Managing Digital Word of Mouth

With the steady rise in digital technologies, combining traditional marketing practices with modern technology has given rise to digital marketing. Digital word of mouth marketing has come about as an all-inclusive marketing strategy that not only focuses on marketing on social media but also takes other forms of online communications such as blogs, online forums, and discussions.

Word-of-mouth marketing is a tried-and-tested method of marketing that has been successful for over centuries. The basic premise is when customers experience a satisfactory service from a business, they spread the word about the quality of service. Through this and other such oral referrals, new leads were generated which were followed upon. While the ways of communication have changed significantly since the ancient days, the concept of word-of-mouth remains powerful enough to be relevant even today. This is doubly true for businesses in the hospitality sector.

Understanding Digital-word-of-mouth

Customers today have access to unlimited information via the internet. In this digital age where information is everything, consumers find it difficult to trust all sources of information. They usually focus on trusted sources such as communities they are members of, online information shared by their friends and families, and content written or shared by their favorite writers and social media personalities. This is where digital-word-of-mouth comes in. This not only goes true for product or brand recommendations but also hotels and restaurants. Since consumers naturally engage more with their friends and peers, it makes sense to utilize this connection in order to generate more leads.

Initially, word of mouth was spread at social gatherings, on phone-calls and other platforms. Today with social media, word-of-mouth has come into the public domain with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. These channels are used continuously to share opinions about brands and businesses along with reviews, problems with services and responses.

Advantages of Digital-word-of-mouth

One of the most obvious advantages of digital-word-of-mouth is that it is relatively free. It is also one of the most trusted sources of marketing as consumers are more likely to accept digital-word-of-mouth coming from personally reliable sources. Added to this, social media platforms such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are more easily accessible to consumers and businesses alike when compared with independently operated forums or company-owned platforms. Digital-word-of-mouth also shows to the consumer that the business by being available on public domain is actually willing to have a personal conversation or interaction with all its consumers. This creates a positive brand image and helps in building brand reputation.

Digital-word-of-mouth, other than being an extremely effective marketing tool also helps in creating a space for healthy discussions about what the consumers want from their product and the changes or improvements they expect in the services. It is also effective for exchanging views and opinions in-between customers regarding their trusted brands, products, and services. It also allows immediate collection of feedback and response, showing the consumers that the business is always ready to serve them irrespective of time or location.

How The Internet Of Things Will Change The Hospitality Industry

Closing and opening drapes, controlling room temperature, turn the lights on or off with voice commands in a hotel room? Marriott International, a giant in the hospitality industry is all set to bring in these and more such tech driven changes in their hotels. Marriott already has Netflix ready TVs which allow guests to gain access to personalized accounts and view movies of choice. The technology that makes it all happen is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT In Hospitality

 First coined in 2004, IoT gained popularity at the end of 2013.  According to Intel, there would be 200 billion connected devices by 2020, up from 2 billion in 2006. Each individual would be connected to at least 26 smart devices, as per Intel’s estimate!  Also termed “internet of everything” or “machine to machine” the concept is that everyday objects would talk to each other to provide a smoother, richer experience.

The hospitality industry is one of the biggest spenders as far as IoT is concerned.   Close to $128 million was spent in 2015 per company across the world which is much more than what other sectors like manufacturing, banking or utilities spend.

Rooms Of The Future

 The next logical step for Marriott is to make the voice controlled actions in the hotel rooms a reality. The hospitality leader is testing Amazon and Apple devices at the Aloft Hotel in Boston and once the right device is chosen, guests at Marriott will experience the convenience of the Internet of things (IoT).

In collaboration with tech partners such as Samsung and Legrand, Marriott is testing another concept at its innovation lab to bring about “connected hotel rooms.”  Samsung’s IoT in the form of ARTIK and smart lighting systems from Legrand will help Marriott bring in the most advanced IoT technology to its rooms to enhance guest experience.

According to Samsung, the IoT will help provide the “ultimate relaxation” and bring in personalized and intelligent experiences for guests. Business travelers could enjoy increased productivity while helping the hotel be more energy efficient.

Some possible experiences include asking a virtual assistant to sound a wake up alarm, taking yoga classes on the full length mirror or setting the required temperature for shower – all with voice or app based commands.

While the three-month project testing is on at Marriott, the “room of the future” could be all about smart technology from IoT. While technology enabled smart rooms would become a reality at Marriott five years from now, other big brands too are increasingly interested in leveraging smart technology to enhance guest experience.

At a recently concluded Revenue Strategy Forum event at London, the key message for hotels was to invest in and adapt the digital age technologies in order to improve market share, guest engagement and the bottom-lines.

Predictive Behavior

 The changes that IoT will bring in the hospitality industry are not restricted to providing seamless experiences during their stay. Hotels could benefit in many ways including improved efficiency, energy saving and reduced manpower. Another crucial aspect that IoT would help in is to do with data related to consumer behavior.

