Digitalization is among the most important changes happening in our rapidly evolving world. We are currently talking about the fourth industrial revolution that is completely changing the way we live, work and interact with each other. Indeed, intelligent robots, Internet of things or self-driving cars were nothing more than science fiction a few years ago – they are our reality today. Driven by a new segment of tech-savvy travelers, this revolution impacts the hospitality and tourism businesses.

According to recent studies, 1.3 billions people travelled around the world in 2017, growing 7% year-on-year, the strongest in seven years and it is expected to keep rising. As this is happening, the Industry needs to adapt to emerging consumer and business trends. It is understood that travelers’ needs and consumption expectations are changing due to the omnipresence of digital tools in their everyday life, at every stage of their travel process. With a growing competition and new innovative players entering the market with lower prices, new offerings and higher levels of customization, customers are expecting an increasingly personalized experience. ​

4 questions you should have in mind

Here are four questions you should ask yourself today: ​

– Are you already offering the right experience to satisfy your customers, your employees and your
whole organization?​
– Are you taking advantage of the data you gather and the cutting-edge technologies available today?​
– Are you investing in the right areas to adapt to arising trends and new customers expectations?​
– Are you ready to challenge yourself to succeed?​

Digital disruption is radically reshaping all industries and hospitality providers are facing new challenges to remain competitive, retain existing customers and attract a new generation of travelers. In this article, we highlight the key elements hospitality businesses should be focusing on to best adapt to this new digitalized world.

Technology has change the way we live. It is now shaping the future of the industry by offering new ways to deliver seamless and frictionless travel experience throughout the whole journey. ​

Tech-savvy travelers are in a constant search for unique experiences. They are perceiving technology as a way to facilitate and enhance their travel process, from the beginning to the end. If millennials are expected to become the primary consumer segment bringing along new standards inspired from their preferences and lifestyle, they are not the only target for the Industry. Indeed, just like millennials, today’s travelers make on-the-spot decision and expect from services providers. ​

Surrounded by all the devices they own, mobile phone is becoming prominent in their customer journey, as well as other connected devices they use in their everyday life. They tend to use their smartphone more and more when planning trips and searching for information, when booking, and then when traveling. They expect hospitality providers to follow new technology trends and adapt their services to offer innovative – mobile-ready – solutions. This will enhance and facilitate the travel experience.

These highly connected travelers are currently having a major impact on the industry because their spendings for travel are among the most important of all segments.​

Despite the efforts made to meet their expectations, tech-savvy travelers still encounter several friction points when they travel:​

– Limited mobile solutions forces them to use different devices during the booking process.

– Access to information still requires to connect too many sources. ​

– Waiting time during their travel is yet to be optimized.

– Standardization and lack of personalization create frustration and disappointment.

 ​It is critical for hospitality providers to rethink their services and address the pain points encountered with a more connected and personalized customer journey.

In today’s highly competitive market, the core of digital transformation is to provide an unforgettable guest experience to increase guests’ return and advocacy. Hospitality providers who offer higher level of personalization stand out amongst their ever-growing competition. Indeed, by understanding customers’ individual expectations, they can increase the quality of both on-site and off-site experiences, hence augmenting customers willingness to return. This journey takes place in line with a customer-centric approach and a data-driven marketing, delivering a consistent experience across engagement channels.​

Using data-driven insights helps organizations make better decisions in real time.

It improves their understanding of their customers, accelerates their time to market and creates new opportunities at every engagement stages. It enables hyper-personalization and leads to a more accurate and dynamic market segmentation and audience definition. Overall, the main benefit of a customer-centric engagement and data-driven marketing is a higher guest satisfaction and a more efficient business management.

In today’s multi-channel world, building a strong customer engagement remains one of the most important strategies for success.

Today’s travelers can be reached through several touch points across many channels, yet it is vital to understand how they engage through the entire journey to create a consistent experience across these channels. Whether they engage in face to face, via phone, email or social media, it is key to be able to identify the customers and engage with them based on their past interactions. An efficient omni-channel strategy connects every customer touchpoints and unifies the customer data. It is often challenging to keep up with the lifestyle of the modern travelers but offering a seamless navigation across different channels and devices increases bookings and satisfaction. ​

Consolidate customer data: Customer 360 & Omnichannel strategy

Innovative platforms and new technologies are designed to enhance customers relationships and engage them throughout the whole customer journey.

