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Is There Such Thing as a Data-Delighted Hotel Guest? Depends on Who You Ask

For many years, leveraging guest data to enhance the overall hotel stay experience has been a popular topic in both the mainstream media and hotel trades.

Though one aspect of topic has been received as much attention, which is that there are two sides of the story when it comes to guests embracing the use of their data.

On one hand, data-drive hotels have the actionable knowledge they need to provide customized guest experiences. The ideal behind this is that everyone wins. The guest is delighted with their stay, and the hotel gets a boost in loyalty and online reviews. 

On the other hand … is there really such a thing as a data-delighted guest? We live in a world where data is reaching near ubiquity where one random Google search for new shoes results in a myriad of targeted shoe ads on social media and on other websites.  Is this a good thing? Or is this a bad thing?

For example, Best Western Hotels & Resorts recently tested the use of Amazon Alexa in their guest rooms. The idea being that guests can order up new towels, food for delivery, or room service through the device.

Guess what happened. The vast majority of guests completely unplugged the Alexa devices. Best Western leadership correctly assumed that guests did not want the device listening in on them. People may be fine using Alexa like this in their homes, but clearly they are not comfortable with it in a hotel environment.

But with the new Equinox Hotels chain, which is creating a data-driven experience for their fitness-focused guests, it’s a different story. With the brand also including the popular Equinox Fitness Clubs and Spas, they are targeting this guest niche by leveraging guests’ wants, needs, preferences and behaviors as they relate to exercise and fitness and much more, on a granular level.

By targeting guests that view fitness as a lifestyle, Equinox Hotels may not have any data-concern issues, and have the ability to please a growing niche of consumers with health-related offers and programs.

There are many contrasting themes when it comes to hotels and guest data. While we are slowly getting accustomed to being targeted with customized, data-drive ads and offers, clearly there are still some hurdles in the hospitality space.

Hospitality Technology Arena Maturing – What’s Next?

Based on a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Marriott’s Chief Information Officer Bruce Hoffmeister, it is obvious that the hospitality sector has made tremendous leaps and bounds when it comes to adopting new innovations.

It seem like only a couple of years ago that major hotel brands were just starting to embrace the concept of mobility, and other innovations aimed at pleasing the guest through the entire stay cycle.

Fast-forward to today and hoteliers like Marriott are an example of how to employ mobility and other innovations – such as providing “unique guest experiences” to interacting with guests at multiple touch points. Leading hotel brands are now officially on the forefront.

So, what’s next?

While many of us don’t have crystal ball in front of us, it would be safe to assume that innovation will continue to transform the guest experience. Whether it’s the true adoption of robot butlers and concierges to ubiquitous keyless entry, the foundation for brand loyalty will lie in evolving technologies.

And even though at some point in the near future, these types of technologies will be commonplace at any property, this normalization of innovation will continue to create a new springboard for the next level of exciting technologies.

Of course, it is difficult to see this next level through a crystal ball. However, we imagine that Marriott will continue to spearhead the latest technologies on their properties, web and mobile apps.


OTA Shunning Loyalty Program a Missed Opportunity?

In today’s hospitality arena, one of the hottest buzzwords is “guest loyalty.” Many large hoteliers and OTAs are bringing this concept to life through multiple channels when it comes to their guest loyalty programs.

However, the largest OTA has decided to change tack by shunning its loyalty program.

According to this recent Skift article, the Booking.com unit of Priceline is now aiming to create a great user experience for site visitors and app users instead of paying them to be loyal. The strategy behind this decision is that it can be costly to compensate customers through loyalty programs when they could become repeat customers and be loyal anyway.

While this is an unconventional approach, does this present a missed opportunity for Booking.com?

For example, the OTA could have branded this in a way that would have appealed to millennials and, for lack of a better term, hipsters. The new way to brand this could have been the “Anti-Loyalty Program,” which offers an ironic twist and could actually enhance loyalty.

However, the most significant missed opportunity is that there is no demonstration of value or reciprocation to the consumers. Booking.com could have created a customized dashboard or a calculator for guests that show them the savings they are achieving without the use of an actual loyalty program.

