Marketing 360º
Dec 16, 2021
Belén Vidal
KAM & Operations Development Manager
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Check In for a Personalized Stay: Differentiation Strategies in Hotels

Home > Check In for a Personalized Stay: Differentiation Strategies in Hotels
Hotels have always needed to know what their clients want, but now it’s more important than ever before. Creating personalized and connected experiences that last the entire lifetime of the client is a task that can’t be delayed.

COVID-19’s impact on the tourism sector in general and specifically on hotels has been enormous and has modified consumption habits, market trends, and client needs. We’re entering a new year in which differentiation strategies are going to be essential for maintaining

 a good number of sales in a highly competitive industry like hospitality. This article from Hospitality Net highlights some of the trends that are appearing in the post-COVID world: clients want to minimize contact with others and open and contamination-free zones are in high demand, travel has narrowed its distance and indoor and local tourism has increased, and digital investments are key to increasing the quality of the service and designing customer-centered strategies that focus on the needs of each client. 

 

Creation of Personalized Experiences 

An IBM study about hotels and the personalization paradox shows that users are demanding a larger differentiation in their hotel experiences and, up until now, most users haven’t seen major qualitative differences. Personalized experiences can have a great impact in the perception of travellers before, during, and after their stay.  

Another piece of data is that 10% of travelers will spend eight or more hours looking for the best price for their trip, be it flights, hotels, or other things. If, in their eyes, the services aren’t backed by a differentiation strategy, the clients will be subject to hours of searching for the best offer because they don’t see significant differences that help them make their decision. 

Consumer expectations are becoming increasingly demanding. In the 2nd edition of the Salesforce State of the Connected Consumer Report, we learned that half of consumers say that companies aren’t providing exceptional experiences across all industries. As you can see, it’s not just important for hotels. 

 

Implement a Differentiation Strategy

Technological solutions are a very useful addition to developing hotel differentiation strategies. The key is hyper personalization from the first moment: not just during stay, but from the very first interaction with a possible client. Throughout the entire customer journey, hotels must take advantage of the information they collect about their users to adapt their communications to them through all channels: email, social media, telephone. Today, experiences are omnichannel and the tools we use must keep this in mind. The recent CEHAT conference of Spanish hoteliers highlighted the need to bet on hypersegmentation, tactical campaigns, flexibility for users, and quick responses when facing problems.

At the same time as we highlight the importance of service personalization, we must also recognize that there’s another force in play that serves as a contradiction: standardization. This may seem contradictory, but standardization is fundamental for creating a base on which to construct a personalized experience. 

There are five forces that push the need for standardization: consistency, innovation speed, cost, complexity, and expectations. In the case of hotels, clients will demand the same experience and standards in all establishments; this is why the standardization of hotel operations is fundamental. Not just this, but the speed of innovation, like Joantxo Llantada and Giorgio Ascolese highlighted in their study about tourism trends, pushes the need for a standardized environment even further so that hotels can apply agile operations to their administration, add new technologies to their processes, and be at the forefront of guest services.

Standardization doesn’t mean a dehumanization of the service. On the contrary, it allows for human labor to focus on the parts of the service that can truly provide value to the clients. Task automation frees the team’s time so they can focus on clients and improve the client experience. 

So, why is standardization essential for quickly adopting innovation? IBM describes it perfectly: 

 

"Hotel chains that have standardized processes will be able to increase effectiveness by eliminating property operational uniqueness and implementing new solutions quickly and more consistently. Hotels that understand the importance of innovating in the next decade will recognize that standardized operations will act as a multiplier in the positive effects that innovation will have on both customers and the bottom line."

 

Examples of Differentiation Strategies in a Hotel 

There are a large number of possibilities for implementing a differentiation strategy in hotels. Some recommendations to obtain the best benefits of personalization are: care for customers in the minority, give clients the chance to personalize their experience, and offer consistent products and services. 

What examples of differentiation can we see in the hotel business? In their study, Llantada and Ascolese mention that many hotels use the virtual assistant Amazon Alexa through Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus in Marriott, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels and Wynn Las Vegas. This allows users to control their room preferences, call reception, listen to music, or even call room service. Hotels also have access to software analysis with user comments about technology, which is fundamental for learning their preferences for future visits.

The power of data is unimaginable. Hotels must take full advantage of the information they store and use it to offer custom plans, filter future promotions for clients, or identify the least popular parts of the experience. The hotel must be placed at the center of the tourism experience; positioning the establishment at the centre of the tourist experience can be the key to getting to know our travellers and providing them with extra added value within their trip

And we can’t forget that we should be constantly monitoring social media in search of comments and suggestions that come from travellers to improve our service. Checking social media will serve as an inspiration source to make the changes that will make users feel that their comments are valuable and win their loyalty, which rewards programs can’t achieve. 

The key of all this is that personalization works. According to the IBM report, more than 70% of those surveyed had positive experiences with personalization initiatives. It also shows that they had a high response to “both personalization efforts at the property and those through the website and other online channels.” These numbers serve as encouragement for those who are looking to provide online differentiation and offline personalization. The physical and digital worlds are coming together to offer a complete, omnichannel, and customer-adapted service. Are you ready to face the challenge? 

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