- Technology advances are bringing generational needs together.
- Making the most out of your time remains the most compelling use case in hospitality.
- Expectations around connected technology in hospitality have grown as personal devices have been adopted.
- Trying to change user behavior is a daunting task that is often unnecessary to improving the overall guest experience.
- Smart technology can meet varying needs without fragmentation.
The hospitality business has a problem. Within their world the way they engage their guests has never been more fragmented and difficult to manage. Through the years they have faced this challenge before: how do you appeal to the many diverse and unique needs of your customers while still maintaining a level of quality and operational excellence? But with the adoption of connected personal technology the problem looks bigger and more insurmountable than ever before. But hotel and cruise ship owners take heart; the problem may not be as difficult as you think.
There exists much consternation around the importance of appealing to the Millennial market within hospitality, while not alienating the older generations that still bring in the majority of the revenue. This has led to an ongoing debate around how the technology will be shaped in the years to come; will Millennials age to accept the same behaviors and services as their forbearers, or will they always be fundamentally different in what they want? The best way to predict the future is to look to the past, specifically how different age groups have adopted technology.
There is plenty of data showing that Millennials and Gen-Xers have adopted smartphone and connected technologies at a higher volume than other generations, recent evidence shows that older generations are adopting technology faster. This is obvious when you think about it; younger generations were the early adopters that lived through the growing pains of the technologies in their infancy. Now that the ecosystem is proven and stable older generations find it safer and easier to begin their adoption process. Therefore, the speed at which older generations embrace mobile technologies is dramatically faster than their predecessors.
Looking at Hospitality review sites like TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com), Oyster (www.oyster.com), Yelp (www.yelp.com) there is a common story playing out; their users, which begun firmly weighted with the Gen-X and Millennial crowd are rapidly leveling out. PhoCusWright and Alexa have both run reports that show that over the last three years older audiences are increasingly using these trip sites for selecting their travel options. The perceived differences are proving to be temporary; and now companies are scrambling to make sure that they haven’t weighted their messages too heavily at a fraction of their available market.
While the services and use cases that different generations consume remains unique, the rapidly closing gap is in the interaction and adoption itself. The commonality between age groups is that technology is means to an end; used to simplify and enhance daily life. The details of that life may be diverse, but technology’s role within it is remarkably standard. It doesn’t matter if the experience in question is booking a reservation at a trendy restaurant, flagging down an Uber, browsing social media, checking a financial statement or getting navigation information… the interactions are quite similar. But what does all of this have to do with hospitality technology?
Simply that the key value proposition for modern technology has been firmly rooted in the experiences they bring, rather than traditional technical benefits. In this, we see a perfect convergence between the core tenants of modern hospitality. The Guest Experience has transcended to the core driver of travel value and we discover that hospitality and technology are for the first time perfectly aligned.
Calgary based GuestTek (www.guesttek.com) has been in the hotel business for nearly twenty years, and has worked through the transitional period of hotels and technology. But today you wouldn’t suspect the company was an “old school” player in the space; their value message has evolved to put technology evolution front and center in an industry where many have claimed this type of innovation is too difficult. GuestTek’s OneView platform is all about modern, home solutions in hospitality that drive high value guest experience. Their services are built with a simple promise: it doesn’t matter what age you are, the technology and services are universal and take advantage of the devices the guests are bringing with them into the hotel.
This all brings about a wave of good fortune to hotels and cruise ships, who for years have struggled with how to properly integrate and keep up with technology advances while managing razor thin margins and operational difficulties. With clientele that are motivated by personalized experiences and connected services, it really doesn’t matter what generation the person is from as long as there is an ability to interact through technology in a uniform way. For an industry that has long struggled with device fragmentation and heavy costs related to hardware, this new world is thankfully far more hospitable.
Over and over we see that within hospitality improving the guest experience is critical to increasing guest satisfaction and revenue. 48% of the bookings that occur within the hospitality industry occurred online in 2014, and a majority of those originated in some form from online review sites like TripAdvisor. It’s a fact that younger generations are more prone to turn to the internet for reviews before booking, but statistics show that guests over 50 are increasingly doing the same… in smaller numbers, but at a much faster adoption rate. In 2012 only 4% of online bookings came from the 50+ age demographic. In 2014 that number had leapt to 22%. This means that in just two years 1 in 20 people using online tools had become 1 in 4… and from a demographic that most are quick to write-off as being technology illiterate.
By bringing in personal devices the guests –young and old– have already established the way they want to interact with their device and now simply want to use it to control more of the world around them. Consider this; in a recent Wall Street Journal survey, 99% of guests travel with at least one device. Of those, 45% travel with 2 devices and 40% travel with 3 or more. This behavior crosses generational boundaries because the technology adoption for personal devices has already been achieved. Guests staying at a hotel are looking to interact with their personal device in the ways they do every day at home; they want to consume content. But this isn’t to say that every guest suddenly wants to screen share onto the hotel TV. Statistics show that a mere 6% of people utilize screen sharing technology from personal device to television at home. Why is it then that people expect for users to suddenly change their behavior when they arrive at a hotel? It’s been proven that trying to change user behavior during a short hotel stay is a failing exercise; whereas enabling behavior the guest is already comfortable with is always successful.
Another company whose product is designed to leverage what the guest already knows is Alice (www.aliceapp.com). By focusing first on the communication between guest and staff using devices already in hand, Alice strove to make the conversation simpler, efficient and thus more trusted. Their application (available on the Apple AppStore and Google Play) connects devices together to make and respond to requests within the hotel in the same way people would interact with their devices at home. Rather than try to change user behavior Alice embraced what people already knew, which also meant that guests of any age were comfortable using the system. This approach to products shouldn’t be revolutionary, but in hospitality it is.
While marketing to generations within hospitality remains a fractured and often exclusive art, technology can play a common, almost unifying role. Core services like check-in and folio viewing may be accessed for different reasons depending on your age and lifestyle, but the mechanism to get there is nicely universal. Content needed to meet the needs of your guests is undoubtedly diverse, but the controls to stream that content to the in-room television or a personal tablet can and should be the same.
Generational differences exist for technology adoption, but not necessarily technology usage. Different age groups have different wants and needs, but thankfully the headache of having to create different interaction models isn’t a problem hospitality needs to solve. Further, the current standards around web and cloud technologies make it easier than ever to apply platform solutions to fragmented hardware and provide a consistent user experience.
By balancing the interaction and hardware barriers into a common standard, the real effort and energy can be applied into creating amazing guest experiences; which is what guests really want in the first place.