Industry Update
Opinion Article31 January 2017

Mind The Gap: Why Hotels Need To Address the Whole Guest Lifecycle With Digital

The Disruption of Digital… And Why It Can't Be Ignored

By Ilona Gyöngy dr. Váradi, Co-founder of App4Guests

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dr. Váradi

The hospitality industry has experienced many shifts across the years. Yet, to date, nothing has disrupted the industry quite as forcefully as the digital revolution.

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The explosion of the internet has resulted in a customer base 'plugged in' to more information and options than ever before. And the result is a challenge for hoteliers.

Guest expectations have never been higher, attention spans never shorter. The battle to maintain the very essence of the hospitality industry- ownership of the guest experience – has never been tougher.

Managing the customer experience, creating loyalty to your brand remains the most important goal. Yet, in this era of digital disruption, only the smartest players, those open to innovation using digital to their benefit, will survive.

A Competitive Landscape

From hotel reviews to price and service comparisons, guests now have a wealth of options to manage the way they travel. According to Accenture Global Pulse Research, 66% of customers use the internet to consider several hotels before booking, with 93% of travellers reporting that their booking decisions are impacted by online reviews.

The plethora of innovative new services, apps and websites appearing within the hospitality and travel space over the past few years illustrate how easy it can be to direct guest attention away from their hotel. City and restaurant review sites, chauffeur services and mobile entertainment sites all work along with third-party booking sites to distract the guest from what needs to be their main focus: the hotel.

In addition, expectations of digital services provided during a stay continue to grow. At base, 82% of guests insist that in-room WIFI is essential to their comfort. More, however, is expected.

What Guests Want: The New Customer Expectation

So, what is the effect of the explosion of technology and new, external digital services on customer expectation?

To put it simply, guests now expect much more.

With 75% of the population as mobile phone owners, guests are now connected 24/7. And they expect their hotel to be also. If their hotel cannot offer them immediate gratification – be it top range technology, resolution of problems, answers to questions, or options for services, then they only need to click to go elsewhere.

A Peek into Current Hotel Digital Offerings

A growing number of hotels have begun to employ digital strategies, including personalised communication platforms to address the new wave of customer expectation.

The key question is whether these products are rising to the challenge of meeting both guest and hotel need?

Currently we're seeing in-room tablets, offering entertainment, direct messaging to hotel staff, offers and immediate booking for hotel facilities. Even 'on loan' mobile phones, kept by the guest for the duration of their stay, so they can contact the hotel even when they are offsite.

At the front and back end of the guest experience, we have a huge improvement in social media presence, content marketing and email campaigns, encouraging guest engagement and brand loyalty.

But is this enough? Sure, the current mobile technology addresses communication and service need within the guest's physical stay. The marketing reaches them before and after their vacation, but what appears to be lacking is a sense of cohesiveness, but a huge gap for competitors to distract and poach customers beyond their stay remains.

A Comprehensive Solution

Dream > Select > Book > Prepare > Stay > Share > Rebook

What's required is a single digital offering that carries the guest through the entire experience, offering them customized service, immediate communication and opportunities for engagement from the moment of booking to well after their stay.

The only way this can be achieved is by using something that the guest will have - in the palm of their hand – throughout the whole experience: Their own mobile device.

Ilona Gyöngy dr. Váradi

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