By: Bob Adams, Business Development Director, Valid Data Solutions

3.8.21

It goes without saying, Covid has changed many things in our lives.  When it comes to travel, Covid has had a very negative effect including many thousands of employees who lost their jobs or have had their wages reduced.  However, some good has come of it which will help the industry rebound quickly and well-positioned to be stronger than ever.  According to a recent EY article, “In times of crisis, humans want to know they matter. For companies, this means listening, understanding and adapting to shifting behaviors, values and needs. It means higher degrees of personalization, predictability and authenticity.”  In hospitality, Covid has had a positive impact not only around improved safety and cleanliness, but its impact has also driven and accelerated the role of personalization and the positive effect it can have on guests and hospitality organizations.

Innovative technology and digital devices are now central to customer satisfaction. According to a Salesforce survey, 75% of customers are expecting companies to use new technologies to improve their experiences, and 67% say the way a company uses technology reflects how it operates in general.  Some hospitality companies have been testing various uses of emerging technological developments to optimize guest experiences while streamlining operations and improving revenue for years.  The pandemic has brought this combination front and center, forcing the remainder of hospitality companies to speed their rate of adoption, particularly for marketing initiatives to current, future, and past guests. Together, the recipe has become a rapid game changer for the enablement and implementation of improved personalization capabilities.

Data is central to personalization.  It is the fuel that drives the ability for travel marketers to create exceptional, seamless, and relevant guest experiences from research to booking to the visit itself.  Remember, guests want their lodging providers to put forth intelligent, relevant communication and offers in exchange for access to their data. They’re typically happy to share their information in a trustworthy way if they receive a more personalized experience in return.

“54% of hotels believe their offers are mostly relevant while only 22% of guests believe those offers are mostly relevant and 39% feel those offers are rarely relevant” – Oracle Hospitality

Travel marketers should be gathering as much first-party data as possible from transactions, actions from web and app logs, and simple surveys.  However, they should not stop with just first-party data, as third- party data can fill in behavioral and demographic gaps to provide additional insights on guests and prospects.  Second-party data from partners further enriches first party-data to identify personalized opportunities that deliver new value.  In a recent survey, “Data-Driven Personalization” by Ascend2, nearly two-thirds of marketing professionals surveyed list delivering a better customer experience as a top goal for a data-driven personalization strategy. In addition, improving the quality of data used is also a critical challenge according to 41% of those surveyed.

Now, more than ever, is the time travel marketers should be using personalization to ensure highly targeted audience-specific communication, tailor offers and promotions, and/or automatically provide similar services to previous stays, and more – all of which deepen customer relationships and build loyalty.  Guest loyalty is dependent on the overall experience they have with a lodging brand — and guests won’t hesitate to switch brands if their expectations aren’t met.  In fact, more than 80 percent of customers said the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Consumer study.  Think differently.  Rather than creating next best offer, create the next best experience.

Guests want to be acknowledged and understood as unique individuals. They expect lodging companies to anticipate their needs and delight them, whether they’re traveling for business or leisure, alone or with their family. Guests expect cohesive and proactive engagement – at every touchpoint – across all channels during their travel journey.  Travel brands no longer get to dictate how the customer contacts and connects with them. Instead, customers need to be met at their channel of choice, whether that be via email, text, social, phone or in-person. They also expect engagement and responses to their needs in real-time, before any potential problems arise.

Remember, travel is deeply personal, offering unique experiences to guests with different preferences.  Each experience is truly an end-to-end journey, not a series of isolated events. Thus, the objective for lodging companies is to integrate these fundamentals into their business strategies and their tactics for sustainable growth as we emerge from the pandemic.