Recent research by the global IT services provider Freeborders
found ten technologies that will put the travel industry on the fast lane 2012 by enriching the overall customer experience and simplifying operations. According to Freeborders’ research, mobile devices, social media, location based services (LBS), personalized marketing and near field communications (NFC) empower companies on the front-end by tailoring the customer experience. On the back-end, unseen to the customers, companies can use a second set of five technologies to create new service channels and market opportunities fast and efficiently. This set includes service-oriented architecture (SOA), business intelligence (BI), cloud computing, RFID, and virtualization.
The technologies highlighted here, have the greatest potential to increase the competitiveness of hospitality companies this year. In 2012 mobile technology, locations-based services, near field communications, social media, and BI will create more direct and personalized touch points with customers and provide more targeted marketing and branding opportunities.
At the top of the list is Mobile Technology. Smart phones and new tablet PCs have blurred the line between phones and computers. In 2012 the mobile device will be the primary access point to engage with customers 24/7 throughout all phases of a trip or restaurant visit, from reservation to billing and review. In January 2012 there were more than 6,900 iPad apps in the travel category alone. This includes apps by TripIt, Hotels.com, Trip Advisor, OpenTable and Yelp. Hotels and restaurants have already recognized the potential of traveling in their customers’ pockets, by offering menus, reservation services and specials. In 2012 the focus will be on expanding the brand’s reach via mobile and social channels.
Social Media, such as Facebook and Twitter, offer new ways for hospitality to engage with guests and promote the brand to new audiences. The Roger Smith Hotel
in New York City, dubbed “the social media hotel,” is a successful example for social customer engagement. By maintaining a high level of interaction with its online community, the hotel keeps in touch with current customers and attracts new ones. To measure the effectiveness of its social media program the hotel uses tracking tools such as online promo codes and room bookings by online community member. Based on results, the online engagement directly translates into more business – an increase of hosted events, restaurant booking and occupancy rate.
Location, location, location
Location-Based Services, such as Foursquare, allow giving users perks at local restaurants and stores. They are useful tools to expand virtual concierge services and allow sending tickets for tours and local events or restaurant specials directly to their guests’ mobile device.
Similarly, Near Field Communications ¾ a short (typically 4 cm or less), high frequency wireless technology that enables simple and fast exchange of data between devices ¾ can offer a new dimension of convenience. Similar to mobile check-ins at airports, hotels can use NFC for e-check-in and out and give travelers the room key with a NFC enabled device.
2012 is also the year of big data and the ability to slice and dice customer information faster and more effectively with business intelligence platforms on the back-end. Targeted marketing and market research based on a customer profitability analysis can improve customer service and support customer acquisition. By analyzing buying behavior and preferences, companies can identify the most profitable customers and cater marketing and service programs more effectively.
Overall, 2012 looks promising. A range of new technologies can help hospitality providers get closer to the customers and create new business opportunities. With all these choices on the tech menu, finding the most cost-effective model to benefit from, should be on the top of the priority list.
To read the complete Freeborders white paper, “Advances in Travel Technology,” click here