Augsburg (June 26, 2020). The fear of the ghost of digitalisation is gone. Within four months the “digital maturity” of people has grown explosively, thanks to home office and home schooling. Families such as employees and company leaders have adapted, change their behaviour. Now it’s a matter of living digitalization, integrating it, setting up the hotel group anew, analyzing the competition and guest wishes “differently”. The new next goal is to turn benefits into profit with digital strategies and tools! The discussions at HITT 2020 therefore contained many imperatives.
Two years after the launch of the HospitalityInside Think Tank, the language of all participants was quite different – no longer so hesitant, but much more gripping and precise. No wonder, because the last four months have accelerated learning extremely. And the speakers, the impulse generators, made it clear to everyone: it is continuing at an enormous speed – across all industry boundaries.
Personalize, make it more flexible
Tim Davis, partner in the London-based consulting firm Pace Dimensions, which focuses on digitization, analyzed the changing competitive environment and said: Customer behavior is currently changing with great dynamism. “More personalization will be required, which will above all make things and processes easier. It’s all about creating greater flexibility.”
This already brought up two important keywords, which all speakers looked at from two perspectives – from the company’s as well as the customer/guest’s point of view (back end / front end).
New Experience Platforms
Accor and IHG discussed among themselves and with the participants where multi-brand companies see challenges and approaches to success. Duncan O’Rourke, COO Central Europe of Accor, is convinced that “in the future we will have a special mix of experience, high performance and human values”. He spoke of many new collaborations with new partners, and Jamie Cole of IHG (Senior VP Global Channels) even said that companies could share platforms in the future.
In any case, individualisation is increasing and with it the need to offer the customer/guest more individual information. The need for communication is growing massively, “and digitalization makes communication better,” Cole is certain. Michael Struck, CEO of Ruby Hotels, agreed with him in the next round of talks: “In the future, it will be even more important to understand and strengthen communities as a service experience. Interactive dialogue will become even more important.” His colleague Jens Gmiat from Zoku confirmed: All is more about fast feedback, more flexible reaction.
Both personal and digital communication with the guest reveals their behavior and preferences, which must be implemented very quickly and in a needs-oriented manner in the operation: “The possibilities of offering experiences in the room – the in-room experience – have not yet been exhausted in many places,” said Struck. He is not afraid of cost explosions, quite the contrary: “Digitalization can reduce the risks because the fixed costs can be lower. Gmiat nodded: “With digitization, lean models can be implemented.”
“Boost your Service Delivery”
The benefits of digital processes have thus become clearer and more concrete. In future, the profit will lie in tailor-made customer service – and only secondarily in the (room) product. “Boost your Service Delivery” was also the title of the third think tank – and Dr. Volker Kraft, Managing Partner of the shopping mall developer and operator ECE Real Estate, showed how to retain and attract guests with small, customer-friendly adaptations.
He himself envies the hotel industry for the fact that its guests spend ten hours or more in the hotel, whereas in a shopping mall it is perhaps only 60 to 90 minutes. This is why customer journey analysis is becoming increasingly important in the retail segment as well. “We invest a lot in upgrading our malls,” Kraft reported, “we haven’t had seats for our customers for a long time – they should be shopping. In the meantime, we have seating areas like in hotels.”
Customers register every small change that increases their well-being with better ratings. That’s why retail specialists are also aware of this: “It’s not about achieving the highest possible rent, but about linking global [retail] chains with the local community.” And the ECE Group is now implementing this both online and offline: Currently, a digital twin is being created from each mall – for the double benefit of both retailers and customers.
Retail and hospitality as perfect twins
Retailing under hospitality criteria thus increases guest satisfaction and company turnover. And hospitality companies can also achieve this if they use retail tools. A recent survey by Sabre Hospitality Solutions’ generated precise figures, including these:
> 60% would be likely to spend more if they could choose and pay separately for policies they value, such as flexible cancellation, pet allowance, early check-in / late check-out or insurance.
> 53% would spend more at their hotel if they could book all components of the travel experience directly with the hotel (e.g. transportation, tickets for events, local guides, bike rental etc.).
> 43% of European travellers believe the improved guest experience (e.g. butler service, baby-sitting service, daily fresh flowers in room etc.) and personalised offers within the hotel (e.g. yoga classes at the gym, painting classes, a concert in the lobby etc.) are important.
So those who sell more services in and around the hotel “are bringing a lot of control [of their own business] back into the hotel,” says Frank Trampert, Managing Director EMEA & APAC for Sabre Hospitality. And the good thing about digital service: “Shops never close. And that gives the customer the highest flexibility”.
The new hospitality retailing tool, whose worldwide marketing is now slowly getting underway on the part of Sabre, was tested by the luxury hotel group Langham Hospitality as its first test partner. CEO Stefan Leser confirmed in the live discussion with ECE and Sabre: “The most important thing is the availability of products [and services], not the price. On the other hand, from his perspective he also corrected a widespread picture: “The changed consumer behavior is overestimated”.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to transform such observations into well-founded, data-based statements in the future. However, in his final contribution, AI expert Tom Seddon, founder of the Foundry.ai software company, warned against being blinded by the AI hype. “AI is only useful for questions that you can ask thousands of times and over again, based on huge amounts of data”. Only then can you learn quickly and a lot. A fascinating topic, especially for large companies…
The benefit for the HITT Community
It will therefore remain exciting to see how digitization can now be implemented in the Customer Journey. The HITT community at any rate learned a lot more at the digital conference on Tuesday this week. This article summarizes the big picture today only roughly. The participants of the think tank will receive a more detailed documentation of the day, and for our readers we will gradually deepen individual topics also in the online magazine of HospitalityInside.
The virtual HITT has received great praise from the participants until today, but everyone also knows: The digital conference cannot replace the analog event – on the event ship in Berlin. Such a format lives of course from lectures with strong content, but just as much from human interaction. / map
The next HITT will take place in early summer 2021 – in Berlin.
We would like to thank all participants, the teams inside and outside of HospitalityInside and our sponsors, who without hesitation followed the path of change from analog to digital event!