Many retail brands embrace generational marketing these days, breaking down their demographics and online/social media campaigns by what they know about baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and the up-and-coming Gen Z generation, those born in the mid-1990s. But for experiential products, like hotels, the concept must be stretched to include the consumer journey. The whole experience and the way it is received (or not) varies based on the age of the traveler, so much so that flags such as Marriott have launched entire brands around catering to millennials. Read an article by a baby boomer who has stayed in a Moxy Hotel, and you’re in for a good chuckle about how puzzling the location of both the “front desk” and breakfast in the cocktail bar can be.
For the average hotel, not built around any particular generation, there are even more considerations than just generational differences, of course. The traditional categories still apply, including independent solo travelers, families, couples, empty nesters, business travelers, and so forth. But each of these categories is influenced by where they fall generationally. So how do hotels know how to prioritize the digital experience when it comes to ensuring they’re all getting what they want?
First, you can’t exactly. To cover all the bases and do it well will likely take more than a 4% increase in technology budget. (Most hotels fall in the 1-9% range currently, and that’s not all for guest-facing technology, of course). And though most technology will increase efficiencies, implementation and integration must be managed, which requires resources. As hotels seek to build out their guest-facing digital offerings, part of the step-by-step process must necessarily be to drill down to which guests matter most to the bottom line and then determine priorities based on what you know about them.
Only one all-around must-have affects every single hotel at the bottom line, and that’s mobile friendliness. Most travelers, despite their age or type, expect not just Wi-Fi but also a reliable connection and good bandwidth—and for free. Even though the speed and breadth of use vary considerably across generations, life behind a mobile device is ubiquitous now. According to Benbria, 55% of baby boomers say a smartphone is essential for traveling, and only 1 in 5 use offline means to book travel. But what matters to different travelers in terms of the mobile experience that can help hotels prioritize technology?
Families (Gen X & Gen Y)
Traveling with children, no matter their age, is one of life’s greatest joys, and it’s hard. The more underage travelers, the more crankiness and the greater the variety of wants and needs. And this is one of those categories that spans multiple generations. The savviest hotel would include the children in their digital considerations. What most parents are looking for is anything that will make it easier. Mobile check-in is a must because getting straight to the room in the shortest amount of time with children in tow is essential. Waiting in a line is a no-go. In-room capabilities are essential to this segment because they will likely rely on the hotel more than other groups. Children need naps and snacks, and they go to bed early. Two-way chat makes it easier for parents to communicate their many needs, whether to housekeeping or the front desk, and ordering room service via mobile device is a must.
Millennials are waiting later to have children, so they make up a good bit of couples travelling these days, with Gen X using couples travel to escape for short trips away from the family. This time is precious—for millennials because it’s an investment and for Gen X because it’s so difficult to steal away time from responsibilities. This means everything must be seamless. No waiting times, everything available digitally so that while lounging in bed in the morning, the day can be planned, tickets purchased, and restaurant reservations made without ever speaking to anyone. At least one of the two in the couple will be willing to download a hotel app and will use it to its fullest. MarketingSherpa notes that 27% of millennial travelers will also opt-in to receive text messages, so push notifications with offers around the restaurant, cocktails, or spa aren’t just nice, they’re welcome.
Many business travelers are millennials now, but this also spans several generations. The thing about millennials, though, is they like to travel for work. Eighty-one percent (81%) associate business travel with job satisfaction, says Forbes. Hotels that want this lucrative business will need to up their digital game to keep millennial business travelers happy. We know that they want mobile check-in and, ideally, mobile keys. That said, many of them prefer doing business in person (hence the travel), and they still want a front desk that can handle complications or for when it seems easier to drop by on the way out the door. And don’t toss out your room service, yet. Expedia reports that 37% of millennial business travelers spend more on room service when the company is buying, as opposed to only 21% of travelers between 45 and 65.
This is a mobile app using group. They travel frequently and understand the nuances of what a hotel app can provide. The more robust the app, the better for those room service orders, for instance, and messaging capabilities as well as digital concierge service and ancillary offers (because this group is more inclined to combine business travel with leisure).
Solo travelers tend to travel for a reason—to see family, to meet friends who live in another city, or to explore. They are the least likely to be hanging around their guestrooms for leisure. They are very likely to use mobile for comparisons, like which restaurant is best for a group of girlfriends who want Italian food in the center of the city or where good shopping/museums/etc. are. Any mobile offerings that help streamline this are valuable. Solo travelers also tend to have the most flexibility with their time, so push notifications about spa reservations or tee times can be very effective.
Retirees/Empty Nesters/Baby Boomers
While this segment of travelers may not be as comfortable with mobile technology as millennials and their younger cohorts, they are increasingly using their mobile devices for mapping technology, payments, and many of them love to use texting and chat. Mostly, they see mobile as a convenience more than a lifestyle so giving them convenience via mobile is the best way to strategize. Baby boomers will use mobile for booking, check-in, and room keys. In fact, Trivago reports that over half of travelers expect to use their mobile device as a room key and a payment device. However, baby boomers want all the traditional bits too.
Clearly, some of these technologies will serve many travelers across all categories, mobile apps with mobile check-in, checkout, and keys among them. However, when mapping out guest-facing digital strategies, it makes sense to look closely at how your top two or three target guest segments use devices while traveling. Combine that consideration with what your hotel’s opportunity is to either increase efficiencies or generate revenue from the technology and set about prioritizing the rollout of the capabilities, both in implementation as well as marketing to guests.
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About the Author
Seasoned business leader, David Millili, is the CEO of Runtriz™, a leading developer of innovative mobile software solutions for hotels, resorts, and casinos. He has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry with practical experience in all aspects of hotel operations and management. As the GM of two iconic New York City Times Square hotels, his experience ranges from managing pre-opening operations to spearheading multi-million budgets. As co-founder of Timeless Hospitality, Millili was directly responsible for the successful launch of a startup company that generated impressive profits within six months of launch. Timeless Hospitality provided hotels with internet reservations, marketing, and management products and was one of the first e-commerce platforms developed for the exclusive purpose of generating web reservations for independent hotels.
David Millili served as the chief executive officer and board member of Pegasus Solutions, a global leader in providing technology and services to hotels and travel distributors. In this position, he was responsible for the company’s global operations, technology and shared services as well as the company’s reservation and distribution service lines. Millili assisted in the sale of all three business units. Millili also founded and led Open Hospitality to become a recognized industry leader in providing innovative hotel internet marketing services including web design, development, and hosting, mobile platforms, online search, and marketing. Open was sold to Pegasus in October 2011. He currently sits on a number of boards and as a former hotel general manager, he has valuable experience in all aspects of hotel operations and management.
Runtriz delivers magic moments utilizing an open guest service platform that enables guest service amplification. We strive to enhance both the staff and guest service experience to optimize their time. With over 2000 hotels in 120 countries covering 50 + languages, Runtriz has the knowledge and experience to support your hotels’ digital and guest engagement goals. We help our partners increase guest service results be delivering what today’s guests want.