One of the key things about digital transformation is the personalization it gives to end users, and as a result, individual expectations can vary hugely. None more so than in the business travel sector, where consumer expectations and demands change very much by region. For example, in North America, over 75 percent of business travelers want greater cross-device integration in their business travel, while in Europe, UK business travelers, despite making the second highest average number of business trips per year, are not as active with travel touchpoints and mobile activity. In a 2016 Travelzoo study, 85 percent of Chinese business travelers said they prefer using travel apps for bookings compared to 54 percent of Americans.
So what digital solutions and tools should the hospitality sector be deploying to gain a competitive advantage over rivals and secure market share?
The digital guest experience
More and more business travelers expect access to the latest technological solutions to anticipate guests’ needs and delivering over and above their expectations. According to American Express, 83 percent of Millennial consumers say they are happy for hotels to track their preferences if it results in a more personalized experience. Marriott hotels are set to deploy Amazon Alexa digital assistants in some of their hotels to provide room service, housekeeping and concierge advice.
Forrester recently reported on top trends for Customer Relationship Management for 2017, finding that “companies must offer customers ways to easily engage with them to foster an ongoing omnichannel dialogue and relationship that strengthens loyalty and retention.” A real-world example is the Wyndham Hotel Group using analytics tools to gather data, including time-based metrics, geolocation and personalization data to help it better tailor its app experience to loyalty members. The app converts at a rate 4.5 times higher than the group’s mobile site.
One of the most convenient and time-saving developments in the airline industry, hotels can offer guests this handy service, too. According to Hotels.com, 44 percent of U.S. business travelers are willing to use their mobile device at a self-check-in kiosk at a hotel. This, allied to guests being able to unlock hotel room doors using their smartphone, gives more control to guests and streamlines the hotel front desk. Companies such as Ariane and Zest already provide these technologies.
Wi-Fi is a vital element of a good stay in a hotel for any guest today – so much so that according to research, free Wi-Fi is the most important factor for both business and personal travelers when they are picking a hotel. Forty-nine percent of travelers rate it their chief concern, way ahead of free breakfast on just 14 percent. To address this, hotels should consider simple measures such as placing routers in more central locations or mounting them on ceilings, or even investing in in-building wireless (IBW) solutions like small cells or distributed antenna systems (DAS) to give guests a connected experience comparable to their own homes.
Many industries are using VR to create an enhanced customer experience, and hotels can follow suit. The ability to provide a virtual destination visit before booking is attractive to consumers and enables them to get a greater feel for the hotel and its facilities before deciding. The Hilton Hotel Waikiki was among the first to offer this digital option, with a standalone VR app for mobile users. For forward-thinking hotel groups, VR represents another content delivery channel to their customers and another way of helping your brand stand out from the crowd.
Tangible benefits to be had
Orange has recently worked with Chinese mobile company Huawei to develop and deliver a customer-centric hotel solution based on the Orange Business Services Cloud Platform, which, via an omnichannel communication-enabled platform, gives travelers up-to-the-minute information from the hotel website, mobile app, map application and more.
A customer service bot is also available to guests to give them the latest details about room availability, directions to the hotel and more. The solution has already impacted the hotel’s bottom line and the guest’s customer experience, with the Orange and Huawei solution giving customers a 30 percent better chance of reserving a room in a busy hotel and 15 percent reduced room rates.
The importance of digital to the future of the hospitality sector appears to be hitting home. According to a Forbes Travel Guide survey of hotel executives around the world, 70 percent of them see improved guest personalization as their number one business priority, while guestroom technology upgrades and improving Wi-Fi capabilities ranked three and four. What now seems clear is that hoteliers and hospitality providers who ignore digital technology and its role in their business risk falling behind the competition.
Discover why Louvre Hotels Group used an Akamai solution, delivered by Orange, to improve performance of its global website and booking system.
I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.