Attribute Based Shopping - A blessing or a bane?
— 11 experts shared their view
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While attribute based shopping has been discussed for over 10 years, the level of noise about its application for the hotel industry has significantly increased in the last 18 months. After significant investment in new systems and technology, companies like IHG are tipping their toes in the ABS waters. While some tout the great benefits (and revenues) expected by offering customers more choice, others take a more cautious approach, questioning the expected benefits and ROI. What is your take on ABS, will it do what it did for the Airline industry - boost ancillary revenues, or will it be the "3D TV" of Hotel Technology.
Co-Founder at TRAVHOTECH
I'm torn. In saying that I'm certain it will become mainstream because airlines have taught the customer this is a level of normal behavior. Although my personal position is that I feel it removes a level of hospitality and may bring about a race to the bottom. Hotels and resorts are not airlines.
What is an attribute? Is it an ancillary revenue item? Is it an item of inventory? Is it both? I've heard some speak about bed sizes, bathroom types, room locations. These have been part of the room matching experience technically since I began in the industry. We paid attention to the customer and kept the information on hand behind the scenes. We called it observing the guest and the art of anticipation - service. A cute term in today's self service mode. The intelligence to assign rooms accordingly is also old. The hotel is built once and you cannot effectively change the bedding configuration - hence the concept of a room type. Is WiFi an attribute? No intelligent hospitality technologist is going to build a campus WiFi solution for part of their inventory. It's there. It's already factored in to the cost of sale for the room. To attribute such a thing is a revenue gouge as compared to a customer choice. Perhaps WiFi that works is an attribute! I digress.
Technology has existed above and on property to facilitate this type of functionality for quite some time in PMS, CRS in real time and more importantly customer information and loyalty platforms.
If an 'attribute' is truly ancillary products that are not being leveraged or sold effectively today then I approve as this is a major gap for the industry. If it is picking and choosing and monetizing nuances the customer already receives as part of the hospitality product then I see it for what it is.
In speaking to a good friend close to this he suggested to me that it's about the inventorization of other products. It could be anything. Now we are talking! This, I am in favor of having a background of across operation sales platforms for all products. Everything in one location, inventorized and guaranteed. This means a consolidation and standardization of inventory, pricing and revenue structure and management throughout the distribution environment. Also a massive shift in pricing optimisation and the idea of what a hotel or resort product is. The entire offering. Not just rooms. Some significant technology shifts.....
It's in my view the only way forward to the next generation of hospitality operating platforms where operational processes and the guest experience become aligned. Rooms, Lifestyle elements, Transport, Retail items, Dining reservations, Transportation and third party products. From inventory. Real time. Guaranteed. This is what we always had in mind when dreamed of 'Build Your Own Package'.
To me, this is what represents 'attributes' by comparison to what has been known as Room Features. It requires a fundamental change in what a property/hotel/CRS/customer information, loyalty and booking platform means. If it told you that it exists today what would you say..?
Perhaps this is the catalyst to bring us to that utopian operating model!
Will it do what it did for the airline industry - increase sales of products they could not effectively sell before? Yes. The remaining question is how our industry will approach the 'products' we choose to sell. For the most part I'm only seeing focus on Rooms. A limited view that misses the boat on the real opportunity to grow revenue and increase choice for genuinely valuable products.