How In-hotel Location Data Can Transform The Guest Experience
By Prachi Gupta, Tech Blogger
There was a time when customers were mainly interested in value for money. But that time is long gone. The focus today is on the total experience - starting from finding and browsing your website to keeping communication channels open even after the bill has been settled. There may be a ton of information about your hotel out there - but the real question is - how much of it is really relevant to the guest looking for it?
It is no longer enough to know that a guest has stayed with you before; a finer understanding of the behavior of each market segment is required for those hoping to attract the most loyal patrons. At its best, this means offering each guest a personalized encounter at every touch point. Don't get me wrong - this does not imply some kind of service by an intelligent robot at all points of contact (though we may get there soon enough), but providing each guest with relevant and contextual information at the right place and the right time.
Get Up, Close And Personal With Your Clientele
One of the easiest ways to collect data on your customers is through the use of location based technologies. The information gleaned in this way will be combined with other sources of data to paint an accurate and comprehensive picture of those who frequent your business - whether it's through an individual, market segment or global lens. While this has been done for years, technology (especially location sensing) now makes it possible to implement it in a way that directly impacts the bottom line.
Just as e-commerce went through a drastic change when Big Data became a prominent factor in its operations, the hospitality landscape will also undergo a massive shift in the way it conducts its day to day operations.
As it stands, there exists a cozy and mutually beneficial relationship between search engines, social media, online advertisers and e-retailers even if customer-specific data doesn't flow directly between the various players. If there is anything to be learned from the current state of the art in that context, it is that cross-selling or upselling can actually be harmful to both your brand and your profits if you send offers or messages that are irrelevant. Because when it comes to cross-selling, timing is crucial. For instance, promoting too many general offers can annoy guests and lead them to opt-out of your WiFi services. On the other hand, if a hotel knows a couple is on their honeymoon, offering to arrange a romantic tour or private dinner reservation is likely to be considered.
It would be wise to remember that a hotel and its guests could have different priorities and therefore it becomes important that you find that sweet spot, the one that will satisfy both parties.
It should be clearly understood that simply possessing data is of no use whatsoever. To use an analogy - let's say you have the collected works of Shakespeare adorning your bookshelf but you don't know how to speak even a word of English. That is to say, without a proper way to analyse your data, you will not gain any useful insights into the behavior patterns of your guests. Unless you know which elements lead people to book with you instead of your competitor, and what behaviors and characteristics are common among guests who spend extra, you won't be in a position to present targeted offers or deliver effective personalized messages.
There's Always Room For Guests But Never For Guesstimates
Serving guests will be all about anticipating their needs and that can be done best if you have accurate and measurable data, not guesstimates. While hotel management might think they are already on top of their guests' movement patterns, having statistical data available is far more superior to impressions gathered through occasional observation. Just by having your customers login to your hotel's guest Wifi, you can tell when they enter or leave an area, how long they tend to stay, what the peak periods are for various amenities, whether people linger at a certain location or pass it by, and much much more.
Information like this allows better staffing decisions and can even be used to respond to issues the moment they arise. For instance, location data can automatically alert management to unusual clusters of guests in public areas, which may indicate an incident that needs to be immediately responded to. Pain points, such as long waits to check in, or a gym that's overcrowded at certain times, can be identified and dealt with immediately. In other words, you can avert all kinds of negative feedback. The ultimate goal is to promote revenue centers on your property, without compromising the customer experience.
Many hotel chains like IHG and Hilton are already upping their game by capitalizing on location based technologies. If you are worried about incurring additional infrastructure costs, don't be. Because they are next to nil. You can leverage your existing WiFi infrastructure to send personalized offers and messages to your guests and elevate their overall experience.
A 360 Degree View of Your Hospitality Business
The loyalty of a frequent traveler tends to lie not just with a single establishment but to the brand as a whole. Knowing how much time someone spends in the lobby bar or who tends to eat at the hotel restaurant or steps out at nights, can help to improve marketing campaigns and send targeted promotions and VIP offers. In this sense, hotel groups or chains are likely to benefit more from analytics and location data than single establishments.
Chains which operate several similar properties will also be able to compare metrics between them to identify problems and potential improvements. Location data is just one facet of business intelligence, and if seamlessly integrated with your loyalty program and social media strategy, you have no idea where it can catapult your business.
Adopting an enhanced analytic capability will lead to a change in how you calculate your ADRs, ARRs and GOPs. You'll need a new model to evaluate room rate yields and associated offers. You may need to re-examine how you look at your total revenue yield because very soon you're not going to be calculating it on the basis of room rates alone. You'll need to factor in the overall value of a guest.
The use of location data is still gathering momentum. It's still uncertain what kind of epic shifts it will undergo in future. For this reason, it's highly recommended that any hotel chain chooses a forward thinking technology partner that will not only satisfy the needs you have today, but can also embrace emerging trends and technologies as they become available. What is certain however, as shown by the experiences of early adopters, is that the use of location based technologies will soon be an essential tool for not only maximizing internal efficiencies, but for providing the best possible experience to both new and frequent guests.