Innovation in the hospitality industry has been apparent since the industry began. In 1894 guests saw the first in-room telephones. 53 years later the Roosevelt Hotel installed the first guestroom televisions. In 1983 electronic key cards were invented and in 1994 the first hotel website was launched. It’s hard to imagine a time where ice machines weren’t in every hotel corridor and Wi-Fi wasn’t commonplace.
Since 2015 the majority of online opinion has predicted that in the coming new year guests will see more AI-driven robots, biometric technology, virtual reality and the dawn of a new-aged concept called blockchain. However, it’s unlikely that 2019 will unveil an influx of entirely robot staffed hotels like the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan; Where a charming robot dinosaur wearing a front desk uniform assists guests with their check-in. Some of these predicted technologies aren’t for every guest or every hotel.
So, this poses the question – Realistically, what hospitality technology trends can the majority of guests expect to see in 2019?
In 2017 Deloitte surveyed more than 6,600 hotel guests who collectively patronized 25 brands across multiple hotel tiers. From this research, Deloitte uncovered five guest needs and corresponding attributes that contribute to an excellent guest experience. In this article, we take a look at one primary guest need, that is the foundation of all other needs, and uncover how hotels are using technology in 2019 to move beyond the basics for an exceptional guest experience.
Show Your Guests How Well You Know Them with Personalization Technology
Knowing your guests personally is the foundation for successfully delivering on all of your guests’ needs. However, in 2017 only 65% of hotel guests felt satisfied that the hotels they visited “knew” them. However, what does “knowing your guest” really mean? Today, it means understanding, remembering and predicting guest preferences and making it easy for them to access those preferences. Personalization Technology is a great way to show your guests how much you care and how well you know them.
What is personalization technology? Personalization technology is the use of tools that tailor a product or service to improve the guest experience. These tools strive to answer guests needs efficiently and effectively.
Website personalization is a perfect example of how hotels are beginning to use technology to demonstrate the attention they’ve paid to individual guest preferences. Website personalization is the process of creating a customized experience tailored to the needs and desires of each visitor to your website, rather than provide a single, broad experience. Hotels can now automatically and intuitively suggest particular room categories, packages, amenities, and rates tailored to each guests’ expectations. This technology utilizes the user’s IP address which identifies their real-world geographic location. For example, hotels know that certain markets have a typically longer length of stay compared to other markets, and this allows them to bring a guest’s attention to a high-value package that appeals to them more than, for example, a local market guest who is searching for a one-night stay. The results of these bespoke online experiences are numerous, including higher booking probability, increased user satisfaction, and a greater likelihood of repeat visits to the website. Ultimately leading to better brand loyalty.
The potential of personalization technology also goes much further. Did you know that in 2016 over 70% of U.S. travelers agreed that they “always” use their smartphones when traveling? A 41% increase from 2015. Today it is evident that smartphones, tablets, and mobile apps are considered universal tools utilized by every type of traveler. Whether through provided devices or enabling the use of guests’ personal devices, hotels now have the opportunity to implement personalized mobile strategies that can significantly increase guest satisfaction rates.
In 2016 Samsung Insights uncovered that among U.S. respondents, 44% percent said they’d be willing to use their mobile device at a self-check-in kiosk at a hotel. The value travelers place on mobile check-in options also extends to payment as well, with 54% of respondents agreeing that having a variety of payment options is also an important feature. Some hoteliers still believe that the best check-in and check-out experience involves greeting guests in person. However, when hotels make this assumption for all guests at all times, they aren’t genuinely offering the best personalized experience. With this type of personalization technology hotels can now offer every type of check-in or check-out a guest might prefer. Thus enabling their staff to work more efficiently while guests experience a higher level of personalization.
Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at JD Power says: “Mobile check-in is the check-in method associated with the highest satisfaction, although it carries with it the dual-edged sword of potentially reducing interactions between guests and the hotel. Our data still show that high levels of staff interaction are associated with high satisfaction and likelihood to return. So you have to somehow manage to maintain high levels of interaction while not getting in the way of people trying to expedite their check-in/check-out.”
With personalization technology built directly into a hotel’s mobile app hotels also have the opportunity to send guests personalized, contextually relevant content that appeals to their specific preferences. In conjunction with Wi-Fi access points or beacons located around the hotel, hotels can offer products and services directly to a guest’s device based on their micro-location. This opens the door to a virtual concierge service that follows the guest wherever they may be within your hotel.
Imagine a guest is exploring your hotel and finds themselves outside the spa after hours. With mobile personalization technology, a guest can get a notification regarding spa promotions, photos, services, and a link to book an appointment directly on their mobile device. Hours of operation no longer affect your ability to promote services, and guests will no longer feel bombarded by so many options for products and services that do not interest them.
In a large hotel, location services can also help the guest find their way by providing real-time direction that is specific to wherever they are going. Not only does this technology benefit the guest, but hotels can also use it to tell exactly where guests are in their hotel, promoting a better understanding of their habits as well as the opportunity to allocate staff in areas where it is needed most.
It’s not easy to manually provide this level of personalization from the beginning to end of your guests’ travel experience or to test which offerings convert better than others. However, these technologies are not just about automation and efficiency. They are about creating opportunities for hotels to listen to and learn about their guests to build unique and lasting relationships and ultimately delivering a competitive edge to the brands that use them.
Today’s hotelier recognizes the value that personalization has on the guest experience. The more guests feel that every aspect of their experience was tailored precisely for them, the higher the likelihood that they will spend more on property and return again and again. In 2017 Google’s data showed that 36% of consumers (over 1 in 3) were willing to pay more for these personalized experiences, and with a reported 83% of millennials agreeing to allow brands to track their habits in exchange for a more customized experience, personalization technology of the guest experience is the next frontier.
Does your hotel utilize personalization technology? Will you be implementing any of these trends in your hotel in 2019? What kind of success has your hotel experienced since implementing personalization technology? Share your thoughts and experiences with us and start a conversation in the comments below.