Generation Alpha, also known as the "digital natives," is the first generation to be born and raised in a fully phygital world. This poses a challenge for marketers especially in our industry, as traditional advertising methods may not be as effective for this demographic. With advancements in technology leading to extended worlds that are almost indistinguishable from reality, companies will have to adapt their marketing strategies in order to reach the travelers and consumers of the future. The hospitality industry is at a crossroads, as it will either be a leader in adapting to this new landscape or fall behind. The question remains: how can hotels effectively market themselves to this new generation of tech-savvy, crypto/metaverse-native travelers of tomorrow?
"The medium is the message!" as Marshall McLuhan coined six decades ago. In this case, the underlying message of establishing a metaverse presence is that a hotel brand is forward-thinking and is engineering its products to fit the mindset of Gen Y+Z+Alpha. That said, brands have to actually deliver.
Digitally fluent customers are incredibly savvy and can sniff out half measures. You have to commit, not only to continually upgrading the technology, but also to appeasing the unique demands and social values of these generations.
For instance, younger travelers care immensely about the environment and climate change, so how can you use the metaverse to dynamically showcase your efforts to facilitate eco-friendly travel or reduce food miles+waste? Related to this, the metaverse is also a great medium to advocate for your neighborhood partners (feeding the demand for authentically local experiences) or promote your new wellness offerings (another burgeoning trend).
Hence, it's not just the medium but the message you put behind it. The metaverse is yet one more channel for customer education, with the asterisk being that your brand must actually be doing things that these younger customers want to be educated on.
The Metaverse provides the opportunity for people to travel who normally could not afford to travel as much. The middle class is able to visit the most incredible places through virtual reality experiences that bring joy and wonder.
Hotels are in the business of selling escapism, they are places we go to run away from our day to day, the more disconnected from our reality we feel there, the better.
I see the Metaverse as a perfect playground for hotels to imagine experiences that transport people outside of their daily lives and into a different world. If the person gets out of the experience feeling like for a moment they were somewhere else, and they feel recharged and inspired like after a holiday, then it is a win.
Hotels have a huge role to play in improving people's lives and inspiring them in the physical world, and that same role can be played in the Metaverse. This will breed brand loyalty.
The rise of the Metaverse presents exciting possibilities for the travel and hospitality industry. Businesses can use the Metaverse for advertising, immersive e-commerce experiences, and B2A marketing. One effective strategy is to leverage avatars as native advertising, as demonstrated by companies such as Tommy Hilfiger or Deliveroo.
Another way hospitality companies can experiment in the Metaverse is by advertising on gaming platforms like Roblox. This way, they can reach their target audience without investing heavily in building their own twins.
In-game or in-Metaverse virtual billboards can also be created to promote products and services, especially in virtual worlds where users are already engaged. Brands like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, and Nike, moreover, have already taken advantage of selling NFTs and digital-first clothing and accessories. This could indicate exciting opportunities for the broader business landscape.
Field of Dreams' "If you build it, they will come" philosophy is not necessarily the way to go for hotels trying to step into the Metaverse. IMHO, the most profitable approach to monetizing the Metaverse in the hospitality industry is not by constructing digital twins but through advertising in already established virtual worlds.
Some of the major challenges and opportunities, in general, regarding marketing to Generation Alpha digital natives, are entirely focused around engagement first and loyalty second.
Key Point - This massive and lucrative emerging cohort of consumers are looking for "experiences" not just "things", they live their lives phygitally, make buying decisions in seconds, and are highly motivated to share potentially viral brand/product purchase recommendations to their peers.
web3, blockchain, immersive AR / VR, and metaverse digital solutions, are the new must-have marketing and engagement tools to leverage and fully incorporate into your overall marketing toolkit, for travel and hotel brands and destinations, looking to capture market share and drive growth.
Clear opportunities and strategies to truly establish powerful and impactfully memorable engagement with these next-gen guests/passengers and patrons are being delivered today by the incorporation of immersive and most importantly, shareable ( viral?) pre-experience marketing activations via AR and VR, which drive home the "why" to select a hotel, destination or hospitality experience. Additionally, the seamless ability to enable digital native guests to impactfully share their post-hotel or travel destination experiences and build loyal communities via metaverse brand hubs, are key motivators to their buying decisions in the first place.
The hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to reach the next generation of travelers, Generation Alpha, by establishing a presence in the Metaverse.
