re read­ing and want to read, and sim­i­larly of your ad­ver­tis­ers and what they want and how well you’re per­form­ing. With­out that core of busi­ness in­tel­li­gence, you’re fly­ing blind at this point and by 2020 you won’t have any busi­ness left.”

The big names in pub­lish­ing are in­vest­ing in big data, but when it comes to smaller re­gional ti­tles, the sur­face is hardly be­ing scratched be­yond Google An­a­lyt­ics.

Ho­tels are fo­cus­ing on cus­tomer experience

Last year a study by ZenithOp­ti­me­dia re­ported that mil­len­ni­als put more value on ex­pe­ri­ences than pos­ses­sions. The Al­lianz Travel In­sur­ance Va­ca­tion Con­fi­dence In­dex also showed that 60% of them trust the shar­ing econ­omy. So it’s not sur­pris­ing that start-ups like Airbnb and Home Away are hav­ing so much suc­cess with th­ese younger con­sumers.

By of­fer­ing trav­el­ers one-of-a-kind ac­com­mo­da­tions, mo­bile-friendly tech­nol­ogy and unique ex­pe­ri­ences they couldn’t get with es­tab­lished chains, th­ese dis­rup­tors started at­tract­ing guests who were dis­grun­tled by the de­val­u­a­tion of their loy­alty pro­grams by ho­tels that started to put prof­its be­fore peo­ple.

It’s not dis­sim­i­lar to the sit­u­a­tion that oc­curred in mu­sic and video where dis­rup­tors like iTunes and Net­flix rad­i­cally trans­formed the busi­ness mod­els of th­ese in­dus­tries. Thank­fully the ho­tel in­dus­try doesn’t ap­pear to be fall­ing into the same prof­it­less pit as record la­bels. Many are ex­plor­ing new and bet­ter ways to give the mod­ern con­sumer what he/she wants – con­ve­nience at the right price – by join­ing the 89% of com­pa­nies that plan to com­pete in 2016 on the ba­sis of cus­tomer experience.

Now, you’re prob­a­bly think­ing, “What’s so new about that? You just said that ho­tels prac­ti­cally in­vented the con­cept with re­wards pro­grams and their fo­cus on cre­at­ing mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences (e.g. wed­dings, grad­u­a­tion par­ties, hon­ey­moons, etc.)”.

And you’d be right. But in to­day’s dig­i­tally- and so­cially-dis­rupted world, it takes a lot more than points to en­tice loy­alty with the mod­ern trav­eler. So how does one ex­cel at cus­tomer experience in this dig­i­tal age?

Ac­cord­ing to Colin Nagy of Skift Mag­a­zine, “Cus­tomer experience is 3D chess. It is the ag­gre­gate of thou­sands of mi­cro ex­pe­ri­ences a cus­tomer has with your brand and it presents count­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­gen­der loy­alty. There are myr­iad vari­a­tions and out­comes, all of which need to be thought out and stew­arded ap­pro­pri­ately.”

The need to cap­ture, an­a­lyze and act on th­ese mi­cro-ex­pe­ri­ences is driv­ing heavy in­vest­ments in tech­nol­ogy-based so­lu­tions for ho­tels in­clud­ing Cloud-based Prop­erty Man­age­ment Sys­tems (PMS). Gone are the days of bor­ing in-room self-pro­mot­ing videos, sur­veys and printed news­pa­pers out­side the door. They’re be­ing re­placed by self-serve apps for check-in, e-menus, loy­alty pro­grams, pay­ment pro­cess­ing sys­tems and mo­bile ameni­ties.

Loy­alty is be­ing fos­tered more through emo­tions than trans­ac­tions. Sig­na­ture Mo­ments – novel re­wards de­signed to sur­prise and de­light guests – are help­ing brands cre­ate emo­tional con­nec­tions with trav­el­ers.

Flex­i­bil­ity, sim­plic­ity, cus­tomiza­tion, and per­son­al­iza­tion are key trends in the new cra­dle-to-grave pro­cesses of book­ing a stay at a ho­tel — from the first mar­ket­ing con­nec­tion, to web­site, app, email and SMS in­ter­ac­tions; and from park­ing, lobby, front desk, res­tau­rant, bar, room and amenity ex­pe­ri­ences, to check-out and post-stay di­a­logues.

News­pa­pers con­tinue to fo­cus on mostly com­modi­tized con­tent and cash

In hos­pi­tal­ity the cus­tomer is king, but not so much in pub­lish­ing where read­ers of­ten play sec­ond fid­dle to con­tent (in­clud­ing ad­ver­tis­ing) and the dig­i­tal dimes it de­liv­ers. Notwith­stand­ing the short list of pub­lish­ers who value what their read­ers have to say, most me­dia ex­ecs pay lip ser­vice to cus­tomer experience, send­ing their read­ers off to so­cial me­dia if they want more than a dig­i­tal form of mono­logue jour­nal­ism. Traf­fic, views and clicks seem to mean more to pub­lish­ers than their re­la­tion­ship with their read­ers. In­stead of in­vest­ing in im­prov­ing the user experience on their dig­i­tal prop­er­ties to keep ad block­ers at bay, they pe­nal­ize peo­ple by block­ing those who use ad block­ers or beg them to turn them off.

It’s time for pub­lish­ers to stop look­ing for the easy way out when faced with sat­is­fy­ing the new con­sumer. In­stead, they need to make a habit of treat­ing read­ers as kings and queens and pro­vide them with a per­son­al­ized and su­pe­rior user experience. If not, they will con­tinue down the same old road to rags, rather than to riches.

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