With mobility continuing to gain momentum, Booking.com is basing this approach on the belief that once customers use its app, the company doesn’t necessarily have to reacquire these users again through advertising, loyalty programs or other incentives.

This strategy could certainly pay off. But there are many inherent risks that come with this effort (or lack of effort). Without any direct reciprocation to the guest, Booking.com may have to re-change its tack and launch a comprehensive loyalty program.

Tidewater Auctions Launched New Corporate Website With Support from NetLink Resource Group

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Tidewater Auctions, the leading real estate auction firm for the Mid-Atlantic region, just launched a new corporate website that enhances business processes and supports revenue growth by hosting increased volumes of residential, commercial and mixed-use properties auctions.

Designed and developed by NetLink Resource Group, the fully customized website allows Tidewater Auctions to access its database of commercial and residential properties and showcase them on the site. NetLink built a new Content Management System (CMS) using ASP.NET C# and SQL Server, as well as developed the overall design for the new site.

“NetLink was able to develop a completely unique website that allows us to showcase our current inventory of commercial and residential properties in new and innovative ways,” said Alex Forbes, Vice President, Tidewater Auctions. “The NetLink team consistently delivered and exceeded all expectations throughout the design and build-out of our new site, which enabled us to tremendously enhance our web presence.”

The new website fully supports Tidewater Auctions’ business processes, which involves hosting up to 100 auctions monthly of residential, commercial and mixed-use properties. The new web property allows the company to continually provide detailed new information on properties that are up for auction.

“Working with Tidewater Auctions gave us an excellent opportunity to build a website that fully supports the organization’s business goals and objectives,” said Steve Short, President, NetLink Resource Group. “ We also were able to provide a complete end-to-end solutions – from design to developing a custom CMS.”

The new Tidewater Auctions website can be accessed here.

About NetLink Resource Group

At NetLink, we work with businesses to analyze opportunities, recommend technology strategies, and execute digital / mobile / web solutions that improve customer engagement, revenues, and operational efficiencies. We dissect complex business challenges, develop quick-to-market platforms that overcome them, and provide ongoing, professional support that allows you to focus on your business rather than managing multiple vendors. Our team delivers solutions that address hospitality, financial, workflow automation, and marketing needs. We serve a wide range of organizations, from SMBs to large companies in the private sector, as well as government and non-profits.


It’s a Mobile World: Most Travelers Use Mobile Devices for Booking Travel

New studies indicate that travelers are booking more travel on mobile devices than ever before.

One recent study showed that 52 percent of travelers booked their trips on either a smartphone or a tablet in the past 90 days.  It also found that many travelers rely on mobile devices to research upcoming trips, resulting in a cross-device journey that most often ends with laptops.

In addition, a new eMarketer report found that consumers are using smartphones to guide their travels from start to finish, whether that’s for last-minute bookings, connecting to destination-related information or seeking personalized recommendations.

One unique aspect of this study was that hoteliers are building out mobile solutions for booking, but have been slow to take advantage of smartphones as on-the-go travel guides.

For hoteliers embracing new mobile innovations to meet this emerging market demand, it is ideal to take a 360-degree developmental effort.  For example, new mobile apps can be developed that aggregate content about your properties and areas of interest within these destinations.  These apps can serve as the informational resource guides that will aid any traveler either before or during their trip.

From a mobile booking perspective, the most cutting-edge innovations are designed to minimize any friction – a 360-degree frictionless experience — and make the path to booking smooth and seamless.  This involves a more simplified design approach with the fewest clicks, and avoiding cumbersome interfaces for inputting credit card information.   In addition, mobile apps play a key role in launching mobile browser sessions, which can aid overall search engine visibility and eliminate the cost of development across various device ecosystems.

As mobile requirements change every 6-8 months with the launch of new iOS and Android platforms, it is no simple endeavor to keep up with today’s mobile hospitality world.

However, if hospitality providers build out aggressive development cycles to meet these new requirements, it is possible to stay ahead of the curve and meet all of the unique needs of today’s mobile traveler.