How do hotels successfully apply technological innovations in order to appeal to the modern traveller? That's what a new travel trends report from travel tech firm Sabre seeks to find out.
It's difficult for hotel brands to connect with their guests in a meaningful way, given the current climate in which customers are inundated with information and purchase choices, according to the firm's report, The Future of Hotel Booking – A Guide to Hotel Retailing.
There has been an explosion of consumer-facing technology services which multiply customers' paths to purchase and provide them with information galore, from price comparisons and reviews to promotions and deals.
Against this background – which is highly advantageous to travellers – hotels must develop retailing strategies (across all channels including online, social media, mobile apps and aggregation websites) to meet connected travellers' growing demand for interactive, personal and immediate service and offerings.
The report focuses on three key areas: World as Media, Intimate Intelligence and Instant Service, and makes a number of suggestions to help hoteliers achieve retailing success.
One piece of advice is to capitalise on moments when travellers are more inclined to book – or "converting through context". This means that deals or perks must be offered at the appropriate moment, and technology should be used to provide relevant follow-ups or reminders, increasing conversion rates.
It's also important to reduce friction. In other words, make the purchasing process as simple as possible. Apply technology to identify pertinent booking details, auto-fill forms using known data, or create one-click transactions. Efforts such as these can close the gap between discovery and purchase, says Sabre.
Integrated technology systems are the way to the hearts of today's tech-savvy travellers. By syncing the cross-channel experience, sharing data across channels and devices, customers can enjoy a unified and consistent experience at every stage of the purchase path, no matter where they book.
As we know, visuals are highly important in the travel sector. By using tech such as virtual reality and live-streaming platforms, hotel brands can help guests to visualise their trip, immersing their guests in the experience even before they book.
And finally, treat guests like old friends, says the report. This can be achieved by exploiting customer data and preferences. Every interaction a customer has with a brand's digital or physical property is an opportunity to extend this hand of friendship through individual tailoring.
A number of hotel operators were involved in the report, including Kristie Goshow, senior vice president of commercial at Viceroy Hotels & Resorts. She commented: "Our goal is to engage consumers on their path from discovery to purchase. We must sell the way our customers wish to buy and ultimately, that means we need to distribute ourselves 'brilliantly' across all consumer facing touch points."
While Nadine Pagel, at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, said: "In the decision-making process, first impressions are paramount. We believe in delivering highly personalised guest service anchored by local insights and recommendations, all before you even walk in the door – that's what makes the Kimpton experience truly unique."