“After traveling all day, I especially love arriving at my hotel to wait in line just to check-in.” – said no traveler ever.
Connected consumerism and the influences of new technologies and services on human behavior disrupt markets. I refer to the evolution of technology and society as digital Darwinism. And, it is digital Darwinism that is at the heart disruption across so many once vibrant, “too big to fail” industries.
The hospitality industry is not exempt.
As technology and consumer behavior changes, so do the brands and experiences guests seek and value. Between 2017 and 2018, I partnered with Sabre to explore how digital Darwinism is affecting hospitality brands how progressive businesses are investing in digital transformation to excel.
While digital implies a technological approach, the power of digital transformation is in building brand agility and resilience in a transforming marketplace. The result of this year-long research project is now available in a new report, “Digital Transformation of the Guest Experience.” Here are some key takeways summarized for you.
A Blueprint for Modern Hotels to Cater to Modern Guests
In an era of Uber, Postmates, Tinder, the threshold for patience and even tolerance for waiting in line to check-in at a hotel is rapidly eroding when compared to the everyday convenience and immediacy of having an app deliver goods/services on-demand. For any modern traveler, it takes more than the little things to ease the stress of travel. And it takes more than attempts at innovation to meet their increasing standards and expectations for exceptional experiences before, during and after a stay.
Whether it’s business or personal, hospitality brands must realize that popular tech companies and the user-centered experiences they deliver, are raising the bar for guests in ways that challenge convention for every industry, especially hospitality. Digital Darwinism doesn’t differentiate. Modern guests don’t know or care to think about the reasons why you cannot provide guest experiences in the same ways that Uber, Airbnb, HotelTonight and others do.
The good news is that digital Darwinism favors those companies that try to understand the technological and human dynamics of their markets. Brands must invest in the digital transformation of guest experience to design and deliver an upgraded and modern guest journey through innovative technology and human facets. While you must consider how to keep up with or outdo traditional competitors, you must also consider that you also compete against on-demand startups and any app or online service that introduces modern services in modern ways. Ultimately the goal for hoteliers is to align their technology and guest experience (GX) strategies to exceed customer expectations, understanding what it is they value and why.
Market Challenges For Digital Darwinism
In our new study, we investigated the market challenges facing the industry—for both hoteliers and their customers. We interviewed hotel executives from around the world to better understand the technology, challenges and trends that factor into their guest experience strategy. The report will ultimately guide you in architecting the modern guest experience.
For example, in an interview with Josh Haddadi, Digital Solutions Manager at Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, he shared the importance of placing guests at the center of digital transformation.
“In everything we do, we always ask ‘How does this benefit the guest?’, and digital transformation is the same,” he said. “We want to keep the focus on the customer’s needs, not our needs.”
In an era of digital Darwinism, modern guests desire rich, immersive and one-on-one personalized experiences. And, they expect modern experiences across devices, channels and physical spaces in each moment that matters and throughout their entire journey. As times, tastes and trends change, you have to be willing to innovate and reimagine your value proposition. Always. You must take risks knowing that sometimes you will fail. But, overall, these failures will teach you, give you new experience and expertise and make your company and team stronger.
8 Steps to Deliver Modern Guest Experiences
The digital transformation of guest experiences takes just that — digital transformation. Modern technology to enable meaningful experiences at scale is in and of itself a value- add. Add high-touch to high-tech, and suddenly GX becomes an incredible competitive advantage.
Travel brands must now place modern and traditional guests at the center of all innovation and transformation strategies. To do so, decision makers must live the brand the way their customers live their favorite, modern brands.
1. Reimagine the guest journey as an infinity loop.
Prepare a digital transformation roadmap based on a guest journey that is organized by an infinity loop where one side is aimed at “attracting” guests and the other is focused on “retaining” them and earning their loyalty.
2. Plot key moments in the guest journey.
Organize the guest journey by each micro-moment: dreaming, planning, booking, and experiencing. Add to each respective section key transactional moments and touchpoints that will greet guests as they move from step to step. Articulate what modern guests are thinking and hoping for in each stage. Humanize it.
3. Map guest journeys via existing data and input.
Reconstruct the journey as aligned with the infinity loop. Document areas where you excel, identify friction points and fragmentation and uncover areas where you are absent or lacking against expectations of modern experiences and your brand promise.
4. Map customer journeys of external brands.
Map customer journeys of popular modern brands outside of hospitality to gain insights into behavior, preferences, wow factors and operations. Reverse-engineer insights and chart a course to implement them into your guest experience transformation roadmap.
5. Cross-channel journeys that prioritize personalization.
Digital transformation of GX builds from a single view of the guest and an integrated platform that engages them as an audience of one. Whether they’re on desktop computer, mobile phone, or navigating new voice-controlled IoT devices, messaging apps, smart watches or whatever’s next, modern guests expect native, intuitive and personalized engagement.
6. Explore what modern customers value.
Getting back to the roots of hospitality starts with putting people at the center of everything. People are different. Standards have changed. We can no longer take for granted legacy policies, processes and assumptions of guests. There is value to be delivered in every touch point, and that value lies in the eye of the beholder: the modern guest.
7. Blur the lines between digital and physical experiences.
Study the preferences and expectations of modern guests/customers, invite UX experts to the digital transformation table. UX philosophies and approaches can apply to both digital AND analog. In fact, it’s leading many traditional legacy brands to ctrl-alt-del dated design experiences.
8. Get organized!
It’s critical that the group prioritize efforts and divide and conquer based on ownership. Emphasize pilots to get quick learning and wins. Make sure to prove and communicate success to all stakeholders along the way.
Download the “Digital Transformation of Guest Experience” and develop a blueprint for modern guests today.