NB: This is an article by Anton Schubert, head of design at Futurice
One of the most talked about announcements in the British Chancellor’s Budget last month was the news that from April 2017, property and trading income will be included in the tax-free allowance for individuals.
It means that those with a property or trading income will not need to declare tax on the first £1,000 they earn per source each year. This is great news for the growing number of people in the UK using sharing economy platforms such as Airbnb and eBay to boost their income.
Airbnb has become increasingly popular across the globe as millions of people look for a vacation in a home-away-from-home. But how has a service that doesn’t actually own any property become a more valuable business ($24bn) than the likes of Marriot ($21bn) and Starwood ($14bn)? Personalisation has played a major role in building this value.
From browsing properties on the visually appealing app or website, to arriving at your accommodation to a personalised experience, Airbnb provides customers with personal touches from décor and interiors to gifts and advice from the hosts.
Superior customer experiences, paired with financial rewards for Airbnb hosts (in the UK at least) means that travelling sharing-economy style holds benefit to the host and guest alike.
Where does this leave the traditional hospitality industry?
Of course, when you have millions of customers across the world staying in your hotels each year, it is impossible to recreate the same kind of personalised service for every guest. However, hotels shouldn’t just accept second best to their competitors.
Technology can help established hotel chains fight back, using some of the mountains of data they have access to, to improve experiences for guests. Businesses like Airbnb, may have lower overhead costs and an agile business model, but digital and mobile technology can just as easily enhance the experiences of a hotel guest before their visit, while they’re staying in a hotel and long after they’ve checked out, to entice them back.
When we talk about fighting back with technology, we’re not talking about gimmicks. Mobile apps to open your curtains or room-cleaning robots might attract some fleeting attention, but just aren’t meaningful enough to build a bond with a guest. A digital strategy will improve loyalty programs, recognise guests and their preferences and help create guest-facing mobile services.
Data opens up possibilities for any hotel to build loyalty with a traveller. PwC found that 65% of guests are likely to re-book hotels when they have had a great experience. With customer expectations fundamentally changing, it’s necessary that hotels utilise cloud services, mobile and social media.
Other industries (e.g. retail) have used these mediums to deliver instant results and services to their guests based on predictive analytics provided.
Just how do we get these analytics?
For guests to have truly the best experience, data needs to be gathered from multiple channels, such as social media and purchases in the hotel, in order to really ‘understand’ the individual.