Teaching an Old Dog

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June 01, 2012
New Technology
Dan Phillips - dphillips@dare2i.com

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In 1991 I started consulting to hotels, specifically regarding technology. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to be published in this magazine, to have spoken at HITEC and IHMRS, and also to have presented to many hotel companies. For all of these years my pitch had been that as hoteliers we need to provide our guests with guestroom technology that matches or exceeds what our guests have at home or in the office. Well, this old dog now needs to learn new tricks. Guests now carry with them more technology in their pockets than any fiscally responsible hotelier could ever hope to provide in their guestrooms. We just can’t do it any more.

 

My council now is two-fold; first, we must find ways to enable guests to do what they want to do with their own technology.  Second, to be a market differentiator, we must then find ways to enhance what they have chosen to do.

In regards to technology and its saturation into the daily habits of the population, the trends today are unlike any other in the past.  I'm confident that most of us have older relatives that can’t wait for us to visit so that we can reprogram the VCR for the hundredth time. Until recently, most new technology advances left older generations behind. However, the technology that rolls out today all appears to be backward compatible, meaning that even older people have latched onto iPads®, Kindles™, iPhones® and BlackBerry® smartphones. This has caused a dynamic shift and an acceleration in the timeline in which hoteliers must find ways to address and incorporate new technologies into their offerings.

In the early ‘90s when HSIA was just getting started, and dial up was still hanging on, the industry saw that only a small percentage of guests brought laptops with them, that only a small percentage of those guests required connectivity, and something like 0.1 percent of guests even demanded HSIA. It took years, but now every hotel has to have HSIA or it won’t have any guests. Today the trend is that a significant percentage of our guests, not just the Y Generation or Millennials, demand not only connectivity but huge amounts of bandwidth, and extra electrical outlets, and a big HD LCD and so on.

It is not uncommon for a guest today to travel with two or more devices that all need to connect. These guests will have Netflix or Hulu subscriptions, Facebook and Twitter accounts and will be surfing Pinterest and YouTube constantly.  They will be on one device with streaming media while on another device texting with friends, while yet another device is recharging. It is impossible for a hotelier to compete with that. It is even difficult for a hotel to support that much activity. Should a hotel even try to supplant 4G network providers?

In addition to all of the devices, we must also take a look at the content our guests are accessing. Guests are leveraging the endless bounds of information available at the touch of a finger, or at the beck and call of Siri, to be experiential travelers. Their preferred content is SoLoMo (social, local, mobile).  Guests search for personally relevant, locale-specific information that leads them to new experiences that they can then share digitally with their friends.

What’s a Hotel to Do?
Hoteliers must find ways to enhance what our guests want to do.  That starts with first finding out what it is they do want to do. That brings into play CRM and loyalty and guest history solutions.  Then, we need to add the complimentary solutions that will increase their satisfaction.  This would include cabling and Wi-Fi infrastructure and HD TVs, and perhaps solutions like DAS. Next, we should track their usage and preferences in content delivered; what movies, what social sites, what OTT content do our guests access?  Then, a hotel may need to review its free-to-guest offering and in-room entertainment vendor.

From a SoLoMo perspective, hoteliers must find ways to merge marketing initiatives with technology. Hoteliers must re-attain a revenue-producing relationship with their own guests in regards to delivering experiential opportunities. Hoteliers must both discover and create social commerce for their guests via community retailers. The best way for this is to leverage every screen accessible, from TV to digital signage, to the devices guests carry via apps, and deliver personal, relevant, timely, attractive, experiential content to our guests in various amounts depending on their permission and opt-in levels.

To borrow a line from “Field of Dreams,” “Build it and they will come.” Both in-room entertainment and digital signage vendors are providing solutions that include features in which multiple forms of advertisements can be displayed.  This will be a great revolution for smart hoteliers.  However, to date, revenue from these solutions has been like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, never quite in our hands. But this is changing and as new companies are entering our industry looking to partner with hoteliers to deliver guest-requested, revenue-producing content.

As you walk the aisles of HITEC, keep these new tricks in mind; enable guests to do what they want, and find ways to enhance what they are doing.  There will be many vendors on the exhibit hall floor that will have solutions to help you and your hotel.

Dan Phillips is a partner at Dare to Imagine and can be reached at dphillips@dare2i.com.

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