At the recent Hotel Data Conference, a number of lodging leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities that both independent and soft brands have when it comes to innovation.

For independents, there is often more creative freedom, while the soft brands have a mix of brand standards combined with the ability to experiment more with technology.

For soft brands, there will always be corporate-driven solutions like uniform PMS systems, which have become very mature and somewhat commoditized. Conversely, we will see the application of some newer technologies like keyless entry become standard, which will continue to push all brands to find some differentiation.

Every brand needs to advance their identity through the creative use of innovation, which can be challenging in today’s commoditized technology arena. However, by focusing on new innovations that please the guest – both on and off property – it is possible to strengthen the overall brand.

For example, by leveraging systems that provide customized guest recommendations for restaurants and other events, it’s possible to standout and create lasting guest loyalty. For independent brands, these systems are very important, because guests have come to expect a high-touch experience during their stays.

In addition, for soft brands, these types of recommendation systems allow them to offer a customizable solution that will please the guest – and will not be considered a risky tech investment that offers minimal ROI.

Of course, pleasing the guest – whether face-to-face or through innovation – should always be considered a priority. By taking advantage of solutions that build out customized restaurant and attraction recommendations, it is possible to build long-term loyalty that will keep guests coming back, whether it’s an independent or soft brand.