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Web 2.5/3.0 - Implications for Hotel Sales in Life after Web 2.0

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June 19, 2009
Next Gen Web
Carol Verret - carol@carolverret.com

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© 2009 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Many hotel sales people have incorporated 2.0 tools into their daily processes. Web 2.0 was a shift in how people used the Internet. Enabled by search, it allowed access to niches and information. The tools that sales people characteristically with Web 2.0 were search, Google Maps, local search and Google Alerts. These tools made prospecting and qualifying processes faster and more efficient.

Also characteristic of Web 2.0 is user-generated content, particularly well-developed and used in the hospitality industry.  Almost all booking sites have user-generated reviews and there are sites devoted only to user-generated reviews such as TripAdvisor, the most dominant and owned by Expedia, Yelp, an independent site, and many others.

The OTAs became travel search engines.  In recognition of this, Expedia is considering incorporating a pay-per-click model much like Google.  This was the case with the aggregator sites such as Kayak that grabbed the information from the online booking resources to allow travelers to look at all travel choices on the same page. 
The terms Web 2.5 or 3.0, not clearly differentiated, have not gained traction nor been defined, but there is still a buzz about them. These paradigm shifts to next-gen Internet use has been characterized as the shift between always on the Net to always on you–think Twitter, videos, iReport on CNN. There are also characteristics of Web 2.5 and Web 3.0 that were not in use for Web 2.0.

Computing in the Cloud.  The cloud is used to describe applications that reside on the Internet. As defined by bMighty.com, “Running applications in an Internet server or downloading the software from the Internet each time it is used.”

The phrase in the cloud may refer to a company’s own network, but the term cloud computing almost always refers to the Internet and the use of Web browser-based or rich client applications. This includes Microsoft Office online as well as Google’s business application.  This is a characteristic of 3.0 referred to as software as a service. (ZDNet, Philip Wainright, November ’05) This is an outgrowth of the ASP movement.   

However, the most interesting implication for hotel sales is CRM apps in the computing cloud for sales automation.  SalesForce.com defined this as, “Cloud-based application deployments that allow companies to have apps on-demand without the accompanying infrastructure.”  In other words, no software to download–software is used when needed within the cloud without downloads or software licenses.  As anyone with Microsoft products knows, one needs to have a product key. With cloud computing apps, it is no longer necessary to have an extremely large hard drive–it is sufficient to have a dumb box with enough RAM that can connect to the Internet.  This is good news for anyone that has had the trauma of a computer crash. 

Open-Source Software.  The first of these apps was the Linux operating system that was free and permitted programmers to develop their own applications for it.  Google has taken up the challenge and now is the platform of choice for open sourcers.   However, not all open-source software developers are as proficient as others.  Anyone that has downloaded Google gadgets only to have them go wonky or fail understands these limitations.  However, the opportunity to have specific apps developed for an enterprise function is exciting or the ability to modify existing apps to a specific use for a business is part of Web 2.5 or 3.0.      
Collaboration.  This is probably one of the most exciting developments of 3.0.  We currently have the functionality to do this but it has not been widely adopted by the hotel industry.  The best way to explain this is to illustrate it.  While the developer of these illustrations (The Software Abstractions Blog, Web 2.5: The Social Enterprise -Part I, February 2007) may have been a bit ambitious to label these 1.0 and 2.0, the first illustration depicts how most organizations communicate presently and how 3.0 organizations will function, (see illustrations on page 154).

Imagine sales departments collaborating on accounts, the end of staff meetings and revenue management meetings–the enterprise collaborates and can even chat about the information within the sphere. We also catch a glimpse of the future in collaborative pages where a group is given a page of its own after booking to collaborate with other members of the group and the hotel.  Instead of multiple, two-way communication points regarding the details of their group such as catering, food and beverage reservations, sales etc.,  a site similar to the second illustration above where all information can be exchanged.  The client can communicate and collaborate with all departments and even set up a chat. Each department then is completely in the loop about the group’s information and requirements.

WebEx and other providers are ready to rock our world with their collaborative platforms that can be used to instantly collaborate with clients and colleagues.

Social Networking.   Twitter is the ultimate application of the Web 3.0 paradigm shift from always on the Net to always on you.   Currently, many hotel companies monitor Twitter for posts about their hotels’ services or other issues.  It permits them to catch issues and resolve them quickly.
Tablet Hotels routinely monitors Twitter.  “We had one of our TabletPlus members Twitter from the front desk when the hotel was giving her a hard time,” Michael Davis, co-founder of Tablet Hotels, said. “We caught it within 30 seconds of posting and our customer service called the hotel to resolve.”(USA Today, 01/06/09)

Twitter allows meeting and convention goers to meet up with each other and network in regard to the program and content.   It allows all business owners, including hotel sales people to mention their activities in relation to the business and hotel.  For example, a post of the hotel sales person tasting a new menu item gives positive buzz to the hotel and its customers.

Never, never, never post negative comments on Twitter to anyone anywhere – nothing in relation to clients, fellow employees or bosses or friends.  That negative content can become viral and go to unintended hundreds of people.  Never tweet what you are having for breakfast (lunch or dinner for that matter) unless it is a very unique experience on a Pacific island. No one cares about your bowl of cereal. 
Videos also have a role in Web 3.0.  The multimedia approach of inserting videos into e-mail or PowerPoint has morphed into recording your sales presentation on video and embedding it in e-mail or sending the link.  A video of your property if well done replaces the 360-degree panorama of your guestrooms–how 2.0 are they and they always made me slightly dizzy.

If you haven’t joined the appropriate groups on LinkedIn you are not maximizing the experience and potential for networking with likeminded professionals and prospective clients. The same is true for i-Meet, the dedicated platform for meeting planners and suppliers.   Beware, the open networkers that are just trying to accumulate the most contacts, they won’t do you any good and only waste your time.

This new shift in the way we use the Internet and communicate with our world and our clients is going to be interesting and difficult for marketers to monetize.  Some companies like Dell are using Twitter to promote specials that appear nowhere else, so it is easier to measure the ROI.  In most cases, the paradigm shift is more of a realization of the Web 2.0 phrase—customers want to buy but don’t want to be sold. 

Using Web 2.5 or 3.0 or whatever it will be labeled, is a more subtle form of marketing and sales that engages the customer rather than pushing product.  Hotel sales and revenue managers will have to adjust their processes as Web 3.0 manifests in different modalities of contacts and communication.  Is the demise of e-mail, that linear two-way street, next?     

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting & Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry. To find out more go to www.carolverret.net. or contact Carol by e-mail at carol@carolverret.com or by phone (303) 618-4065.



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