Competing for tomorrow’s international traveler.
Technology is an enabler for personalized brand experiences
Just a few years back most travelers hailed taxis by hand and scoured newspapers and magazines for vacation rentals while the employees handled a big chunk of the operations manually. While there are still travelers that prefer it the good old way more and more people prefer a personalized experience. It’s easy to lose perspective on just how much technology has shaped travel in such a short time but it has become evident that technology is an enabler to facilitate a more personal experience for both customers and employees [humans]. Some private hospitality and travel brands that started to find their legs in 2009 now sit side by side with the titans of hospitality thanks to this insight.
In this article, we will explore some of the technologies that have — and will shape the world of travel and hospitality.
Data collection has grown rapidly across most industries but can be used to great effect by the hospitality sector to provide a more personalized experience in all customer touchpoints. With the help of Big Data, travel agents could make intelligent destination recommendations, based on preferences, gender, age, budget, previous locations visited, etc. Big data allows businesses to identify trends and guest preferences, which can be used for revenue management purposes. If done right, this allows for a data-driven approach to pricing strategies and will enable stakeholders to get a better understanding of the current business performance and external influences that impact upon it.
The recent surge in AI research coincides with the advent of big data. AI’s ability to identify patterns and glean insights from data yields advantages to almost any industry. Year by year, AI continues to evolve to be able to observe and learn customer behavior and even perceive their needs.
Today’s most valuable application of Ai is the scraping of customer feedback to continuously improve customer experiences. Thus, using past experiences to shape future decisions. As stated in our previous blog post “Building Loyalty in the new world of Hospitality”, the importance of Ai capabilities within the hospitality industry depends on the hospitality companies ability to personalize the guest experience.
According to Oracle Hospitality 2025 report, 72% of hotel operators said providing targeted dining recommendations using AI would be mainstream by 2025. It becomes even more interesting when we look at what the guests believe according to the same report. 47 % of guests said AI-based promotions based on past behavior and preferences would improve their experience.
From the experience side of things, emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) provide almost endless possibilities. The technologies represent an opportunity to create new business opportunities by connecting guests to unique experiences and drive incremental revenue.
VR can be used throughout different stages of the customer journey, from the booking stage to the hotel stay itself. Imaging technology can showcase rooms to virtual reality users before they book and virtual experiences can be provided for local attractions also outside of the actual hotel — prolonging the brand experience.
AR is all about enhancing the real-world environment through information overlays. It could be used to find out information about a certain venue or specific locations, or why not getting customer reviews of local restaurants by just looking at the restaurant through the phone? Again, prolonging the brand experience. Fast Forward 15 years in time and Remi Walbaum’s (CIO at the hospitality management university EHL) vision of the future of hospitality seems spot on. Watch the video below.
According to Oracle’s Hospitality report, 62% of consumers said automated recognition using biometrics and facial recognition would enhance their experience, 41% would visit more often if hotels offered this service. 56% of consumers said locking and unlocking rooms using biometrics and facial recognition would enhance their experience. Ease of use, faster guest service, and improved security all bode well for the wide adoption of biometrics in the near future.
Biometrics uses distinctive characteristics, both physiological and behavioral, to identify individuals. Such seamless authentication has the potential of benefitting both processes and customer purchases. For the latter, biometrics is expected to have a profound impact on commerce, especially when it comes down to payment authentication.
Facial recognition, which is the analysis of facial characteristics, is also a form of biometrics. Use of facial recognition will likely become widespread as well but will face harsher privacy concerns as it is designed to operate without the knowledge of the person being identified. Especially in Europe and the United States.
In China, however, Alibaba and Marriott International have already started making traveling easier by allowing facial recognition check-ins. Guests can book hotel rooms through Marriot’s flagship store on Fliggy, Alibaba’s online travel platform. The deposit and room fees are automatically charged to their Alipay account, and when they arrive at the hotel they can use a kiosk powered by Alibaba’s facial-recognition technology. No more waiting in lines.
Read more about the joint venture in South China Morning Post.
The terminology encompasses all kinds of electronic technologies or computers that are part of accessories/clothing or that could be worn on the body. Wearable tech is on the rise as it could enhance the feeling of autonomy and control for the guests and staff. It has the potential of providing users with data-input capabilities and real-time access to info in a seamless fashion. Hospitality companies could use the devices to gain valuable insights about guests behavior and preferences. E.g. it could be used to monitor the guests’ use of amenities and services, and even keep track of when and where purchases were made. Hands-free tasks afforded by wearables could improve response time and generate a more detailed record-keeping. Busy employees could receive notifications via wearables letting them know when meals and drinks are ready for pick up or when guests need attention.
A company that does this well is Walt Disney World Resort that is already taking full advantage of the wearable technology to analyze guests’ paying patterns. This information is then used to improve their inventory management and reduce waste.
E.g. devices and systems controlled by the human voice, has improved significantly in the past few years. Voice-activated digital assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo are widely available so people are already getting used to the idea of voice activation/recognition. Many guests believe that voice-activated controls for lights, air conditioning, and room devices would enhance the guest experience.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT involves extending internet connectivity to everyday objects, devices, and appliances. These devices can collect data and communicate or interact over the internet, turning previously unintelligent devices into ‘smart’ devices, which are often semi or fully autonomous. There are quite a few examples of how this is being used within the hospitality sector. Many thermostats e.g. are used to automatically adjust room temperatures at check-in and check-out times or responding to temperature swings caused by good weather. The same goes for lighting where light intensity can be changed during daylight hours. There are plenty of other uses such as the one in the video below. Pretty futuristic — but it’s already here.
This article is written by Jonas Johansson and Alexander Niléhn of BBH Stockholm.
When technology becomes commoditized, the quality of experience becomes the key differentiating factor. Jonas works with ensuring the quality of experiences by pairing it with great technology. He is responsible for the technical delivery at BBH and leads a team of developers that deliver unique solutions for clients such as Volvo cars, Swedish armed forces, Panini Internazionale and Bokus.
With a palette of BBH capabilities and service offerings at his hands, Alexander guides brands through the first steps in the process of creating change that matters. Want to learn more about how BBH can help you and your brand in building engagement and brand experiences? Contact him here.