Yes there is a fun part to my job, the travel to many cultures, various places and amazing lifestyles. During my travels, there is not one trip, where I did not feel the hospitality industry can see immense amount of personalization. Retail and consumer electronics have done very well in this space. Before I get too deep into this topic of relevance to me, both personally and professionally, let me talk about a use-case. Imagine checking into a hotel, the moment you turn on the TV it shows your entertainment preferences, and perhaps a movie you did not finish watching during a hotel stay in a different city the day before and you are offered the option to continue from where you left off and then you are offered additional movie/ TV program choices based on your previous viewing selections.
It is an irony of sorts. At the center of globalization is travel. At the very core of travel is the hotel experience. Yet, even as the rest of the world is seeing and experiencing a slew of initiatives around personalization, little has been done by the hospitality industry to leverage technology to ensure that it also innovates around personalization.
This is even more surprising given that travelers use the web and mobile channels for practically all travel needs – from researching their holidays, to booking air tickets, choosing hotel stays for business and leisure, renting cars, providing feedback and discussing their experience on social media. A recent Google study showed that the percentage of travelers who downloaded the mobile apps of companies with whom they had a loyalty program was substantial: 54% leisure travelers, 72% business travelers and 71% affluent travelers had downloaded these mobile apps.. Which really sums up the story so far: the hospitality industry has the right reasons to deliver a personalized customer experience as now it has access to the data on which to build the personalization.
What might this personalization be around? Let's assume you are flying from Tokyo to Mumbai for a meeting and you tweet "Dog tired after flight. Waiting to get to @SofitelMumbai." Imagine getting back a response from @SofitelMumbai: "Would you like a shiatsu foot massage on your arrival?" Or imagine this: you ask the hotel concierge for some crayons for your children and you consistently watch a children's cartoon channel during your stay. Imagine, when you come back to the hotel two months later with your family, it already has the crayons in the room and the children's favorite cartoon channel is playing. The hotel could go a step further by looking up your social profiles and analyzing them to see if you have any food and beverage preferences to create personalized menu options. It could load the mini bar in the room based on your preferences rather than the popular generalizations you see today (beer, soda, a middle-of-the-road scotch and pretzels – or something very similar; you get the picture).
The expectation of travelers is growing. To meet these needs, and to meet competition, hotels must begin to acquire a personal view of their customer. I believe that personalization in the hospitality industry is set to grow dramatically in 2013. Technology is not only making it possible to capture, store and analyze a customer's likes and dislikes, but the customer too has become open to the idea of sharing information that makes the personalization possible.
Last year, Four Seasons unveiled its US$ 15 million website makeover incorporating Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor feeds. Overall, the site was aimed at heavy-duty personalization of the guest experience. Four Seasons says that after setting up a profile and indicating personal interests, related content and recommendations from Four Seasons will become available on a guest's next visit. Over time it will deliver a completely personalized experience.
Today's mobile interactions, social media analytics, app usage, partner loyalty program data (say from an airline, a car rental, credit card company), on-premise Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and video networks can map a guest's usage patterns and activities and integrate it with personal profiles. The mix is a potent source of personalization. All it needs is a little technology to bring it together and create magic.