At the beginning of every year, many experts offer their list of industry forecasts for the year ahead. Some turn out to be highly accurate, and others, not so much. In the hotel industry in particular, most prediction articles neglect to mention how hoteliers should actually implement these trends at their properties. After all, figuring out how to make a trend work for you can often be the hardest part of innovation.
So, for 2015, we’ve put together the trends that hoteliers are most likely to experience this year, along with some strategies for implementing them most effectively.
Mobile Travelers Require Mobile-Friendly Services
Today, almost everybody has a smartphone or tablet; whether they use it for reading the next bestseller or chatting with friends on Facebook, we will see that these devices will become even more critical for hoteliers to consider in 2015. Unlike previous generations, Millennials (those who reached young adulthood around the year 2000) are “mobile-first” travel consumers who rely heavily on their mobile while traveling – not only for booking, but also to research and find solutions for any issues they might encounter.
In order to make your property more appealing to this type of consumer, it is important that you think beyond just mobile bookings (but of course, if you still haven’t implemented a mobile-friendly site, now is the time!). Some other key tech elements that you should implement at your property to appeal to this type of traveler include:
- Free high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the property.
- Option to checkout via tablets in the front lobby.
- Device charging docks in all of the common areas.
- Music players that will work with both Apple and Android devices.
- Online concierge service with local info, attractions, etc.
- Smart TVs, which allow streaming from a guests’ various online accounts for TV, movies, music, etc. (i.e. Netflix, Pandora, etc.).
All of these options provide self-service options for those who would prefer to do everything online from their collection of smartphones, tablets and laptops, and will help your hotel increase your popularity with this growing demographic.
Optimize Big Data, Online & On-Site
The proliferation of big data runs the risk of overwhelming hoteliers, but managed correctly, it can unlock the door to highly personalized experiences for guests and better operations for hoteliers – both online and on-site. Hotels will need to find ways to harness the power of data to find meaningful insight into traveler behavior and likes/dislikes to make decisions that decrease costs, drive greater guest satisfaction and increase revenue. What is especially critical is to find a way to leverage the most valuable Guest Intelligence in conjunction with your existing technology systems (CRM, PMS, Business Intelligence, etc.).
Analyze online semantic data (the language used by guests in online reviews) to help you identify how guests feel about the overall condition of your hotel’s resources and the ROI of budgets for separate departments.
Guest satisfaction data is also no longer limited to online reviews. Harvest even more feedback by creating custom online guest satisfaction surveys that allow your hotel to ask guests specific questions about different elements of their experience at your hotel. Find out more about how your hotel can implement guest satisfaction surveys.
Use an online reputation management tool that analyzes reviews from all sources (there are more than 140) in all languages, that is user-friendly (to maximize staff engagement) and that offers an open platform (API access that can connect to your property’s current internal technological platforms/systems) to enable accessing and managing all online reviews, comments, ratings and direct guest survey results in one integrated platform.
Bring Offline Services Online
Social media is rapidly becoming the number one channel for customer service. Since the explosion of smartphones and tablets, communication with consumers has evolved into an open online dialogue – real-time streams of conversation that are visible to anyone, anywhere. Correctly handled, conversations between guests and brands can instill a positive impression in casually browsing travelers.
Discuss how your hotel marketing team should respond to requests and comments to transform Twitter into a customer service channel. Set up alerts to automatically monitor mentions of your hotel online across all major channels. You can also make the process of reviews more proactive by automatically sending customized guest satisfaction surveys – which might have once gathered dust in the hotel room – to guests as a post-stay email to gain valuable insight into how you can improve guests’ experiences in very specific areas. Our experience shows that hotels can expect a response rate between 15% to 30% (for post-stay email surveys), which can yield significant information and insight into necessary operational and service improvements.
Visualize Your Brand Message on Social Media
In 2015, increase the use of visual media – especially videos and vivid imagery – on your website and social media. The brain recognises visual content 60,000 times faster than text and the most innovative global hotel brands are already harnessing cognitive stimuli, known as neuro-marketing, to connect with travelers on a more emotional, instinctual level. This includes encouraging guests to generate visual, earned content as part of your marketing campaign. You won’t need to drastically increase your marketing budget to maintain online visibility this year. Instead, analyze engagement data across separate social channels to implement smarter, highly visual campaigns, while ensuring your messaging is coherent throughout every department.
2015: Optimize, Visualize, Automate
While one of 2015’s greatest challenges will be maintaining a high online visibility, that doesn’t necessarily mean blowing the budget. This year, invest in mobile-friendly services and amplify your brand’s online presence through creative use of visuals and better online customer service. Leverage the power of Guest Intelligence, the combination of online review analytics and direct guest survey data to get the most complete picture of how and where improvement efforts need to be made. Make valuable guest review data work harder by correctly training staff to understand the insights offered by review and social analytics. Leveraging social data offers hoteliers an unprecedented opportunity to glean actionable insights into areas for improvement in every department, which in turn will lead to smarter spending, stronger guest loyalty and higher revenue.