The year 2017 brought some incredible novelties to the hotel industry. It also brought promise that some of those novelties will soon turn into necessities for each hotel hoping to excel in customer retention and delivering splendid experience. As the concepts of the hotel’s role, customer loyalty and customization evolve, driven by changing expectations and new technologies, it will take more work than ever to stay on top of things. But it’s well worth it.
The ironic thing about change is that it’s constant – every year, the hotel industry changes. But the year 2017 truly stands out. There is a quiet revolution taking place, which soon may redefine many of the most prevalent hotel industry concepts as well as the very role of hotels around the world.
Let’s get to the bottom of this and dig deeper into the trends that have been reshaping the hotel industry for the past 12 months.
Becoming a part of community
Inspired by the concept of co-living, back in September Accor Hotels brought Jo&Joe to life – a whole new budget brand. This is just one of many examples of increased emphasis on community and collaboration we could observe in the recent months in the hotel industry. It doesn’t come as a surprise – after all, the feeling of belonging to a community that the hotel provides is one of its biggest advantages over platforms based on home sharing such as Airbnb. But the emphasis on community we could see in 2017 goes further and is no longer confined to the hotel’s walls.
“Local inhabitants. They live around the hotel, or they go to an office around the hotel, and 90 percent of them never dared coming into the property, because they’re fearful that we’re going to be asking, ‘What’s your room number?’ They don’t need a room, but they may need a service”, famously said AccorHotel’s Sébastien Bazin.
And they do go out of their way to offer all kinds of services not typically associated with hotels – from providing package and keys storage, through guided trips.
Can people who don’t need a room become hotels’ clients and think of their nearby hotel as an important part of community? The answer is limited only by imagination.
Seamless experience – at every stage of interaction
However, what we do know already is that once a hotel does get a customer in need of a room, it is vital to provide them with a seamless experience.
Millennials are tech-savvy. By 2025, they will most likely make up 75% of the global workforce. They are also the primary target of business-oriented hotels. And they love hassle-free experiences. RockCheetah’s Robert Cole believes that soon every customer should be able to automatically access fast WiFi, get a reservation and enter its room of choice at one fell swoop, using technologies such as mobile apps or beacons.
To make it happen, some of the most innovative hotels have been introducing self-service check-in and check-outs, digital smartphone-based keys, smart TV in a hotel room or even control automation by tablet or voice. Perfect example of this kind of hotel might be newly opened Kubic Hotel in Athens, Greece.
In order to use such varied technologies effectively, umbrella solutions that offer multiple across-the-field functionalities, such as iLumio, are increasingly popular.
Revenue streams everywhere
Taking the hassle out of the hotel experience is just one of many ways in which hotels used technology to their advantage in 2017. It’s more and more common for hotels to practice upselling by, for example, providing users of their apps with the ability to buy the same furniture or gadgets that made the hotel’s design so fascinating. It’s hard to see an end to the potential of such solutions to diversify the revenue stream for hotel brands.
Customer loyalty – it works, just a little differently than we thought
Most of hotels run customer loyalty programs both online and offline. Unfortunately for them, they are often unsuccessful in their primary role – customer retention – since as much as 89 percent of all participants are active members of multiple loyalty programs. The year 2017 saw some hotels repeat the same mistakes with loyalty programs, and some others find new exciting ways to stand out with their offerings.
The losers discouraged many by tying their programs with actual accomplishments such as the number of hours spent or money spent in a hotel. The winners took a different approach – they made an attempt to surprise their guests and even personalize their rewards with data.
Using data from solutions such as iLumio, they obtain information on customers’ preferences to offer them, say, a visit at a restaurant they will definitely like.
But customer retention goes beyond loyalty programs. It’s about truly caring about your customers’ problems. For example, by offering them early check-ins for free when they end up arriving too early.
Excuse me, sir, can I ask you a question?
To use this refined version of rewarding regular customers, you need data to learn more about their habits and preferences. The increased dependence on data is and will continue to be one of the most easily observable trends in the hotel industry. However, gathering data through traditional approach such as in-app surveys or questionnaires, may no longer be a viable option – answering them is clearly not what customers want to do as they experience your hotel.
To combat this rationale, hotels use a variety of innovative tactics. Using smart solutions such as iLumio allows you to gather data on user preferences seamlessly while providing them with quality entertainment. The Charlotte Marriott City Center equipped its public areas with special buttons – guests can click them to indicate that they like a particular part of the hotel – a unique way to test the new design of your hotel. It’s a functionality you may soon need…
Being unique in a standardized world
… as great design is increasingly becoming an essential part of each and every hotel’s success – whether it is a small budget hotel or a top of the line luxury hotel.
According to STR Global, the number of branded hotel rooms increased from 67 to 71 percent during the last several years. It contributed to the public perception that most of hotels belong to large chains, which means that they are standardized and lack unique touch. And customers sure do crave all things unique and exciting – 78% of millennials would prefer to spend their money on memorable experiences rather than on material things, as a study by Eventbrite concludes.
This is true for both the offline and online experience. For example the Ritz-Carlton brand of luxury hotels offered its customers an app to allow them easily modify photos taken at its premises to make them look fun and vintage in order to post them on social media. It’s just a small, but bright example of making sure that every detail of the hotel experience contributes to creating moments worth remembering and treasuring for each customer.
One system to rule them all
To successfully compete in such an increasingly technology-intensive environments, it’s worth it to consider the implementation of a system that will allow the hotel to unite all of its IT components into one manageable platform. Cloud-based solutions, such as iLumio, allow hotels to manage the entire customer journey, keep tabs on all parts of the system, gather data, and publish new content easily, limiting the time spent on educating new employees in the process.
At the end of the year 2017, the decision makers of the hotel industry are faced with a tough challenge – to be seamless and positively predictable, all the while providing customers with memorable experiences. They also need to give their branded hotels a unique and local touch so that they don’t feel identical – merely identically wonderful, but wonderfully different about how they achieve this.
 Big demands and high expectations, The Deloitte Millennial Survey
 Winning the race for guest loyalty, 2014 report by Deloitte