Data, data, data. We all know how important it is to win in the highly competitive hotel industry. But, less clear is how to use all the data at your fingertips in the most efficient and effective way possible. What’s going to drive the best results? What’s going to get more heads in beds?
You can’t do it alone — and it seems like there are countless solutions on the market promising to help you make the best use of your data. So, how do you choose one that will add value, allow you to connect with customers and ultimately convert?
Here are four tips from experts speaking during the recent “Convergence of Data” panel, hosted by IDeaS’ Hospitality Technology Hub.
1. Prioritize Education
When it comes to selecting the right software to solve current challenges, experts say it’s critical to do your due diligence so you’re not left with an expensive solution that doesn’t meet your needs. Yes, it sounds simple enough — but it often can be the first misstep hoteliers make.
Vet your vendors, and look to them to provide you with education. Veit Meier, Director of Operations &Development, Berner + Becker, says hoteliers should go in with eyes wide open to learn how to best utilize systems for their organization.
“Then, as consultants and technology providers, we have to go into that education mode and deepen it up to make hoteliers understand which opportunities you have. Once everyone understands, we’re on a good path,” he adds.
2. Maximize Your Tech Stack
That begs the question: Which tech should hoteliers use in order to maximize their business to meet goals?
“Today, the issue is not adding tools. It’s more taking the maximum of the existing tools first because it’s too much money to invest in new solutions,” says Laurent Idrac, COO, Hapi. “So how can you better integrate information, and how can you better have a global view?”
Shane O’Flaherty, Global Director of Travel, Transportation & Hospitality, Microsoft, agrees that it’s all about doing more with less. “For example, the focus on AI-enabled chatbots but more on the employee side to do more with less to drive more operational efficiency. And then on the consumer side, once I have that down as best as I can, I’m going to drive a better journey using the same type of technology but flipping it the other way.”
3. Focus on Real-Time Data
But, how do you make sure the solution fits today’s new normal? After all, the global pandemic significantly shifted guest behavior. So, what you needed a year ago may not solve a challenge you face today.
“A common mistake is to buy your shiny software and start with the foundation with the global picture of how you’re really going to connect all of the pieces together,” Hapi’s Idrac says.“What is becoming more and more important is guest data. With the speed that the coronavirus hit, it showed that now real time is important.”
He says that having your data fed by a daily batch is no longer enough. Hoteliers need to focus on real-time data to build a 360-degree view of the customer in order to act to truly optimize their business. Simply put, you need to act much faster today than you have in the past.
“Hotels sit on a treasure trove of customer data, but it’s all in different silos. They may know the rewards members; they don’t know anyone else,” O’Flaherty says. The low-hanging fruit, he adds, is stitching all that customer data together using AI-powered technology so that you can have a stronger 360-degree view of the guest.
“And that’s an ongoing iteration.That allows you to market to the consumer to ensure that they have a better journey, both while they’re on-property and then also to get them to come to your property,” he says. “Look outside the box. Business travel is going to be more purposeful. So it’s not only what happens in your hotel but what happens from localization within your community, and how do you stitch all that together?”
4. Innovate to Survive
If the global pandemic taught us anything, it’s that hoteliers need to be innovative in order to survive. Agility, flexibility and adaptability have become words to live and die by.
“It’s interesting to see top brands that used to do everything internally,” Idrac says. “Many of them came to Hapi as a way to innovate faster. Real-time data, ability to innovate and be agile is a key component of this crisis.”
“We’ve learned that crises like that will drive innovation within our industry. People have to react. Before it was kind of nice to wait and see what to do next,” says Uli Pillau, CEO &Co-Founder, Apaleo. “It has become much more critical to work entirely contactless and provide a guest journey that differs from the past and is much more efficient.”
Technology is helping hoteliers become more resourceful and provide a better digital guest experience — and that’s going to continue to be critical as the industry moves beyond the pandemic, Pillau adds. He says hoteliers need to ask what the most important touchpoints are for their guests. From there, you can begin to structure the digital guest journey.
“And then really use the tools and try them out to support your strategy in those areas. We’ve seen a lot of new innovative apps coming onto the market,” he says.