How are hotels transforming the guest experience?

There's a lot of exciting technology available now, but have hotels got the basics of digital right so far?
15 June 2018

The front desk isn’t the only place that can be digitally transformed. Source: Shutterstock

Hotels are constantly looking to transform the experience of guests whose expectations are changing and evolving.

In the real world, experiences are part digital and part emotional. It’s not just the app but also the reassuring smile of the front desk staff.

“As guests are becoming more demanding, the average expected standard for their future stays has risen significantly, and guests even expect their ‘unspoken’ needs to be fulfilled,” said the recent Rethinking Luxury in Hospitality report by Horwath HTL.

Findings of the report revealed that digital technology is increasingly used to address this challenge. Soon, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to enable comprehensive tracking of client behavior.

However, at this stage, the challenge is simply about adding digital elements to help customers enjoy some convenience.

Before getting bogged down with bigger possibilities driven and enabled by emerging technologies, hotels must learn to provide an authentic and unique ‘look&feel’ in the digital world and remove frictions between the phases (i.e. the transition from inspiration to reservation).

According to Horwath HTL, to get started with digital, hoteliers need to re-think their approach and focus on the following:

Great mobile experience throughout the whole journey:

As mobile bookings have risen 26.7 percent in 2017, the mobile promotion-to-booking process is the first thing that needs to be optimized.

It’s important to ensure that your app works well, is quick, and answers any queries about rooms, options, and choices quickly and effectively.

Prepare your digital story:

It is tough to tell your story in a digital world saturated with examples.

Hoteliers need to consider how to stand out, and possibly create a structured funnel of messages with the mission of first hooking the potential guest to the story and later revealing exciting details and curiosities that will finally lead to a booking conversion at the end.

An excellent way to approach this is by considering the possible emotions you should be addressing and creating the content to reflect those.

Digital content creation:

Hoteliers should consider how to motivate their guests by providing user-generated content to confirm their perceived value from a third party perspective.

Examples include giving relevant hashtags in the hotel (both permanent and trending), professional communication and management of social networks, and offering incentives to guests based on different activities online.

InterContinental (IHG), one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, for example, nailed their app and digital presence before focusing on other exciting technology applications for their business.

As a result, for the first time ever, it featured among the top 10 list of companies providing a great customer experience (according to a survey by KPMG’s Customer Experience Excellence Center).

“Embracing digital innovation is another key opportunity to enhance the customer experience by engaging and supporting our customers. IHG was the first hotel company to introduce apps on all major platforms, and using these apps, customers can book rooms, make changes to reservations, and indicate preference when they stay,” revealed Lisa Gunther, VP Global Brand Strategy and Planning, IHG.

The hotel has also always been extremely focused on creating inspiring content for its customers.

“InterContinental was also the first luxury hotel brand to have a worldwide podcast featuring ‘Stories of the InterContinental Life’ and this podcast was frequently downloaded by luxury travelers in the US,” added Gunther.

While there’s a strong (and growing) need for more technological sophistication in hotels, getting the first steps to digital success is important. Those who conquer this level can surge ahead with digital transformation projects that change the game and give them a strong competitive edge.

“Technology is increasingly being implemented to help simplify and enhance the hotel experience. As some of the key innovations in the airline and hotel sectors show, it is possible to bring fresh perspectives and new approaches to traditional travel experiences. As the pace of change increases across industries, those who fail to keep up might suffer,” concluded another report recently issued by KPMG Nunwood.