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I don’t know about you, but I’m so done hearing about the tech that will save the day for hoteliers. Another topic enters our lexicon of trending terms that will undoubtedly “…break the backs of intermediaries and upstarts” virtually every single day. You could call them the ABC’s of disappointment: AI, blockchain, chatbots and a host of other technological marvels that claim they’ll completely upend the status quo and return hotel marketers to their rightful place at the top of the mountain. Just recently, Airbnb announced it will now accept — for a modest fee — hotel listings alongside your nephew’s spare air mattress and those undersold condos down the block.
Now, don’t let my snark suggest that these are all bad ideas. I believe most of these platforms and technologies offer opportunities to improve how we connect with guests. AI already plays an enormous role in shaping how we find, attract, and convert customers not just in the future, but today. Blockchain represents an exciting foundational technology that may disrupt business every bit as much as the internet has. Chatbots offer the potential for guests to access information they need in simple spoken language while reducing the heavy overhead associated with contact centers (though, admittedly, not without introducing some substantial overhead of its own). Even the Airbnb announcement likely represents an effective, low-cost distribution channel for your unused hotel inventory.
Those all are positive developments, ones you should put to work for your property. But only when and where appropriate.
The reality is that we’ve got to stop pretending that some mythical, magical event exists — can exist — that will disrupt OTA’s, restore sanity to inventory and yield management, and return hotel owners and operators to their rightful place atop the distribution landscape. There’s no silver bullet here. As stated so eloquently in a recent television commercial, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”
The only way you regain control of your distribution and marketing is to, y’know, take control of your distribution and marketing. It’s to take the time to understand the changing needs and behaviors of guests, to uncover the best sources of revenue and profitability for your property, to focus on providing guests differentiated service, and to develop a comprehensive hotel marketing strategy that connects those with effective processes for finding, attracting and converting customers to loyal, repeat business for your hotel.
You’ll see any number of sources out there selling FUD — Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt — around whatever the sexy tech du jour happens to be. “You’re not using [insert their propriety platform or process]?!?” they’ll say, aghast at your lack of knowledge (or, more likely, aghast at the fact you’ve yet to cut them a check). “Oh, no. Well, I guess you can survive in this environment without it, but, I’d hate to see where you end up if not.”
That’s not helpful. It increases confusion, decreases understanding, and only really helps those selling services that way. More importantly, it diverts you from building and following an effective plan. Don’t listen to that. Instead, listen to your guests. Learn what matters to them throughout their journey. Then use only the technologies that help you improve their overall experience.
Yes, it can be fun to play with new tech. And your plan should accommodate testing new ideas, new channels, and new opportunities. But if you’re constantly chasing the, quote-unquote, latest and greatest, without integrating those into a thoughtful, holistic hotel marketing strategy, you’re really just chasing your own tail.
So, sure, listen to what’s happening with technology. Understand how it affects guests throughout their journey and how it can help you create a positive experience for your guests. But keep your carts and horses in the right order; use technology to support your overall strategy, not in place of that strategy. After all, when you take care of your guests, helping them throughout their journey, meeting their needs, that’s where the real magic happens.
If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing customer behavior will shape your marketing going forward, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.
You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:
Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success:
- 6 Mobile Commerce and Strategy Insights: E-commerce Link Digest
- Content is Still the King
- The Digital Strategy Myth
- Why Mobile Payments Will Rule
- Driving Seamless Experiences in 2016 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 149)
- Mobile is So Much Bigger Than You Think (Thinks Out Loud Episode 140)
- It’s Not “Mobile First.” It’s “Customer First.”
- 8 Killer Entries About Improving E-commerce Experience: E-commerce Link Digest