How to cultivate loyalty and enhance guest experience with technology
Alison Vasey, group product director at Zonal, highlights the opportunities for hoteliers to embrace technology and data to drive revenue this summer and beyond.
The summer ahead for the hotel industry will be one of tremendous importance, and with the loosening of restrictions hoteliers will need to hit the ground running in order to kickstart their recovery. Last year saw the rapid adoption of technology across the wider hospitality sector, and in 2021 hoteliers of any size have the opportunity to take advantage and drive revenue by utilising its full capability.
Tech-savvy domestic travellers
The prospect of this summer season being dominated by domestic travellers and guests does provide hotel operators with a unique opportunity to capture new found loyalty amongst guests, with technology playing a crucial rule.
While the pub and restaurant sectors have drastically changed their use of technology in venue to facilitate an enhanced customer experience, all too often in the hotel industry the use of tech begins and ends at the booking stage.
Consumers have embraced this change with 45 per cent having ordered food or drink via their mobile, and the younger generations are keen to continue using technology even after the pandemic. Similarly, pre-planning and booking a table ahead have also become key consumer behaviours, with three quarters having pre-booked to eat and drink out since the end of the first lockdown in the summer of 2020.
So what does this mean for hoteliers and how can they capitalise on these new consumer behaviours as we emerge from the pandemic?
The guest journey begins
A critical issue for hoteliers has been to ensure the guest journey begins with booking directly via their own website rather than via a third-party booking site. There is no doubt that if they achieve this, the opportunities available for operators to communicate with their guest prior to visit is vastly greater than if they had booked via a third party. This also gives operators the ability to offer promotions for services available at the hotel or incentives to pre-book for dinner which can help drive revenues and RevPAR.
In particular, the savvy use of tech has the potential to unlock greater revenue from F&B, especially taking into account consumers’ new found propensity to plan and book ahead. The use of tech not only helps hoteliers capture guests early in their booking journey — when they are in ‘buying mode’ — but also improves the guest experience in venue and during their stay. Solutions such as order and pay are now increasingly embedded in pub and restaurant venues with guests and operators alike experiencing the benefits of increased efficiency and convenience. In contrast, in the hotel industry our GO Technology report revealed that 70 per cent of consumers had never used technology to order room service. For hoteliers, implementing a digital solution as part of a room service offer would improve the guest experience drastically and increase operational efficiency.
Linking a hotel’s PMS to the EPoS is another way technology can aid F&B sales. Connecting drinks and food orders with room bills, for example, generates one bill for the guest without the need for a paper trail or for staff to key in information multiple times. This results in a more seamless guest journey from start to finish and drives efficiencies for the business.
Cultivating loyalty with the power of data
Welcoming back guests to a top rate and tech-enhanced experience is crucial to ensuring a strong bounce back. Furthermore, cultivating a loyal cohort of guests with the prospect of international travel still seemingly far away, can reap long-term benefits. Nearly two thirds of hospitality businesses are yet to offer a loyalty scheme despite consumers eagerness for such offers, with 49 per cent of consumers in Britain saying loyalty schemes are important to them when choosing a venue to visit.
At its most simple level, collecting a guest email address allows you to contact them with future offers and reminders. However, using a digital loyalty scheme to attract domestic travelers over the course of this summer could provide hoteliers with a key USP in a highly competitive market. Moreover, ensuring any loyalty scheme is integrated into a wider technology ‘eco-system’ offers the ability to capture more data and to use the insights generated to shape key strategic decisions and future proof the business.
With a big summer season ahead, the effective use of tech to create and deliver an enhanced experience in venue and to drive loyalty, will prove critical to the sector in the post-pandemic.
In partnership with the Institute of Hospitality, Zonal has published a report on how the use of technology can enhance the guest experience and boost revenue and profits post-pandemic.
Zonal is a UK-based hospitality technology provider serving over 16,000 businesses. The company has more than 100 partners and third-partner applications, with a suite of products including EPoS system, online ordering system, reservation system, property and kitchen management, customer engagement and more.