IBM Watson which has already made headlines with predictive intelligence in other domains – particularly healthcare – is set to foray into the hospitality industry with connected devices such as Panasonic digital mirror, Softbank Robotic lobby concierge and the Harman JBL intelligent speaker. These IoT devices would also help hotels gain valuable insights into guest behavior including their preferences, complaints or requests. Retrofitting these would also be possible, according to Bret Greenstein, Vice President of consumer business at IBM.

Telkonet’s EcoSmart and Samsung’s Hospitality Business went a step ahead with a welcome sign with the guest’s name in the smart room that also showed the controls of lights, temperature and shades.

For a returning guest, the EcoSmart can remember the guest’s previous preferences and adjust the light and thermostat accordingly.

IoT will make it possible for hotels to know the dining preferences of guests, which means there is no need for elaborate surveys and feedbacks.

Super Wi-Fi

 Experts predict that the coming years will see smart phones being capable of handling Super Wi-Fi, that uses TV broadcast frequencies.  Not only is Super Wi-Fi more affordable, but has a bigger bandwidth and coverage area which is of critical importance to the hotel industry. Such Super Wi-Fi could change the way hotels collect user data to create better experiences. The Super Wi-Fi platform would make it possible to have a seamless network of all IoT connected devices.

Improved Operations

 IoT can help probably eliminate the need for elaborate check in which also is one of the most often negatively rated services in hotels.

The Hilton Group and Starwood Hotels are set to introduce ‘Digital Keys’ that are sent to guests before they check in once the rooms are ready.

Location finding technology will in the future also help do away with check in with an automatic check in becoming a reality. This would also reduce the need for front staff personnel.

Smart sensors in the room can help hotels manage their assets also better.  The smart sensors can alert the administration personnel when there is a maintenance schedule or when in distress.  Correcting leaky pipes and tubs well before they become expensive problems is one of the advantages of having connected devices and sensors.

Starwood Hotels also use smart technology to control indoor lighting based on the amount of natural light that is entering the hotel.

Smart sensors can also help hotels know when a room is empty. While knocking is an invasion of privacy and can be rude, smart sensors can help personnel know if the room is occupied.

While personalization can get technical, too much automation could also be detrimental. Server bots for room service and absence of front desk personnel could deprive the guest of the valuable human interaction that can still make all the difference.

While hotels embrace technology, the guest’s comfort and personalization will always be at the heart of hospitality. Big data, IoT and automation can be intelligently used to add to the guest’s experience and improve operational efficiency.

 

The INSANE Impact Of Online Reviews On Hotel Bookings

Online reviews are a big thing today. Thanks to the innovations brought by the internet revolution, people can now take their grievances or praises of a product, service, or service provider online, where the entire world can see it. Businesses everywhere are now more wary about online reviews than even feedback that comes directly from the customer – and why not? After all, a review acts like a public announcement about the business. As such, it has as much power to topple a reputed company as it has to create a good image of it in the market!

5 Reasons Hotels Should Pay Close Attention To Online Reviews

In a hotel, it all comes down to what the customer says about the service. In other kinds of businesses, a customer can be happy with the product that she/he has brought, and not bother much bout the service. In a hotel, however, the service IS the product – and it all boils down to how well the guest is satisfied with the service he or she has received.

Instant

Online reviews are instant. The world will come to know about how good or bad you are the very moment that your guest writes about you. Online reviews about your services could even be getting posted while the guest is staying on your premises!

Wider Reach

Because everyone on the internet has access to online reviews, what your guest has to say about your hotel on the web will have a much wider reach than what he/she would tell the neighbors back at home. Everyone who is interested to know about your hotel will invariably end up reading these reviews, which will be then become the main factor influencing their decision to book a room at your property.

Can Be Shared And Re-Shared

The next thing that an online reader would do after reading reviews of your hotel would be to share them on a social networking site. Once the review reaches a platform like this, it can then get re-shared multiple times, and before you know it, you would have a gained an all – new reputation on the web – and whether the reputation is positive or not depends on how you have treated your guests.

Can Get Viral

Viral posts are the worst nightmare for any business. If the online reviews have reached social media, there is every chance that they can get shared on gigantic scale! However, this possibility need it be a bad thing. If you know how to play your cards well, you can do stuff which will go viral for all positive reasons! No amount of marketing will be able to give you the same results as this would.

More Trusted By Prospective Guests

This is a very interesting fact. Future guests are more likely to believe what they read in reviews than what they read on your website. There is also a tendency to cross-check about your services with online reviews. Needless to say, online reviews can really sway the flow of guests into your hotel in any direction!

