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Retail 26th March 2018 - 3 min read

How can Hotels use Big Data to Target a Growing Market of Millennials?

By Joni Lindes

In an effort to create enhanced customer service through the “human touch” of a warm smile- hotel managers often place new technology and its many benefits on the back burner- believing it to be “impersonal.”

The Hotels 2020: Welcoming Tomorrow’s Guests highlighted key changes in hotel visitor demographics from 2018 onward. In 2018, millennials  are set to outspend baby boomers. The Cornell Centre for Hospitality Research expects millennials to represent up to half of all the people travelling to the USA before the year 2025. Millennials crave a tech-savvy yet authentic experience tailored to their needs. New technological trends, like big data can predict these needs and fulfill them accordingly while not forgetting the human touch required for hospitality success.

How can hotels benefit from big data?

Customers leave a trail of data the second they check into a hotel to the moment they walk out the door. The key to keep more of them coming back is through using this data to better understand their purchasing trends over a long period of time.

Data can be a major driving force behind yield management- the process ensuring each hotel room is booked at the optimal price. Historical data showing peaks and falls in room occupancy can be a deciding force in determining price and promotions for stays throughout the year.

Data can be an effective marketing tool- giving hotels insight into trends. These trends can inform target marketing campaigns. Economy hotel chain Red Roof Inn used data analytics to guide an effective marketing campaign. The chain realized flight cancellation rates were sitting at 3%. The hotels were situated close to airports where 90 000 passengers were left stranded everyday. The chain’s marketing and analytics team worked together to identify openly available public data sets on weather conditions and flight cancellations. They discovered most customers use web search via their mobile phones to search for nearby hotels. The marketing team used these insights to launch a marketing campaign aimed at mobile devices in the area. Their turnover increased by ten percent.

The benefits of data does not stop at marketing. Data and mobile technology can go hand in hand to enhance the customer experience.

Combine technology with the human touch and we have success!

Gillian Saunders, Global Leader for Hospitality and Tourism at Grant Thornton believes human interaction and technological tools are both needed to keep guests coming back:

“Hotels need to work to understand their guests’ requirements, making the most of big data to analyse and establish where personalisation through better use of mobile can really add value. It’s all about striking the right balance between apps and technology, as well as human interaction, which is still hugely valued. Get it wrong and you risk alienating your customers. Get it right and you can reap the rewards.”

“Getting it right” involves using data and mobile technology to understand a customer’s needs and predict how these needs can be addressed. Minibars can be stocked with their favourite drinks. Tour and local restaurant suggestions can also be streamed to their phones.

Boutique hotel chain Denihan Hospitality combined customer feedback with transactional data to extract key insights on guest experience. They then rearranged their rooms to cater for business or leisure travellers. In-room facilities like kitchenettes were provided for targeted groups who appreciated them- like families.

The chain even went as far as to putting analytics in the hands of the front of house hotel staff. Armed with dashboards on their smartphones, hotel staff were able to anticipate what kinds of restaurant meals, concierge services or excursions to local places of interest a guest might want. Housekeeping staff received real-time updates on whether customers in a particular room require an extra pillow or are likely to call room service for a sandwich and a coffee at 2am.

In this way, technology can be used to fulfill the age-old hospitality imperative of fulfilling a need before the guest expresses it. Technology and good old fashioned customer service become intertwined to create a memorable and marketable guest experience. The possibilities are endless.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
3 min read

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