Clarity were delighted to partner BDRC at their ever popular Hotel Insights Forum this year. An extremely worthwhile day for those wanting to get closer to their Hotel customers, stakeholders and employees by looking at research data and trends that are invaluable to successfully growing your business and creating effective return.
Whilst the whole day was extremely informative and provided a state of the nation through the eyes of the Hotel sector, some of the key pieces we took away, with our heart being how we can effect a business’s growth and brand effectiveness were:
Compared to 2016, where Hotel spending by customers was up 14.9%, Restaurant spend was up 12.7% and Pubs 13.3%. 2017 spending is softening a bit with Hotels all up by 3%, Restaurants 12.4% and Pubs 9.2%. Since Brexit, the UK has remained high in demand and appealing for International travellers with the weak pound. Particular growth has been seen in key cities: Belfast and Edinburgh 10-15% up, followed by London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester up between 1 – 5%, as well as Country Hotels.
Combination offers are on the rise, with The Ned being a great example of Hotel and F&B together driving customers in abundance. Innovation Hotels are an upward trend, delivering unique/bespoke experiences. And Conference facilities being an important factor in guest bookings, if they get it right. The sector has a lot of creativity for maximising customer spend.
There was a lot of focus on the success of AirBNB and considerations of their market share, and the ‘home stay’ market. Air BNB has become the new ‘Hoover’ term for home stay booking choices, and the preferences sighted by guests were due to ‘authenticity’ and desire to ‘live like a local’ when travelling for business or pleasure.
Brand predictability can be a detriment to those wanting an individual experience. Air BNB specifically saw bookings rise by 81% with 6 million guests, both from UK and abroad. Source: Times Sept 2017. There are however pros and cons for both, so it’s making sure your marketing plan and creative communications play to your strengths in value, experience, service and operations. The drawbacks of ‘home stay’ are having to clean-up after your stay and clutter in the venue. And there isn’t much personal touch before, during and after a stay on a general basis, although some are learning! Hotel facilities are a huge benefit, as well as being trusted to look after the guest and provide an ease of stay. So listen to the market preferences, but stay true to what you offer.
Jo Robinson our Hospitality Client Service Director gave a talk, along with Leonie Bulman at BDRC on ‘The Power of Words / Social Media' - Download the presentation via the link below.
It wasn’t too many years back that companies were reluctant to jump on the social media band wagon. Many brands are still very much finding their way of ‘being’ that is authentic and engaging. Guests are however gaining (if not gained!) the power and companies need to tame the social media monster. Research shows that 53% of people won’t commit to a hotel booking until they have read other customer reviews. Friends are 3 times more influential than branded messages. And a Hotel’s ratings increase as a property gets more review.
So we actively need to encourage guest feedback and consider the golden rules:
- Make giving a review as accessible as possible.
- Re-use positive reviews in your Marketing.
- Do not incentivise reviews.
- Manage your responses with care – turning detractors into advocates.
- Take control of your online profile, and don’t leave this to your guests.
- Take on board trends in your guests’ comments.
When you realise that 76% of online brand conversations come from consumers, and that 87% of snapchat users say that their closest friends are their strongest influence – we are living in a different world to the leadership brands previously enjoyed.
A thread throughout the whole day was kicked off by the Rise of the Robots talk, and panel. Artificial Intelligence has increased at a huge rate between 2014 - 2016, and the trend is only gaining speed with ANI (narrow intelligence such as Google’s core business strategy and AI Cars) growing over the next 20 years, followed by AGI (general intelligence from 2040 – 2060), and Super Intelligence predicted in our children’s generation (ASI). It’s not going away, in the US Augmented Reality is now being taught to the next generation.
Hotels have had data on customer for years, but now the technology is available to be able to use that information intelligently. The upfront investment in cost is often the barrier, as ROI isn’t seen immediately, however the message was to let go a little and trust the intelligence built into the systems to share the preferences and patterns from your guests and potential guests to inform your business. Uber, Booking.com, Trivago are all using AI in some form. And there is no need to fear, as it is still the combination of humans alongside AI to provide an enhanced experience and transaction for guests that ultimately delivers.
In an ever changing nation, Brand trust is a connection that is built up over time, in stages, and these dots must be joined up. BDRC’s research demonstrated that a trusted brand appears knowledgable, but it needs to be open, honest and transparent. Successful brands are simple and consistent in their core offer. In Daniel Kahnerman’s book ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’ he summarises that humans don’t like to think if we don’t have to, "We are cognitive misers”. For your brand’s success, we just need to listen to the information and help our guests go from A to B in the simplest way.