We are living in the age of the experience economy, where customers pay for memorable experiences not just a room in a hotel. Millennials, today comprise the largest travel-spending segment including business and leisure. A study by Harris group found that 72% millennials prefer spending on experiences rather than on things. While the guests have certainly made a move in raising the bar on their expectations, the hospitality industry is still figuring out this new paradigm of immersive travel experiences.
In an endeavor to personalize guest experiences, Hotels who are ahead of the curve, have started putting together the “360 degree view” of their customers. Yes, we all understand the importance of having a 360 degree view of one’s customers, and to this end, organizations are diligently collecting customer data from most customer touchpoints (if not all) to generate this view. But the question remains, what are they doing with this data? In order to really offer an immersive experience, hotels should be able to leverage the 360 degree customer view to understand guest preferences, likes and dislikes and then put forward a deal, a recommendation or even a notification, at the right moment, that will be of value to the guest and will enhance his/her experience.
The experience could extend beyond the hotel premises – For example, it could extend into a larger ecosystem which offers personalized choice of activities. For example, Equinox Fitness along with its Hotel chain Renaissance in partnership with Sports clubs is already creating such experiences. Similarly, the relatively new Virgin Hotels offer a personalized comfort system, and expand their loyalty programs across wine clubs, sports, airlines and much more.
Even cruise lines have begun investing in Smart ships. However, data silos, within, still act as bottlenecks to capture data pre- board, on board and post cruise, limiting personalization. As new technologies evolve, the cruise line industry can become a game changer in delivering exceptional travel experiences. Carnival Cruises have already begun this journey through their Medallion innovation, a wearable device that tracks all the activities of the guests This innovation not only substantially reduces the long and frustrating embarkation process (to a breeze!) but also simplifies the purchase process by connecting the credit cards with the, always on, wearable medallion device. It is because the cruise line has a captive guest onboard that it is lucrative to personalize and cross sell/ up sell to delight them and build loyalty while they enjoy their vacation away from the world.
To build upon long term loyalty besides point-based programs, what else can a hotel offer to create a world class experience such that guests are bound to come back again and again? Loyalty programs are just not exciting enough, anymore! The underlining issue and solution lies in “Bridging the Personalization Gap”. Each customer is unique and has unique needs and how we cater to those needs by personalization is what will lead to brand loyalty.
An industry which has done very well in rewarding loyalty, is the credit card industry. The credit card industry has gone ahead to analyze data across multiple sources, creating the truly genuine customer persona leveraging data science and machine learning. This has enabled real-time upsell and cross- sell opportunities creating a large revenue stream based on loyalty. An example is the Chase Sapphire card which is leading the way in travel rewards, based on loyalty. The card is built to purchase travel, and reward those who travel more. Sapphire analyses data points like, how much customers spend on travel, which segment of travel they spend the most on, most purchased destinations etc. This data creates the most profitable opportunities for hospitality organizations. Chase, then, personalizes travel experiences through travel rewards. This is by offering personalized itineraries, alerts, and real-time cash-back rewards.
Of course, we cannot leave out Amazon. The ecommerce giant attributes up to 35% of its revenue to cross-selling. Amazon is ahead in offering the best customer experience because it has bridged the gap between data and personalization.
Customers today are interested in upgrades and additional services. They would rather shop in one place and get the most of their time. Because remember, customers today are focused on experience. So does the hospitality industry offer the convenience and attractiveness of an ecommerce purchase experience?
The future of the experience economy is AI or “responsible Automated Intelligence” as the CTO of Bank of America puts it. Bots are always on and present. Bots are also less expensive to maintain than apps and can reside in other platforms namely Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp etc. Chat bots are the most common bots utilized today to extend conversations with customers and can offer personalized experiences. For example, a friend bot could check out the anniversary date of a newly married couple on Facebook and gift a champagne bottle to them while they enjoy their cruise vacation onboard. Yet another example is of a bot booking a spa appointment for a guest while she is on her way back from work, based on a chat request.
Adding customer-facing bots, can truly create a rewarding experience. Imagine landing on a cruise booking page. The cruise line website bot could follow your persona’s journey through your profile and offer flights from your home city to that of the embarkation port with logistics information from airport to port. It could notify “Uber” like service about the number of passengers landing at a certain time at the airport to transport them to the cruise embarkation port. The pull and push notifications could be shared by the bot on your mobile, social media or your friends’ group traveling with you. It is also important to integrate the various channels that customers use, to provide an omni-channel experience ensuring guests receive more than they expect.
The best experiences in hospitality are formed by technology monitored by humans. Mindtree has come up with a compelling offering “Connected Traveler” that helps the hospitality industry ‘bridge the personalization gap’. It is a cloud-based solution built using Big Data, Machine Learning and AI components with hospitality specific data model which integrates into all existing systems in a hospitality company. Through a simple yet modern architecture, the Connected Traveler platform captures customer data to uniquely create personas based on demographic, transactional and behavioral data. Once the 360 degree customer foundation is laid, then the persona engine kicks in.
The persona engine delivers personalized experience to each customer based on:
The Connected Traveler platform also provides analytics around the customer journey that can lead to the delivery of customized offers and recommendations to enhance the customer experience and build brand loyalty
If your hospitality brand is exploring solutions to ‘Bridge the Personalization Gap’, then write to email@example.com. Learn more about our Connected Traveler offering that elevates customer omni -channel experience through micro targeting and context weighted personalization.
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