Impulsify makes retail easier for hotels and guests

As travel returns after the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels are looking for new ways to maximize their revenue wherever they can to recover what was lost from the period of shutdowns and minimal travel.

Denver-based Impulsify believes that its self-service retail technology, design services and business intelligence can provide hotels with the opportunity to maximize their retail grab-and-go F&B outlets to raise revenue.

“What we specialize in is making retail really simple and measurable for hoteliers because it’s not their core business, and they don’t have backgrounds in retail and par levels and stocking and UPC performance,” said Janine Williams, CEO, Impulsify.

Before launching the company, Williams worked on the procurement of food products for hotels and saw the potential for retail. “I just saw this massive void of data and any measurable business intelligence to guide the brands and what they were choosing to do within that space,” she said. “That resulted in treating it as an afterthought or an amenity that became a cost center to owners. They were pushing back against the brands that they didn’t want to do it or they didn’t want to do it in any kind of meaningful way, so it was just set up to fail. If you drop a retail outlet into a lobby space and then ask the front desk to answer phones, check in guests, deal with housekeeping issues and then run a retail store, it’s just not a recipe for success.”

When the company first launched in 2013, its POS system allowed hotels to keep track of products sold to maximize sales, as well as allowed for the ability for products to be charged to rooms. “We used the science approach to it,” said Williams.

That data also allowed the company to launch its retail services offering. It creates planograms for stores on how to merchandise products for maximum sales potential. “We always say our retail services team is almost like a profitable marketing team, because their setups and the way they create really beautiful retail for hospitality sells the technology,” she said. “You can’t have all this, and not have a true retail tool to manage it, and vice versa. Technology doesn’t fix ugly retail. It tells you that your retail is ugly, but because you can see the measurables.”

As the stores became more successful, the POS system increased the burden on the front desk staff to handle the retail transactions. To help relieve this burden, the company introduced a self-service kiosk capability in 2017. “It allows the guests to just walk up, scan an item, charge it to their room or pay for it with a credit card,” she said.

Impulsify recently launched Impulse Buy, which handles product ordering when inventory is running low. “We auto-replenish for them based on their real-time inventory levels,” said Williams. “All they have to do is place the product on the shelf when it arrives using the planogram that we gave them, and do a hard inventory count once a month to make sure that our inventory levels are trued up in the system to what they have.”

Hotels that moved to the self-checkout kiosk saw an increase in revenue, and Williams noted two main reasons for that. One was a reduction in what she calls abandoned sales, when customers see that the line at the front desk is too long and they put their items back. The second is “inadvertent theft,” when a guest does not want to wait in line at the front desk. “[They say] ‘I’m not going to be inconvenienced because I am a diamond member and I’m very important,’” she said. “So, they take it and expect to come back and pay for it later and they don’t. The vast majority are not shoplifters—they want to pay, they just don’t want to be inconvenienced to do so. If you make it hard for them, they may feel entitled to take it. And we saw that drop dramatically when we put self-pay at the front desk.”

Williams has seen some reluctance to offer self-service technology because there is the perception in hospitality that it is diminishing the ability to be hospitable. “My argument against that is it’s not very hospitable to make them wait in line, and then have a front-desk associate touch their food,” she said. “Finding ways to be hospitable through convenience, especially in this day and age when so many of our guests do not want to engage with the front desk; they want a mobile check-in to go straight to their room. There are other ways that hotels can still be hospitable but give guests that freedom and convenience to come and go.”

She added, “Don’t fight for that Diet Coke transaction. Let them have that and then make it easy for them to enjoy a full meal at the restaurant if that’s where you can provide better hospitality than a retail transaction.”

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