This year, the oldest members of Generation Alpha are turning 13 years old and will become eligible to use virtual reality (VR) headsets and immersive social platforms such as VRChat. This generation is considered to be the first truly digital natives and is expected to significantly impact the hospitality industry due to their strong influence on family travel decisions.
To reach this demographic, hospitality brands can create cost-effective immersive digital experiences within popular Metaverse platforms, leveraging the larger user base and existing infrastructure. These experiences could include virtual tours or events and loyalty programs that offer rewards and incentives for visitors of their virtual properties.
This investment will not only help attract and retain this demographic's attention, but it will also set a new standard for the industry and provide a competitive advantage in the long run. The hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to lead the way in the Metaverse, and it is up to brands to take advantage of this opportunity and reach the future generation of travelers.
The question reminded me of the clip of Keanu Reeves's interview with The Verge (https://outsider.com/entertainment/keanu-reeves-explaining-matrix-teens/). It said all about the gen Alpha. They value the virtual equally as the real thing! Thus, it's time for hotels to start understanding the value of virtual experience.
The rise of Generation Alpha presents a significant challenge for the hospitality industry. To stay relevant and attract this tech-savvy customer base, hotels must adapt to meet their evolving needs and preferences.
One effective strategy is to create immersive, interactive experiences for guests that showcase the property's offerings and provide a glimpse of what a stay might be like. Another approach is to embrace NFTs (as done by Vision Studio S.r.l.) or cryptocurrency reward systems to make a stay at a hotel feel like a new adventure. By blending physical and digital elements in a phygital experience, hotels can offer customers the best of both worlds - the unique, cutting-edge experiences they crave, combined with cultural, heritage and traditions that are so important to them as much as the values of these decades such as sustainability and social responsibility.
Ultimately, the goal of hotels in the digital age should be to bring a touch of magic and uniqueness to the guest experience, while staying true to the authentic and unforgettable aspects of the hospitality industry. By embracing new technologies and strategies, hotels can remain relevant and continue to live up to the dreams and aspirations of their customers.
Web3 offers more focused data than web2, showing the combined buying behavior of every single user while keeping their privacy hidden behind a wallet they may or may not want to reveal.
This can be leveraged to create advanced customer journeys and loyalty programs, even targeting customers of your competitors.
Imagine you as a hotel create an experience where people can explore your hotel, and collect points, which they can use to attend a special event of their choice inside your hotel - a concert? E-sport tournament? Conference? All this with global reach and ways to follow up as needed because you can always access the data.
Partnerships, influencers, and creative experiences will be the key focus.
To navigate the coexistence of Web 2.0 and Web3, we must consider the transitional phase and understand Gen Z's attitudes towards tech. The Consumer Metaverse chart highlights the potential of three phases of growth. Using Web 2.0 for Drive-To-Metaverse campaigns and Web3 for experiences and services may be an effective marketing strategy. It's essential to understand upcoming generations' needs and preferences to create a better future for all.
Today more than ever, Hotels need to embrace innovation and new technologies if they want to truly compete vs OTA or similar platforms.
Marketing strategies are critical to position your brand and attract specific customer targets but, in order to create a sustainable advantage against competition, it is better to focus more on products and services offered rather than just on marketing strategies.
Advertising indeed is very expensive and quite standard nowadays and so it is better to differentiate with new solutions that can be less expensive and can bring a true competitive advantage.
How can you do that? Better CX for booking on the direct channel, better and value-adding ancillary services, leaner check-in/check-out procedures, better pre/ post-stay experiences and so on.
Rather than a pure marketing strategy, it's a matter of innovating your value proposition not to fall behind (less money, more value).
Dear reader, I am sure you are aware that a big part of your soon-to-be paying guests value more the virtual environment they access to hang out with their global friends than the all-inclusive holiday destination with random real people their parents want to take them to. Even more, they are not paying attention to the traditional advertisement channels used in hospitality.
The metaverse present new challenges for hotels. Incorporating elements of this upcoming revolution into your traditional business is now a must:
- Do you offer high speed internet access in ALL areas of your hotel? (please check below the parasol) Essential to keep families “together”;
- Are you thinking on offering basic pre-arrival customisation options for your most expensive rooms using virtual technologies?
- Where is the meeting point in the metaverse for younger guests to interact with each other whilst staying at your hotel?
- How are you rewarding guests uploading screenshots of your hotel pool with stickers / AR filters on it, tagging your hotel on social media? Wait, you were not doing this?
Technology adoption is faster than we have ever seen. Start with the lower cost alternatives and seek help for inspiration!