Dr Jon-Hans Coetzer
Nowadays, technology is advancing at a rapid pace, especially in the hospitality and tourism industry. Customer-facing interactions are quickly being replaced with self-scan, self-check transactions, which have enabled the customer to become more self-sufficient. A study at the University of Oxford has even revealed that by the year 2033, as many as 47% of modern day job roles could be claimed by automation.
There are four areas where technological advances will continue to influence 2017 hospitality industry trends. The first and the foremost is the use of Geo-targeting and Beacons. Geo-technology provides filtered, location-based information from services or devices such as Snapchat or iPhone. With the help of GPS, geo-tech can help get messages to the people close by. Even online, adverts using ‘geo’ technology drive significantly more traffic back to their websites. It’s highly relevant for hotels, bars and restaurants, where 94% of retail spending is still done in store and geo-technology provides the perfect opportunity to attract nearby prospective customers.
Similarly, Beacons are masts – often using Bluetooth – that are engineered to communicate with iOS and Android operating systems to pass messages between a company and their consumers. A bit like a metal detector, when you are within distance of an active beacon, they can interact with smart devices and even send push notifications.
Second is the next generation of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems that go beyond logging customer data and behaviors. Using smart data and social media engagement, CRM providers such as Cluboid offer hotels, bars and restaurants a system that reduces time and energyspent of administration and enhances customer engagement and experience. This CMR makes it possible to wish customers a happy birthday, remember their drinks order, and scan social media for photographs so the venues can greet them by name.
Third is the digital/physical interfaces and smartphone pairing which is the fastest growing and favorite method of getting things done. Millions of people are now using smart devices to monitor everything from their fitness activities to their home surveillance equipment.Venues can allow their guests to add to a virtual playlist via an app linked to an interactive jukebox. Apps such as SecretDJ, Startle and Touchtunes enable you to request music in your favorite bars, pubs and clubs for a more personalized night out.
As said by Charles Goldstuck, TouchTunes CEO, consumers today expect a personalized experience, whether it is to choose the specific song they want, the toppings on their burger, the dressing on their salad. 2017 will also see the release of the Apple Watch 3 which will decrease the value of the previous 2, making them more affordable and accessible.
The evolution of social media is also a factor, where 90% of consumers polled by Zendesk claim that online reviews and critique influence their spending habits.Social media has been both a blessing and a curse for hospitality. Most importantly, it has enabled businesses to gather feedback and implement appropriate changes for even better customer service. Last year, social media has gone one step further with live video streaming that enables businesses to see how effective their marketing is in real time.Using the engagement rates from live video on social media, smart hospitality companies will prosper from the ability to alpha and beta test new products, lines and events.
Virtual reality is another way of improving user experience that is already finding its way into the entertainment and hospitality industries.The Marriott Hotels are already in the early stages of testing a new amenity known as ‘VRoom Service’. This allows guests to order VR headsets to their room and enjoy a selection of preloaded virtual reality experiences for a spot of travel inspiration.
Thomas Cook already reported a remarkable boost to sales using VR-run campaigns, seeing a 190% increase in revenue when using a ‘Try-before-you-fly’ simulation of a helicopter trip around Manhattan.
Voice activation is also coming along in leaps and bounds with the introduction of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo and Microsoft’s Cortana.Voice controlled software is in fact now reaching a level of comprehension as high as 95%.
Last, but not least, comes the growth of online education for the hospitality sector. To keep up with the latest trends in hospitality technology, hospitality managers need ongoing education and online courses offer an ideal format to build skills for this digital age. Glion Institute of Higher Education, which offers the world’s first 100% online MBA in hospitality management since 2010, also offers online courses for hospitality managers to develop targeted skill sets in hospitality marketing, finance, and leadership.
In 2017, hospitality businesses will have to focus on making the most of this emerging technology to not be left behind. The potential and scope and application of these new tools are quite remarkable,and they will definitely drive hospitality trends catering to the millennial consumer who seeks connected, yet authentic and personalized experiences.
Authored is Chief Academic Officer at Glion Institute of Higher Education and it is co-authored by Cluboid company.