3 digital technology trends that the hospitality sector needs in 2016

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As hotel operators, owners and digital managers, you’ll understand the importance of structuring your marketing campaigns around digital trends for this year.

Further to this, you’ll know how important it is to incorporate digital technology and trends into the everyday running of your business. Let’s face it, even if you don’t want to use it, you need digital technologies to keep abreast of the competition that is constantly growing and evolving.

Hospitality Technology website has said that it is so important for hotels to investigate which technologies will yield the best return on investment. To be fair, it’s hard to know which ones might work best for you, purely due to the vast amount of choice that exists out there.

It seems that every day a new popular app comes on to the market, or social media platform, or automated technology that can help to improve your marketing, and therefore your business.

However, it’s also to important to remember that just because something is popular, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work well for your company. At the centre of your marketing plan and your business strategy should be the idea of what your target consumer audience is. Once you have this established, this is when you should use technology to layer up your strategy and find a way to make it better.

Apart from anything else, the millennials who are at the forefront of most – if not all – consumer markets can tell when something is superfluous, so you need to make the correct, informed decisions.

digital technology trends

There are three main technology trends that are going to be the driving force behind the hospitality industry this year. These are practically non-negotiable trends, and as we talk you through them, we’re going to suggest that you implement them into your plans for 2016.

Be smart with your controls

Yes, the first thing that we’re going to talk about are smartphones, those things that are barely out of a person’s hand. Whether people are using them to Whatsapp, to do research for work, to procrastinate – they are excellent for that – you have to know that smartphones are basically built into the hand of the consumer.

People use them for everything and further to this, the reality is now that consumers are using apps on their phones more and more, instead of using their computers or laptops as a default for browsing.

Take banks for example, almost every bank in the world has a smartphone app so that people can quickly check their accounts and/or transfer money. Why? Because sometimes, it’s easier to create an app platform for their service, rather than try to make their website mobile-friendly.

With more people using their phones as their primary method of finding information, it’s important that you, as a hotel, realise this and use it to your advantage. You can do this by either making your website mobile-friendly – which you should do anyway – or by creating a mobile app for your consumers to use.

Lots of hotels are now creating apps that allow their customers to book and check-in/check-out of a room. Giving your guests this option, can actually make things a lot easier for you, particularly over weekends when you’re most likely to be busy.

If a guest checks in to the hotel, you’ll receive a notification and they can basically see themselves up to their room once they’ve received their key. A similar process can happen for checking out, which is when most of the front desk stress usually happens, if you’ve ever worked in a hotel, then you’ll know exactly what this sort of fresh hell looks like.

Similarly, another app that is becoming particularly popular is one that works as the guest’s room key. This is much appreciated by the millennials who are most likely the main focus of your market.

Although it sounds like a gimmick, giving your guests the option of having their room key in the form of an app is actually great for both of you. The primary reason is because there’s less chance of the guest losing the key in the first place, because they have one less thing to worry about keeping track of when they leave the hotel. This is particularly prudent if they’re travelling with children, or travelling on business and are having to rush around a lot.

Make communication a two-way street

Now, you can easily create two-way communication between your staff thanks to Bluetooth-enabled smartphones – otherwise known as beacons.

These can be an absolute lifesaver in the hospitality industry and particularly for hotels and their staff. Everyone knows that there are those days and nights when everything that can go wrong, does go wrong and the best way to get control of the situation is to wrangle your staff to hide as much of it as possible from your guests.

Beacons can be a really great way of getting a hold of situations and containing problems when things start to go awry.

Another way that they are useful is to track customers habits, to monitor the things that they like about your service and product and feed it back straight away to management.

This was first done in the retail industry, to understand the way that people behave when they’re shopping and browsing. But, this is easily adaptable to hotels, particularly when we’re thinking about the impulses that people have when they’re ordering drinks and food.

If your head chef or bar manager has a product that they would like to push, then it’s easy for them to radio to the staff on the floor and make sure that they’re up-selling the right product to the customers.

By using these headsets, it also negates the need to pull staff off the floor for meetings at the start, middle or end of service and allows them to multitask, making them and the overall service much more productive.

Starting to use this technology is also a talking point with your guests; if they see your staff wearing headsets, they’re going to assume that you and your business are up to date with the latest technology. They might even want to take some pictures for posting on social media, which is great free publicity for your hotel.

An example of how these can work is to put these beacons by the entrances of your hotels or by the door of the spa – if you have one – and your bar and restaurant. As guests enter through the doorways, the beacons pick up information from their smartphones, which allows people like the concierge or the doorman to greet them by name. Some say creepy, others say efficient, but it’s definitely organised.

These beacons can also notify housekeeping staff when a guest is or isn’t in their room, allowing for less disturbance and a happier guest experience.

In a similar way to the retail industry, beacons can also allow you to work out where your guests are spending the majority of their time in the hotel. In the bar, their rooms, the restaurant etc, which allows you to work on those areas and provide them with the service in which they’re most interested.

Understanding that technology is a way to make a profit

For many years, IT and the people who run it have long been seen as an expense that had to be paid and that’s it. However, with the rise of digital technologies, we know that they aren’t just an expense, they’re a necessity and further to this, they’re a way to make a profit.

Any organisation worth it’s salt will have a fully loaded IT department and a well-trained team who are working hard to improve the digital appearance of the company. A hotel in particular needs to be concerned about its image, this is one of the main reasons that people make choices in hotels after all – based on their appearance – and a hotel’s online appearance is just as important as its physical appearance these days.

Having a good IT department, or at least someone to run your digital content and social media, will also reveal new revenue streams for your hotel.

Arena-International.com has said that hotel leaders are now looking towards technology to provide new business development opportunities. This year, the website says that hotels are aiming to do this either through disruptive digital marketing techniques, or next generation property management software (PMS).

One of the most standout disruptive digital marketing techniques that have happened in the past couple of decades was when Apple created iTunes. Nobody expected this jump from CD to downloading songs from the internet to take off in the way it did, but it was one of the best things that Apple ever did, if only for the fact that it helped to spawn the iPod, and so following, the iPhone.

In the same way, leaders of technology are now revolutionising the way that guests enjoy their hotel experiences and they are being recognised for their essential benefit for hotels. As such, hoteliers are now using them to maximise their ROI and are no longer spending so much of their budget on expensive and gimmicky technology.

PMS is something that is happening across industries all over the world and they are basically cloud-based systems that automate much of the turgid work that is a necessary part of hotel life.

There are a host of different kinds that are used for lots of different hotels, some include WebRezPro, Maestro and eZee Frontdesk. You’ll need to have a look around at the tens of dozens that their are, but you’re bound to find something that will suit you and make running your hotel much easier.