Why pub­lish­ers need to keep learn­ing from the ho­tel in­dus­try

The Insider - - BEST PRACTICE -

Back in Jan­uary 2016, I wrote an ar­ti­cle about what me­dia could learn from the ho­tel in­dus­try. At the time, pub­lish­ers and ho­tel brands both:

• Faced mas­sive eco­nomic pres­sures due to tech­no­log­i­cal and so­ci­etal changes

• Were per­ceived to be threat­ened by new in­ter­me­di­aries/dis­rup­tors — on­line travel agen­cies for ho­tels and so­cial me­dia plat­forms for pub­lish­ers

It’s now 2018 and both in­dus­tries still face th­ese very same chal­lenges. But when it comes down to ad­dress­ing to them, their strate­gies are dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent.

Ho­tel ex­ec­u­tives quickly rec­og­nized that they had to make a fun­da­men­tal shift in pri­or­i­ties. They had to ac­tu­ally (not just claim to) put the per­son at the cen­ter of their de­ci­sion mak­ing. This one change (al­beit huge) re­sulted in three strate­gic ini­tia­tives:

1. Fo­cus on de­liv­er­ing ex­cep­tional cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence

2. In­vest in be­hav­ioral an­a­lyt­ics to help de­liver on the point above

3. Con­stantly innovate with the per­son in mind

Mean­while, some pub­lish­ers (thank­fully not all) chose a dif­fer­ent path. In­stead of in­vest­ing in the lifeblood of their busi­ness — peo­ple — they re­duced news­room staff and sac­ri­ficed the qual­ity of their core com­pe­tency — jour­nal­ism. They erected pay­walls around com­mod­ity con­tent no one wanted to buy. They cre­ated poor, ad-in­fested, on­line ex­pe­ri­ences, and alien­ated read­ers by only sup­port­ing oneway con­ver­sa­tions.

The re­sults are not sur­pris­ing and we read about the sad state of me­dia ev­ery day.

So how are the ho­tels far­ing? Let’s take a look at a cou­ple of com­pletely dif­fer­ent chains…

Hil­ton

Ranked as the No. 1 most valu­able and pow­er­ful ho­tel brand in the world by Brand Fi­nance, Hil­ton’s mis­sion is “to be the world’s most hospitable com­pany by de­liv­er­ing ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ence — ev­ery ho­tel, ev­ery guest, ev­ery time.”

It has a cen­tury-long his­tory of break­ing ground in the in­dus­try, be­ing the first ho­tel to of­fer cen­tral reser­va­tions sys­tems and putting tele­vi­sions and air con­di­tion­ing into rooms. It’s even been said that they in­vented the piña co­lada. (Yum! Gra­cias!)

In 2011, Hil­ton launched Home2 Suites — a new con­cept in the all-suites, ex­tended-stay mar­ket for the cost-con­scious trav­eler. Each eco- and pet­friendly room in­cludes an ac­ces­sorized kitchen, free Wi-Fi, a me­dia+work zone, a comfy bed de­signed for Hil­ton, a large flat-screen TV, and fur­ni­ture that can be moved around to al­low guests to cus­tom­ize liv­ing and stor­age spa­ces. Each ho­tel also in­cludes com­mu­nal ar­eas, a com­bined laun­dry and fit­ness fa­cil­ity, grab-and-go food, a saline pool, pa­tios with grills, and an ex­er­cise trail. Cool, no?

Al­though Hil­ton still car­ries many legacy brands in its port­fo­lio, the com­pany con­tin­u­ally looks for ways to at­tract and serve the ever-chang­ing de­mands of to­day’s and to­mor­row’s trav­el­ers. Just two years ago, it in­tro­duced a new brand of ho­tels that com­bined “sim­plic­ity and value with­out com­pro­mis­ing qual­ity and de­sign” — Tru by Hil­ton. To­day Tru has the fastest grow­ing de­vel­op­men­tal pipe­line in the in­dus­try.

Yo­tel

Re­cently, a gen­tle­man from WAN-IFRA (who read my orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle) asked me what I thought about Yo­tel. Launched in 2006 (five years be­fore Home2 Suites, a decade be­fore Tru, eight years be­fore Moxy by Mar­riott, and nine years be­fore Ci­ti­zenM), this new breed of ho­tel brand was de­signed for busy in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers who value “ef­fi­cient lux­ury” — where lux­ury isn’t about size and op­u­lence, it’s about the in­tel­li­gent (if a bit min­i­mal­is­tic) use of space and time.

At Yo­tel, guests don’t waste time queu­ing at the front desk by us­ing a smart­phone app or touch­screen kiosk for check­ing in or out when­ever they like.

Rooms (called cab­ins ala first-class air­line cap­sules) are the ultimate in ef­fec­tive use of ev­ery square foot. Each cabin comes with “tech­nowalls” that con­trol mood light­ing, free ul­tra-high-speed in­ter­net, smart TVs that can stream per­sonal video and mu­sic con­tent, and ad­justable beds that con­vert into so­fas with the push of a but­ton. Bril­liant!

