April 25, 2012

Personalization becoming a reality across the hospitality industry


From one–to–one marketing to customized hotel experiences, personalization is becoming a reality across the hospitality industry. Here are several areas where the power of personalization is now available.

The hospitality industry is changing rapidly. Customers are changing, technology is changing, markets are changing. So, where should you focus your attention? Each year Market Metrix evaluates industry best practices and publishes "Hospitality Trends and Opportunities." In this year"s report, one important trend is the focus on "Personalization" and how it is impacting customer engagement and loyalty for some hospitality companies.

From one–to–one marketing to customized hotel experiences, personalization is becoming a reality across the hospitality industry. Here are several areas where the power of personalization is now available.

One–to–One Marketing

For years companies have relied on mass marketing (one size fits all) or traditional approaches, such as RFM (based on customers" Recency, Frequency, and Monetary value), to communicate and sell to their customers and prospects. Now, with new technology available more firms are collecting customer likes, dislikes, and preferences, brands are obtaining the deep level of customer intelligence needed to deliver relevant, customized promotions. For example, casino customers are more likely to visit when they receive offers that are geared towards their likes and dislikes. Why give a buffet to a steakhouse customer, slot credits to a table games player, or a free night in the hotel when they live five minutes away? This type of promotion represents customer–centric marketing at the most granular level.

Gamification (offering rewards and incentives to drive behavior) also provides companies with information about individual customers that can inform targeted marketing efforts. By tracking the online activities of people who sign up for such programs, companies can amass detailed metrics about each user — the better to identify the most active customers.

More hospitality websites are using "cookies" to help personalize the online experience, such as recognizing your name when you revisit and displaying customized offers and promotions. One compelling new feature of Four Season"s new website (which cost a whopping $18 million!) is custom guest profiling. This will allow Four Seasons to deliver dynamic, custom website content to each individual guest who visits the site.

Customized experiences

Travelers expect an increasingly personalized hotel stay, and some brands are using technology, social media, and other innovations to deliver a more customized experience.

Imagine this: you leave your hotel with the lights dimmed half–way, your favorite news station on the television, and the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Then, two weeks later you return to the same hotel, and you find the room exactly the way you left it, except the room number is different.

We all know the impact of personalized service from our own experiences. It feels great to be treated like a VIP. All too often, however, hotels treat you like you"ve never been there before although it"s the fourth time you"ve checked in.

Some hotels are making the effort to take the guest experience to higher, personal levels. The reason is simple. When hotel or casino products and service become customized, not just differentiated, customers are more engaged. Engaged customers have a higher level of trust and commitment to the property, which strengthens their loyalty and emotionally ties them more closely to the brand.

According to a recent study by Fast Forward and Amadeus, customers want an increasing say, if not total control, over what they expect of their hotel and what they are willing to pay for. More hotel guests will expect their stay to be personalized around a set of choices they make at the time of booking or prior to arrival.

The study looked at how all aspects of the hotel experience might be personalized in the future, from simple things like using the customer"s preferred method of communication (e–mail, text, social media, or mail) and giving them control over what types of communications are sent to them, to providing options on their check–in process, choosing the size of room, type of bed, amenities, their in–room technology, or even their pricing model. The study predicts more hotels will offer a menu of options from which customers can select their precise requirements.

For some guests, this personalized hotel experience may offer the opportunity to try out bedding, furniture, linens, audio–visual equipment and amenities that are a change from those they use at home. Others may prefer their guestroom to mirror their home environment to help them feel more comfortable. Business travelers who simply sleep in their room may care little about furniture and facilities but demand a bed that guarantees a relaxing night"s sleep.

Personalization is also seen in the focused attention hotels and resorts are giving to children. More families are traveling together. Children"s programs have now become more popular — from dedicated teen lounges and teen concierges to tailored amenities, programs, and facilities for toddlers, tweens, and teens. Hotel staff are trained that personal service means that children are guests, too, with their own needs for recognition, reassurance and respect.

Change is not new to the hospitality industry. But the scope and speed of the latest developments affecting our industry is different. Keeping up with change is more important now than ever before and can lead to opportunity for those who embrace it.

Related Link: Market Metrix