With the shared economy trend steamrolling what we thought would be an age of digital prosperity for hotels, operators large and small search for the competitive edge against entities like Airbnb and Uber. News social media management company Local Measure raised $3.4 million funding recently speaks volumes for an industry in search of a kind of “loyalty” salvation. For some hoteliers loyalty programs have been a secondary consideration in the trend toward mobile tech, but in reality, the game is the same as always. The loyalty program is in a metamorphosis.
A ton of investment is being levied into technology, digital marketing, and especially acquisitions in order to achieve the competitive edge. When I saw the Sydney-based startup sign a deal with AccorHotels last Summer, I knew intelligence on guests had swung into high gear. Our past experience with companies like Norwegian startup Stay.com and more recently SnapShot GmbH foretold of new strategies for guest engagement, but a few years ago “shared” mean simply crowdsourcing more or less. Now Accor and other groups are in desperation mode to decipher and convert guests.
Local Measure offers technology that uses location data to collate content posted online about a hotel in real-time. This allows the staff to better understand and interact with existing guests, and to extend the who guest experience value proposition. Local Measure has secured just over $11 million in funding so far, but there’s a gold mine out there for any company(s) that can accelerate the whole “guest loyalty” equation. The following is a list of strategies/initiatives centered around guest loyalty, that are either launched or in various stages on the drawing board.
- The Hilton HHonors mobile app just added “Digital Key” – the world’s most famous hotel brand is rolling up an all-in-one guest experience ball
MyCheck just unveiled a ‘Front Desk Widget’ that affords effortless check-in that may revolutionize the space for independent hotels.
Sojern, which we saw Eleonora Francioni demonstrate at Digi.Travel Athens, is the world’s leading performance marketing engine for travel brands
- Plateno Connect is a recently launched initiative by China’s Plateno Group to power up hotels with 100 million loyalty members and tech.
Other programs have seen a modicum of success such as: the award-winning Wyndham Rewards program; IHG Club Rewards; and independents like the VOILÀ Hotel Rewards, which perpetuates and capitalizes on typical old school loyalty plays through branding and sky-miles type rewards. Meanwhile, REVINATE and others guest intelligence based firms inform us, loyalty is evolving rather than being dead and buried. According to their hoteliers need to build in personalized surprises and delightful experiences, in order to perpetuate guest loyalty. I know from personal experience traveling to a great many destinations, meeting familiar faces and surrounds coupled with memorable moments makes for a powerful incentive. I will pay more to get this, and most reasonable people agree.
In conclusion, the big brands and many independents are moving forward fairly fast in learning more and integrating new forms of guest loyalty. Marriott International unveiled M Beta at Charlotte (N.C.) Marriott City Center recently, a hotel experience designed to squeeze real intelligence out of the guest, and to affirm what it is that can make loyalty tick in the future. Talking about “experiential” hotels is one thing, refining and practicing, is another. While some hoteliers and service providers seem bogged in the quest, others pave the way forward more authoritatively. Tnooz reported the other day that digital hotel concierge service Porter & Sail (video above) has acquired fellow mobile hospitality technology provider GuestDriven, a guest engagement startup that received nearly $5 million in investment since 2013. I expect to see a lot more of this type of “acquisition-merger” activity around the mobile technology landscape in months to come. As for guest loyalty programs being dead and gone, nothing could be further from the reality. Everything successful hotels do is based on memorable hospitality, we must remember. And that is aimed at making loyal customers.
At the end of the day your hotel staff shows the love when a guest comes back from sightseeing and says, “Thank you so much for recommending…” And on the other end, the Holy Grail of loyalty app development is the world holding that “end-all” smart app in their hands.