Driving Customer Loyalty Through Technology
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Driving Customer Loyalty Through Technology

Bart Buiring, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Marriott International Asia Pacific
Bart Buiring, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Marriott International Asia Pacific

Bart Buiring, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Marriott International Asia Pacific

Over the last 20 years in the hospitality industry, we have seen how technology transformed the customer experience. It has been the key driving factor to create personalised, memorable experiences that keep guests coming back. So the question for many marketers now is: how can we further harness the power of technology to drive customer loyalty? More than a quarter of the reservations at Marriott International comes through direct digital channels, and we expect to see it further increase by 3% this year. As customer behaviour changes, technology is vital for us to capture consumer demands.

The pandemic has heavily impacted the travel and hospitality industry, forcing many restrictions to be set. Now more than ever, the acceleration of digitalisation is crucial in providing seamless, contactless experiences for all guests to ensure a safe yet personalised experience. A holistic process that is customer-centric – putting customers first and addressing consumer need in every touchpoint of the customer journey coupled with technology can enhance loyalty. Here are just some ways:

Planning a stay

Leveraging technology is critical at this stage. Today, consumers expect relevant and timely content when planning a trip. Whether it’s scrolling through Instagram or checking their personal emails, the ever-connected consumer’s mindshare can only be achieved if companies can pinpoint how they can reach potential guests, capture their attention effectively and appeal to their interests.

We have increasingly seen that in our travel and hospitality industry, guests want to engage with brands that offer curated and personalised experiences. They are constantly types, to specific air-conditioning temperatures, or drinks they want in their rooms. Hotels can leverage guest’s preferences and interests to enhance their offerings, providing moments important to creating memorable and personalised stays crucial to creating loyalty that ‘sticks’.

“A holistic process that is customer-centric – putting customers first and addressing consumer need in every touchpoint of the customer journey coupled with technology can enhance loyalty”

In China, for example, Marriott Bonvoy launched four robust, easy-to-use WeChat mini-programs to provide localised experiences, book rooms, purchase F&B vouchers, and enjoy exclusive campaigns and member rates by linking their WeChat account to their Marriott Bonvoy membership number. Fully harnessing the power of this platform, plans are underway to enhance the digital experience through sharing functions and featuring inspirational content to create unique touchpoints that will allow us to engage with our customers and members.

A request that has been gaining popularity, specifically from businesses, is the need for enhanced technology to host meetings and events. The pandemic has dramatically impacted the MICE industry, and companies are desperately looking for ways to host conferences and events as business travel slowly picks up. Transforming underutilised hotel meeting venues into virtual and hybrid ready spaces with the help of technology has proven effective to facilitate these requests. As a result, virtual and hybrid meetings are on the rise, with a steady increase of requests streaming in. Providing exceptionally reliable technological offerings will result in customer retention based on the quality experiences they have had.

Post stay

The customer journey to building loyalty does not end here. Gathering feedback from guests is essential to retain customer loyalty. With the help of loyalty apps, surveys on emails and websites, hotels can gather customer insights and recommendations to provide a broader range of unique offerings. Seeing feedback implemented into action or genuine offerings makes them feel valued as a member of the hotel.

Through every step of the consumer’s journey, technology plays a crucial role in helping hotels develop personalised, memorable experiences that focus on forging interpersonal interactions that keep them coming back.

With vaccinations underway and international borders slowly reopening, the hospitality industry needs to be prepared for new travel requests and demands that might arise. While technology cannot replace the human touch, it can facilitate smoother guest experiences, especially with the younger and more digital-savvy travellers. Therefore, we should count on technology to lead the way forward for hotels to adapt to the new world of travel.

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