By Sam Weston | November 8th, 2018
Personalisation in hospitality is nothing new.
Mr. Smith prefers room number 7, Mrs. Smith likes a copy of The Guardian delivered every day.
Operational staff would make a note and on their next stay, low and behold, Mr. and Mrs. Smith were booked into room 7 with a freshly folded newspaper on their doorstep, bright and early.
Simply put, technology’s impact has been to modernise personalisation. It’s allowing everyone to receive a tailored experience, regardless of star rating, and feel like their stay is unique.
Of course, personalisation is fueled by data and the industry had a wakeup call earlier this year in the form of the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Data as a commodity has never been more valuable and GDPR has only compounded this, with brands beginning to realise that it’s a privilege rather than a right to hold the data of their customers.
Treating that data with respect is part of the equation, but the other is using it creatively. It’s relatively easy to add a “Welcome Mrs. Smith” message to the TV screen when a guest arrives to their room, but adding another layer of creativity to personalising the experience is where hoteliers have the opportunity to truly differentiate themselves.
So how can you introduce personalisation into your own guest’s experience?
1. Personalised Messaging
One of the greatest challenges is the new guest; the first-time website visitor. How can you determine, through an IP address alone, who they are – gender, age, budget etc. Gone are the days of asking users to fill in page-upon-page of profiling data, forms detailing preferences, how they heard about you, etc.
The modern guest wants a straightforward, seamless user experience, right through to booking. One of the best ways to achieve this is through ongoing messaging refinement as you learn more about a visitor’s behaviour and intent.
For example, if they visit the family room page on your website, then it’s a safe bet they’ll be travelling with their children. Therefore, by the time they reach the booking engine, we can start to personalise their experience toward a more family-friendly stay.
Many 80 DAYS clients use geo-identification and geo-targeted content to personalise the experience for international guests. For example, if we can determine that a visitor is from the USA we can tweak our content accordingly, e.g. using more relatable terminology such as “vacations” rather than “short breaks”, “downtown hotels” rather than “city centre”.
These subtle changes often result in small incremental conversion gains that collectively amount to thousands of additional £ every month.
Personalisation can extend beyond the website. Adjust advertising messaging when targeting those who have already visited your website with remarketing through both text and display advertising – give them a reason to return.
And, of course, there’s the opportunity of personalising your messaging through careful CRM management and segmentation of your database.
2. Personalised Booking
Once a user arrives in your booking engine, there’s further opportunity to tailor the rates, rooms and packages you present to them. This year has seen the launch of the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered booking engine, Avvio’s Allora platform, personalising the booking experience in real time, based upon the actions and interaction of a user on your website.
3. Personalised Welcomes
Property management systems have evolved and a multitude of cloud-based systems are now far better placed to help front-of-house teams greet guests in a more personalised fashion. Be that a simple smile and “welcome back” when they’re automatically flagged as a returning guest, or in more detail, e.g. nudging housekeeping in advance that they prefer extra soft pillows so they don’t even need to request them. It could even be through self check-in or online check-in, with their preferences already known before they arrive at the hotel.
4. Personalised Stays
The modern traveller doesn’t want to wade through dog-eared guest directories when they arrive in their room late at night after a long journey, ravenous and tired. An on-demand smartphone generation wants a convenient, personalised experience; ordering their favourite room service food through an app, planning the day ahead and digesting hotel information quickly and easily. App and guest concierge solutions like Criton offer hoteliers a platform to deliver personalised and relevant messaging pre, during and post stay.
5. Personalised Loyalty
When considering loyalty, a more innovative approach than “points win prizes” is personalised pricing based upon the value of that guest to your business. This helps bridge the gap between revenue management and loyalty programmes to ensure that on every single stay, your guest is getting value rather than chasing a distant and often unattainable points goal.
Dare we say it: Could the next level be to look at a guests browsing behavior (before they’re logged in) to identify if they’ve originated from an OTA’s website (or TripAdvisor) and offer a preferential price to book direct? As an effectively closed-group offer, rate parity becomes less of a concern.
Generally, personalised experiences are better experiences and result in a happier guest. Of course, happier guests mean more positive reviews and a higher likelihood that they’ll return. As we know, the cost per acquisition of a new customer is far higher than encouraging repeat stays; thus the impact upon profitability through personalising the guest experience cannot be ignored.
Hoteliers needn’t be scared of technology’s impact upon personalising the guest experience. At the heart of good hospitality is human interaction; the faces and names that get mentioned time and time again in TripAdvisor reviews.
However, technology is rapidly becoming essential in ensuring that everyone receives a consistent and memorable experience and hoteliers must start to utilise the full technology playbook in order to compete with both themselves and alternative accommodation providers.
This article originally appeared on the Duetto blog here and is reproduced with their permission. It was created as part of Revenue Strategy Forum London where a panel of hoteliers discussed the evolving role of personalisation in driving direct bookings.