Hotel Technology Trends for 2017

The next is already here – technology wise, that is. From collecting oceans of data from all channels of social media, hotels are now on the threshold of making intelligent use of that data to enhance customer engagement and drive revenues.

Most of the technology is to do with digitalization and particularly, mobile based. With the ongoing evolution of smartphones that are getting smarter by the second, technology innovations in hotels are striving to keep in step with this trend.

Smartphone and internet are ubiquitous. More than 92 % of guests at hotels use a smartphone and more than 9 billion use Wi-Fi, a number that is only going to increase. A study by Zebra found 40% of guests use hotel apps on their smart devices.

More than 70% of guests would prefer to use smart technology to hasten up the checking in and out processes. Here are some technology trends that will shape 2017.

Smartphone is the key: Use of smartphones as keys is a trend which has already begun and is obviously going to grow phenomenally in 2017. Using Bluetooth and an app, guests can not only unlock the doors of rooms, spa, and gym but also control the TV and audio, and access room service.  Guests can control lighting, temperature and TV channels currently at Virgin Hotel in Chicago. Hilton has already made it possible for guests to unlock doors using smartphone and Marriott is not far behind.

Smart energy management: Going green is the clarion call for 2017 and no doubt, in the coming years. More hotels are taking up the challenge by going in for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. More than 400 hotels are LEED certified, and more will follow suit in 2017.  Going green entails improving air quality in the hotel, besides investing in smart energy management systems. A 2016 survey showed that more than 50% of bigger chains of hotels have already implemented energy management systems, including hotels like Hilton. Smart energy systems efficiently manage usage of water, power, heat and air conditioning by turning off when not in use.  Sensors placed in rooms can detect whether guests are in or out, and turn off lights and power accordingly. Water saving and recycling will become a growing trend this year. Sourcing energy from renewable and sustainable sources will also gain importance as more customers expect and appreciate environmental responsibilities of hotels. Solar, wind and other energy sources will be the trend to watch out for.

Artificial Intelligence: With the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), there will be enhanced connectivity which can improve and personalize the hotel experience for guests. Using artificial intelligence it will become possible to anticipate what the customer needs based on his or her behavior. Cloud based food ordering system is also an increasing trend that will catch up in 2017.

Chatbots are another use of AI that has become the buzz word already in 2017.

Virtual Reality:  VR is already a game changer in many businesses and will eventually make a foray into the hotel industry in a big way. Marriott has already introduced VR experience for guests and possible trends to look out for are the use of virtual reality to access concierge, view locations or participate in conferences.

Boosting Occupancy with Smart Data Marketing

One of the greatest benefits of advancing technology is the quality and quantity of data a business can generate. Obviously, data is the key factor responsible for improvement and for better business. There is no limit to how much data you can obtain, and this is exactly where modern technological advances play a major role. Instead of having to wait for something to occur so that it can be recorded, businesses can make more precise estimates and predictions, and drive their marketing activities in amplifying the results of these expected outcomes.

The key word for today’s technology is ‘smart’. ‘Smart’ refers to a system of technology that functions in real-time. It is immediate, it is expansive, and it is more accurate than it ever was. Take for example a smartphone. Owning a smartphone is like having the world at your fingertips! The things you can do with a smartphone keeps increasing by the day.

It is the same thing with Smart Data- it happens in real time, it is more in-depth, and it is more precise in making predictions that hotels can take massive advantage of!

What is new in Smart Data?

Hotels worldwide focus mostly on keeping a track of their past guests or recurring guests. This data, called as ‘Big Data’, is vital for hotels to retain their existing customer base. However, the problem comes up in marketing. If you are aware only about those who are regular at your hotel, how can you be sure that your marketing strategies are appealing to all potential customers and not just the segment of people who would come to you anyway?

This is the main drawback of Big Data – it simply has no predictive value. Besides, it does not help you tap the greater market resource out there!

Besides, much of what is learned from Big Data is just information, which can sometimes even be useless information, because, from an active point of view, this data simply has no value at all!

Smart Data is a new system of tracking market information in real-time. This system places emphasis on generating information that can actually be worked upon. For example, what do you know about travelers who have an interest in visiting your location? Here, instead of limiting yourself to knowing what your previous visitors’ preferences are, you are constructing a map of what those travelers would expect from you as a hotel. This way, you are not simply focusing on retaining customers but are actually venturing out to seize the many opportunities of increasing your business that would otherwise get wasted!

Greater role of AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a huge role to play in obtaining Smart Data. Real-time information is the gift of AI technology which businesses around the world are increasingly taking advantage of today. AI is no more an option for business but a necessity that hotels will have to make use of at some point of time or another- the sooner, the better.

Rather than replacing Big Data, the Smart Data that you churn out should be made a part of what your hotel defines as its Big Data. As a combined body of information, your Big Data will not only help with customer retention but also make sure that you don’t lose out on potential business opportunities.