Two of the core foundations of a property’s success converge to give hoteliers insight while providing guests with what they want.
BANGKOK—Technology and marketing. Marketing and technology.
When it comes to hotels, those two disciplines are like wine and cheese, or shoes and socks: They might be fine on their own, but when paired, can provide complimentary palettes, efficiency and even a hint of camaraderie, according to consultants participating in a Hotel News Now roundtable discussion conducted in conjunction with the recent International Society of Hospitality Consultants annual conference.
Marketing and technology—two of the core necessities for any hotel’s success—are fast becoming indistinguishable, said Steven Seghers, president of Irvine, California-based Hyperdisk Marketing.
“If you’re in marketing now and you do not have a strong understanding of technology, you’re in serious trouble,” he said, referring to what he calls “fusion marketing.”
“When you think about advertising, you have to be thinking about data insights,” he said. “When you’re thinking about direct response, you’re thinking about (customer relationship management). When you’re thinking about your website, you’re thinking about software and integration and personalization. So, everything has a counter-balance.
“You cannot engage in a marketing program without having a complementary technology solution to support it,” Seghers added.
The meshing of the two disciplines is epitomized by social media, said Ravish Jhala, director for Mumbai-based Haatt India Services.
“You can schedule your post in a single tool, and it manages all your channels and gives you a report of which channel is performing for you for your brand, where you should spend your money on campaigning,” Jhala said. “It’s a very guided decision a hotelier can make using a tool on technology.”
The integration of marketing and technology is a big part of creating the experiences that consumers crave and hoteliers strive to provide, said Jeff Dover, principal with Toronto-based Fastrategy. But it also has some potential drawbacks.
“Instead of going to a restaurant in a hotel or sitting in the lobby with a book or newspaper, people want to get together and have these social experiences,” he said. “But the technology is really cutting back on the social experiences that they have with the (hotel’s) staff. You book online, you check in online, and you check out online. You might never even have to go to the front desk anymore. You pick your own room.
“There’s all these social spaces where we’re putting our guest to interact with each other, and there’s less interaction with the hotel,” Dover added.
Joanne Jia, head of Asia for London-based Christie & Co., said the emergence of common areas for socializing is a clear indicator of what consumers of all ages want, which provides a great incubator for the technology-marketing convergence.
Guests’ habits and preferences are clearer, and that helps create an interactive environment, she said.
“They just want to talk with others,” Jia said. “They do not really say, ‘Oh, I want to make a good friend,’ but they just don’t want to be alone.”
Jhala said studying data trends can give hoteliers better insight into consumer preferences.
“I feel we are more reactive in terms of decision-making than proactive in decision-making,” he said. “This leads to (the questions): Does a hotelier really know which guest is attractive for him, which guest is attractive for his brand, and do we have the right to do the analysis of the guest sentiment in the online space? Because all the guests today are in the online space, and they talk about the brand in the online world. We need to understand the sentiment of the guest in the online space compared to our competition brands and do the analysis of the data.”
Specific wires—or at least airwaves—have crossed as the melding of technology and marketing plays out, speakers said. Wi-Fi internet access and payment options are important issues around the globe. Jia pointed out the need for hoteliers to understand guest preferences in these areas, particularly in the payment department.
“I spend one-third of my time in China. … I do not need to bring any cards. I just have my mobile with me, (which is) fine because you can pay by Apple, you can pay by WeChat pay or Ali Pay,” Jia said. “Now when Chinese tourists go to Europe or the U.S., what they use is Union Pay. … Union Pay now also links with Ali Pay, which is like PayPal, but PayPal currently does not have the function to scan it. In China, you scan it, and you pay it. Providing the technology is as important as knowing what consumers want and when they want it.”