While digital might have made the world smaller and made it easier for travellers to enjoy the very latest high-tech experiences, it’s also changed the way that consumers buy travel products such as hotel stays, tours and package holidays.
The internet has meant far-flung corners of the world are now closer than ever, there’s no need for high street travel agents if someone wants to plan their own trip and travellers are savvy about shopping around. There’s more digital technology in rooms, with personal voice assistants, apps which make checking in a breeze and a thousand and one other advances, functions and experiences.
However, according to one industry expert delivering a keynote speech at London’s HMAI conference, it’s also changed consumer attitudes. Digital has shaped consumer attitudes to an extent that convenience now dictates customer loyalty, rather than a guest’s affinity for any particular brand. For any hotel marketing company, this knowledge is invaluable – and it means your hotel rewards program is more important than ever.If you were in any doubt as to how digital has changed consumer expectation and attitudes and what that means for brand loyalty, consider the OTA behemoth, booking.com. While it may not rate highly when it comes to a brand that people actively are loyal to or feel connected to, it is one that travellers turn to repeatedly to book hotel stays and other accommodation.
Unlocking the booking.com secret
So why is booking.com so successful? Simply put, convenience. The booking engine is easy to use, accommodation easy to browse and the act of making a reservation is quick and above all, convenient.
According to a survey by Phocuswright in 2016, almost half (47%) of travellers actively prefer to use an OTA for the sheer convenience. The survey found that the 10 most popular reasons for choosing to use an online travel agent mainly stemmed from convenience too. Travellers cited advantages such as being able to book all required travel products in one place, easy to use websites, best prices and ease of changing and cancelling a booking.
This means of course that your hotel marketing company and hotel rewards program will need to work together to win bookings back from the OTAs by offering a similar level of ease.If your app or booking engine isn’t as easy to use as booking.com or the reservation process not as streamlined, it could be that even powerful incentives within your hotel rewards program such as a free stay or upgrade won’t be enough to win over the time-poor traveller.
How can you use digital to drive convenience and loyalty?
Many travel and hotel brands are increasingly using digital to drive convenience for their clients – and you can too.
Disney issues guests with an electronic wristband – which acts as a fast pass for accessing rides at its theme parks and purchasing souvenirs, in addition to keyless room entry. If you can’t roll out something at that scale, consider how your hotel rewards program could be upgraded to offer similar features. Could guests use their rewards app to purchase in-room dining or pay for drinks for example? Is it easy to make, amend and cancel reservations?
Other options are even simpler still – consider using social media for customer service or streamline your booking engine and website.