To handle data management and support an omnichannel strategy, Salesforce announced during Dreamforce 2018 a new solution called Customer 360: a new platform that connects Salesforce Cloud solutions and creates a single and unified view of every customer. It brings together data that is traditionally stored in silos by the Sales, Marketing or Support Teams and unifies messages across all their interactions.

The benefit is for both travellers asking for more relevant interactions, and hospitality providers who are trying to boost their performance and drive customer loyalty.

Yet, gathering and consolidating the right data is only a step toward a better customer engagement. Customer-centric strategy combined with new cloud-based technologies really enable businesses to go much further in their ability to offer the right experience while optimizing their revenue and customer loyalty. ​

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are technologies that can really help you get the most out of your data to accelerate sales cycles and free time up for your employees so they can focus on delivering exceptional customer service. Powered by huge amounts of data, these technologies have the particularity to collect even more valuable insights about customers and take automated actions or offer meaningful tips and guidance to your sales and service teams.

Salesforce Einstein makes the entire Customer Success Platform smarter, so every function — from sales and service to marketing and commerce — benefits from AI-powered CRM. Such solution will help you identify sales opportunities faster, provide intelligent and automated customer service, drive commerce with smart recommendations and more. It will basically help any business get the most out of their data, while positively impacting both customers and internal staff.

When it comes to data, the new promising technology that comes in mind is Blockchain. Designed to store, share and access information, Blockchain is a form of distributed ledger expected to bring better transparency and security.

It is slowly becoming one of the most promising digital technology that will transform the Travel Industry because of it’s capability to connect customers and businesses directly, minimizing intermediaries, friction and corruption. Still in the experimental phase for the sector, it is expected to be an asset for any Industry where customer information is continuously exchanged between different companies that hold the data in silos.

Blockchain has the power to streamline the processes and ameliorate the communication between the stakeholders, resulting in a simpler experience for all. Expected to enhance customer service, experience and foster engagement, Blockchain is often related to traveler identity verification at check-in counters and secure or traceable travel payments that avoid the risk of fraud.

Let’s dive into 4 specific use-cases…

Simplify Customer Loyalty Programs:

Loyalty programs is a strategic investments for businesses. Indeed, acquiring new customers is important, but it costs five times more than retaining them. Many companies within the Industry are offering loyalty programs to encourage returning guests. Blockchain is making the process easier, allowing customers to access their points easily. Furthermore, the new trend for these loyalty schemes is to develop multi-brand platforms or partnering programs to give customers more flexibility. Blockchain has to power to simplify the process, allowing customers to access and redeem their points easily across any brand, in a highly secured way. Not only beneficial for customers, these multi-brand partner schemes are also a great opportunity for brands. Indeed, when silos are eliminated, they can dispose of a broader access of customer data collected by other companies. ​

Improve Baggage tracking:

 Travelling often comes with luggage issues and it is every traveler’s worst nightmare. That is why Blockchain is expected to become extremely valuable for baggage tracking as it has the capability to track the exact location throughout the whole journey, no matter how many stakeholders handle the luggage.

Provide Insurance for flight delays:

Smart Contract Technology is making travel insurance more efficient, help reinforce the trust between stakeholders and reduces the case of fraud. AXA, a French multinational insurance company, launched Fizzy, a new insurance product using smart contracts to determine whether customers are eligible to compensation in case of flights delay and simplifies the verification process before indemnification. With this new product (in the test phase for flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle and the United States), compensation is made automatic and immediate and the coverage more transparent as you know directly how much you will be reimbursed in case the flight is delayed more than two hours.  ​

Enable Mobility as a Service:

Powered by a smart use of customer data, the future of mobility is devices and services all connected beyond your imagination. With the rise of MAAS, transportation is made easier and more efficient by combining separate transport methods into one single platform, removing the inconvenience of planning and making multiple research for trip and payments across many different platforms. Blockchain has the power to support the development of MAAS making mobility services more interoperable, traceable and transparent for both businesses and customers.

