The Nine (not ten) Commandments of the digital world in hotels
Travel is notoriously insular when it comes to hiring people for the top jobs – often promoting from within or from a rival company.
So when Accor brought in Vivek Badrinath as its deputy CEO earlier this year, many were intrigued to know what the senior exec from the world of mobile phone networks would make of a sector as fragmented and complicated as hotels.
In some respects there are some similarities – thousands of customers across multiple territories; disrupted fairly frequently by external forces and highly competitive.
But, still, the ex-Orange deputy CEO is in that classic “first 100 days” period, where everyone wants to hear either about plans for a brand or their perceptions of the sector they have just joined.
Badrinath was speaking last week at the PhoCusWright Europe event in Dublin, Ireland, showing how some of his digital chops could be applied to a diverse (in terms of brands) and, essentially, human-led corner of the industry.
He has some interesting ideas about how the classic hotel chain should be positioned to cater for the digitally savvy – and mobile-wielding – guest.
It’s simple stuff, covering online booking and check-in, welcome text messages, express departures and up-selling of other services, but almost exclusively served via email or applications.
Knowing lots about a customer before they even arrive (by having a digital relationship with them beforehand) allows staff to do the thing they’re really good at (or should be): hospitality and ensuring guests have a good experience in a hotel.
Accor’s brands do already have a sizeable web presence and distribution network (he’s not coming into a brand completely devoid of progress), with 31% of rooms booked over the web, some 270 million visitors online across the portfolio and 1.5 million fans of its various Facebook pages.
But running a major, global hotel chain is not easy (obviously), so Badrinath has what he calls Accor’s Nine Digital Commandments (and our notes):
1. It’s all about direct
More customers, buying more things, via its own websites – that’s about as straightforward a strategy as you can get.
2. Engagement through video
Multimedia is ideal for the world of hospitality – it showcases an experience far better than any other method pre-trip.
3. Mobile as future no.1 channel for end-to-end customer journey
Not all customers want it, but ensure you have the ability for a relationship with the guest via their devices, from the moment they book to when they return from a trip.
4. Take advantage of metasearch revolution to shift share from OTAs
Say no more. As Badrinath says: “OTAs opened up the market. The value is when they bring people you do not know. But ultimately we want people to come direct.”
5. Customised marketing for a one-to-one strategy
Personalisation has to be at the forefront of CRM and in-destination services. Hotels know more about their guests than ever before.
6. Enhancement of the booking experience
There is no magic formula when it comes website or mobile UEX, except to say it probably has to be smoother, more intuitive, friendlier, and should never fail.
7. New and rising multi-screen world
Brands have to be connected across multiple devices, ensuring potential and existing customers feel they are getting equal (digital) attention regardless of whether it’s the desktop, mobile, tablet or in-room TV.
8. Importance of social media marketing
In some respects the most difficult concept in which to achieve enormous success – but vital at an engagement level simply because so many guests are immersed in social media throughout their daily lives.
9. Deeper use of analytics for marketing
Everyone says they are doing it, but nobody really knows who is doing it well. Nevertheless, collecting and then slicing and dicing that customer data to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns is perhaps the most important project any hotel or chain should be involved in.
NB: Ten Commandments image via Shutterstock.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.