Why publishers need to keep learning from the hotel industry
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…
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.
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.