Yo­tel may have pi­o­neered to­day’s new ex­pe­ri­en­tial ho­tel chain, but it is not rest­ing on its lau­rels. CANI (Con­stant And Never-end­ing In­no­va­tion) teams con­tin­u­ally eval­u­ate new ideas and innovations while main­tain­ing their com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity to serve the ev­er­chang­ing needs and de­sires of their guests.

Yo­tel’s fo­cus on cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence at all stages of the guest’s in­ter­ac­tion with the brand has paid off in terms of in­dus­try recog­ni­tion and eco­nomics:

• 2017: eCom­merce award — Best Medi­um­sized com­pany

• 2016: TRAVOLUTION — Best Website User Ex­pe­ri­ence and Best in Stay

• 2015: UK DIG­I­TAL EX­PE­RI­ENCE AWARDS - Gold Award Win­ner — Best Travel Website • 2012: LEED® "Gold" cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the

U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil, ver­i­fied by the Green Build­ing Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion In­sti­tute (GBCI).

Loy­alty is not be what it used to be

Travel brands have seen a dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion in cus­tomer be­hav­ior in the past decade, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to trust and loy­alty. It would have been easy to con­tinue to serve the needs of those al­ready loyal to the brand, but top ho­tels knew that a rearview mir­ror strat­egy will have lit­tle suc­cess with those who hold a buy­ing power of over three tril­lion dol­lars this year — mil­len­ni­als.

Gen Ys have not yet bought into travel loy­alty pro­grams as much as their older coun­ter­parts, but what’s in­ter­est­ing is that mil­len­ni­als who do join are sig­nif­i­cantly more loyal to the pro­grams than Gen Xers or boomers.

Which is why Hil­ton, even with its en­vi­able 70,000 mem­bers, com­pletely re­vamped Hil­ton Hon­ors in 2017 to at­tract more GenY con­sumers with mil­len­nial-friendly ben­e­fits such as points pool­ing and Ama­zon Shop with Points.

The brand’s in­vest­ments in the per­son are pay­ing off. In 2017, Hil­ton made Forbes’ Top 50 most en­gaged com­pa­nies in the world. Its mem­ber­ship grew by 15% and its stock rose 29.8%, out­per­form­ing the S&P 500 by 11%.

The take­aways for me­dia

We’ve all heard about the At­ten­tion Econ­omy; it’s not a new con­cept. In fact, it’s been around since 1971 when economist, psy­chol­o­gist, com­puter sci­en­tist, and author, Her­bert A Si­mon, first ad­dressed it in his book, De­sign­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tions for an In­for­ma­tion-Rich World.

In it, Si­mon said some­thing that should res­onate with ev­ery­one who feels the ef­fects of what the web has brought to the 21st cen­tury.

“In an in­for­ma­tion-rich world, the wealth of in­for­ma­tion means a dearth of some­thing else: a scarcity of what­ever it is that in­for­ma­tion con­sumes.

What in­for­ma­tion con­sumes is rather ob­vi­ous: it con­sumes the at­ten­tion of its re­cip­i­ents. Hence a wealth of in­for­ma­tion creates a poverty of at­ten­tion and a need to al­lo­cate that at­ten­tion ef­fi­ciently among the over­abun­dance of in­for­ma­tion sources that might con­sume it.”

To­day’s dig­i­tal me­dia world is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the poverty of at­ten­tion in a ma­jor way. In our ef­forts to garner as much at­ten­tion as pos­si­ble, we tend to look to scale rather than qual­ity to solve the prob­lem, count­ing page views and clicks as mea­sures of en­gage­ment. But given that peo­ple, glob­ally, only spend an av­er­age of 29 sec­onds on any given ar­ti­cle, this tac­tic is not work­ing. En­gage­ment isn’t about clicks; it’s about at­ten­tion — the cur­rency we, as pro­fes­sion­als, should be mea­sur­ing.

We need to take a chap­ter out of the Hil­ton play­book and cre­ate a new mis­sion for our­selves, “Be the world’s most en­gag­ing me­dia com­pany by de­liv­er­ing ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ences — ev­ery ar­ti­cle, ev­ery per­son, ev­ery time.”

Then we need to put the tac­tics in place to help us do that. Like Yo­tel, we must never stop in­no­vat­ing, in­vest­ing in be­hav­ioral an­a­lyt­ics to truly un­der­stand our au­di­ence and what they want, and then giv­ing it to them. At PressReader we be­lieve it’s all about de­liv­er­ing the right con­tent to the right per­son, at the right time, through the right chan­nels, at the right price.

Net­flix’s vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct in­no­va­tion, Todd Yellin, shared that same phi­los­o­phy in an Au­gust 2017 in­ter­view, “The typ­i­cal Net­flix mem­ber, on av­er­age, will only look at 40 or 50 ti­tles be­fore de­cid­ing what they want to watch, even though there are thou­sands of ti­tles avail­able. So it’s im­por­tant we present the right con­tent to the right mem­ber at the right time.”

Then go out and take the first step… start lis­ten­ing.

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