Usually, businesses are slower to implement new technologies than consumer are to embrace them. This explains the noticeable disparity between the new technologies guests use on a daily basis and those they encounter when traveling. As a matter of fact, we note a strong interest for smart rooms with adaptable features and options, but this is far from being the norm within the Hotel Industry. ​

If delivering on what will very soon be the new standards should be priority #1, there are opportunities to go beyond customers’ expectations. Imagine a world where you could simply request to change the temperature in your hotel room or order food, just by talking to a smart assistant such as Siri from Apple or Alexa from Amazon. Imagine a world where your smartphone could turn into your digital door key. A world where you could do both your check-in and check-out from your mobile. And now imagine a world where all this data could be securely stored and compliantly used, so that preferences and past experiences could be remembered and dynamically used for future interactions! Well, with the right technologies, this is already possible today! ​

A mix of new technologies including IoT, Bots, Biometrics and Artificial Intelligence have been designed to facilitate guests experience and let them enjoy their vacation or business trips as much as possible.

The power of a platform such as Salesforce is to offer all of these innovations in a simple way, enabling hospitality providers to take real advantage of them today. It helps them offer a really personalized experience that keeps improving as the customer evolves and interacts with their solutions and services. It also supports their sales and service agents to connect with customers easily, knowing all they need to know about them so they can anticipate their needs and personalize their offerings according to their preferences or past experiences. ​

Investing in such new technologies allows businesses to address their customers’ needs for personalization. And it is still one of the most effective way to differentiate and be remembered through a real sensitive experience that makes you stand out from the competition.

Along with an excellent customer service, hospitality providers are constantly being challenged to boost their performance, optimize their investments and improve their day-to-day business operations to increase their bottom line. Based on advanced predictive analytics algorithm, reporting tools and dashboards, Salesforce enables business to track their performance closely and make strategic decision based on reliable insights. Such platform helps monitor productivity with a unified view of the performances across all activities and allow Sales and Management to review activity and ensure KPIs are being met.​

Staffing is also an important consideration when it comes to managing resources. Due to constant demand fluctuation, it is essential to collect and analyse data to make predictions and be able to face the unexpected. The role of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence or Automation is to help management meet their staffing requirements by tracking trends, or even take-on human functions to let sales assistant stay focused on providing excellent customer service. Technology has the power to take care of repetitive task that can easily be automated, eliminating time consuming tasks or processes, hence optimizing costs and resources allocation.​

In a constant search for efficiency, revenue management is also fundamental for maximizing profitability. To do so, businesses need to ensure they maximize the match between what they offer and where the demand is. Being able to predict consumer demand to optimize inventory and pricing strategy will certainly lead to revenue growth. The first industry that started mastering this flexible and dynamic model is the Airline industry, but it does apply to Hotels, car rental companies or even restaurants. ​

Bringing your processes and operations into Salesforce provides a better tracking of the efficiency of your operations and enhances collaboration within your teams. It can also measure customers’ feelings towards offered services, from various touch points and in Real-Time. With compelling data management and Artificial Intelligence, the Salesforce platform helps business to adjust and make improvements to their offers and services as needed, in order to adapt rapidly and maximize business opportunities. ​

Overall, the use of new technologies leads to more productivity and creates a competitive advantage, positively impacting the quality of the service provided and the customer experience. It is a great way to collect and leverage relevant data to better understand your customers and maximize your profits.

It is clear now that tech-savvy customers are paving the way. In a constant search for a fully personalized experience and more connected services, it is crucial for businesses to truly become customer-centric and innovate thoughtfully to remain competitive or even better, gain competitive advantage.

Keep in mind that the future of hospitality is also connected to the evolution of other industries that will bring paradigm-changing innovations faster than you might think. Ever heard of self-driving vehicles? What self-driving hotel rooms? The “Autonomous Travel Suite” is a conceptual design for an Autonomous Mobile Hotel that won the 2018 Radical Innovation Award. Designed to enable travelers to commute easily from their home to their destination, this concept could replace domestic flights or train travel one day as it removes the hassle of commuting to train stations, airports, having to check-in, and so on.

What next? In the upcoming years, Hospitality will face many changes due to the emergence of new technologies. Don’t lag behind. Innovate today and look forward to even more disruptive technologies and experiences.

Written by: Albert Dupouy