By Mark Skroch
Who is the new guest?
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a transformation in the digital landscape across the world. Research by IDC reports the new global spending on digital transformations to reach more than $2 trillion by 2022 compared to $1 trillion in 2018. The transformation has resulted in the emergence of a new guest. The new guest is a digitally conscious customer that relies on digital experiences to continue availing a brand’s service. Placed at the center of the new market reality, the digital experiences of the new guest now drive the return on investment and define success for companies.
The new guest is aware and is looking to make the right choice, irrespective of the cost incurred, which is why after analyzing more than 400,000 messages handled by BCV, a social media partner of luxury hotels across the world, we see that each hotel today is receiving more queries and messages with August seeing up to 237 messages in a month per property which is a 40% increase year on year.
The immediate next question for all hoteliers is what these messages are about and what should hotels be prepared to answer. The first good news is this, that in total, the total number of messages asking for cancellations have reduced considerably and are limited to around 5-6% of all messages as of the previous month.
What is also heartening to note, is the total share of messages enquiring COVID restrictions has dropped by almost 40% since March, showing more awareness of the traveler, and at the same time, displaying their willingness to travel again which should provide optimism to the industry.
And lastly, each property is now overwhelmingly processing and answering more messages on staycations, making up to 45-50% of the total messages received by every property each month, confirming that staycation is the preferred mode of vacation now.
What do the new guests treasure the most?
The new guest needs the right physical, service and digital experiences that not only nurture them but also guide them. It is also vital for brands to build a data security strategy into the customer experience due to the sensitive nature of the customer data. The new guest is aspirational and sensitive to the current situation, equipped with the right information, so brands need to place safety and health at the forefront of the experience and ensure that regulations are maintained to follow the social distancing protocols in physical experiences and that no false information is provided to the customers. The new guest understands the need for brands to advertise on social media platforms and recorded a 6% dependency on Facebook for brand updates.
What does it entail for the different stakeholders?
General managers need to ensure adherence to global health and hygiene standards and develop strategies to establish a transparent communication system that provides the new guest with relevant information regarding health protocols followed by the hotel. Communication with the customers not only allows hotels to win their confidence but also allows them to conduct research to identify new micro-segments and markets to proliferate their services. As the customer behavior is changing, brands need to reassess the current customer service models to make sure it supports customer acquisition and drives loyalty. General managers also need to reduce the variable cost and ensure that there is no additional investment in capabilities that do not add value to the customer experience.
Sales and Marketing
The sales and marketing department is the brand’s voice that the guest connects with and involves using the guest feedback to increase the hotel’s reputation. They need to understand guest sentiments to generate positive feedback on digital platforms. A collaborative effort, S&M also needs to develop tailored social media strategies and targeted content and advertisements to identify new micro-segments and the new market to extend the services to fresh customers. BCV has been able to leverage targeted advertisements for the Bora Bora property of Four Seasons to drive guest bookings by placing it as an ideal destination for luxury travelers, resulting in increased revenue.
With custom social media analytics and performance benchmarking, sales and marketing need to share any initiatives undertaken by the hotel in the form of content. A research study conducted by BCV reports a 40% increase in hotel queries on social media from the period of July 2020 to August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, which calls for a need to install a 24/7 monitoring system with a response before and after the stake.
Making way for the new guest
The new guest’s digital journey demands a collaborative approach among the stakeholders to build strategies that allow brands to understand and anticipate the needs of the guest. Brands need to leverage data using competitive intelligence and provide predictive pricing capabilities to understand the needs of the guest and find new markets for distribution. With an optimized distribution channel and health and security strategy built into the customer experience, brands can create personalized online experiences for the new guest while nurturing and guiding them. A customer-centric approach to digital transformation and distribution is what enhances a brand’s visibility and reputation.
Mark Skroch is general manager of BCV, a RateGain company.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.