2018 is here and with the New Year comes the opportunity to introduce something new into the hospitality mix. There are a number of hot new hospitality trends to take advantage of that will keep you ahead of the competition.
Industry experts agree that technology will completely reshape customer engagement in the hospitality sector: and this change will be driven by the customer. Tech-savvy, time-poor guests use multiple digital platforms and expect to engage with you seamlessly across all of them. Accordingly, from boutique bed-and-breakfast to large chains, players in the hospitality industry are actively looking into new techniques to deliver the optimal guest experience.
Experts at the recent EyeforTravel conference in Amsterdam (including speakers from Expedia Affiliate Network, BookingSuite, The Travel Corporation, Accor Hotels, Heathrow Airport, and many more) agreed that 2018 would be about using technology to improve loyalty and communicate better with guests than ever before.
Intrigued? Here are four hospitality tech trends and use cases that you can consider for the year ahead:
1. Embrace SMS to improve your loyalty program
According to Accenture Interactive, members of loyalty programs generate between 12-18% more revenue than non-members.
Loyalty programs are common within the hospitality industry: customers can often become members of ‘elite’ or ‘platinum’ clubs, collecting points and qualifying for attractive rewards. But it’s not all about points and freebies: adding value to your customers by offering timely updates and personalized content, together with discounts or coupons, are proven to be effective in driving loyalty.
So why not think about using SMS communications to go a step further and add another dimension to your loyalty program?
Here’s an example of what you could do.
Take loyal business customers who visit your hotel regularly, often on very tight timelines. One of their top priorities is for everything to go smoothly with minimum time waiting time. Offering loyalty program customers the option to receive a text message when their preferred room is ready for check-in will reassure them and enable them to plan their day better. Severe weather coming? An SMS message with the forecast and a friendly reminder to pack accordingly will save guests hassle and discomfort.
This is just one example: the possibilities are endless. Understanding and addressing users’ behavior and preferences can drive meaningful engagement, retention and loyalty.
2. Focus on personalized communication: start using API
Personalized communication is key to keeping modern consumers engaged. Connecting your system to a communications platform via API will let you easily address customers by name with content that fits their needs. For example, to John, a loyal customer who eats daily at the hotel restaurant, you could try sending a message that goes something like this:
Dear John, thank you for staying at our hotel. Show this message to any member of staff between 6 and 8pm to get a free drink!
Again, this is just one example. Use insights from your CRM database to create sticky, valuable offers. Or create special offers for first-time guests to turn them into loyal customers who come back time and again.
3. Prepare for a voice search future
Voice search is in its infancy but rapidly gaining popularity because it allows consumers to find what they want easier, faster, and most importantly – hands-free. As personal virtual assistants featuring inbuilt voice recognition tools like Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are used more and more to help with everyday tasks and questions, it will increasingly replace text-based search. According to research by Statista, 43% of people already prefer to use voice search, as it’s much quicker than typing and going on a website, or using an app.
Searching for hotels or trips, getting information about the current trip, getting travel directions are just some of the ways by which your customers might be using voice search. Whether they’re in hurry or don’t feel like typing while making search queries, voice search will provide them with fast and useful information. With a simple command like ‘Find me the best hotel in Budapest’ or ‘How to get from Budapest airport to XY hotel’, they can receive the information they need in no time.
This trend is widely expected to change customer behavior and it will change the hospitality industry. 2018 is the year you should invest in optimising your website to make it voice-search friendly, and providing helpful answers to customer’s questions.
4. Use a chatbot to offer anytime, anywhere support
Business Insider predicts 80% of businesses will have chatbots by 2020: in less than three years you will probably need to have a chatbot to stay competitive.
An AI chatbot can improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs and improve service effectiveness. For hospitality companies it can serve as a ‘virtual host’, making the purchase process more intuitive and user-friendly. After purchase a chatbot can dramatically enhance the customer experience, delivering high-quality customer interactions 24 x 7 across the channels your customers are most comfortable with.
The hospitality and travel sectors are among the earliest adopters of chatbots to improve the customer experience. To be most effective, a chatbot must be intuitive to engage with and have valuable information to offer with quick access.
Here are some ways you could use a chatbot to improve your guest experience:
- Before purchase, to offer recommendations on destinations/flights/restaurants – based on users’ searches and preferences
- During the booking process, to make purchase more user-friendly and to check guests’ itineraries
- After purchase, to provide cost effective customer support with answers to frequently asked questions about the destination
The hospitality industry is gearing up to embrace exciting new technologies and their adoption will only increase. 2018 is your opportunity to embrace these new challenges, invest in innovation and start testing.