Interactive media is on the rise – but can hoteliers keep up? Ioannis S. Pantelidis, senior lecturer in Hospitality at University of Brighton and columnist for hotel-industry.co.uk reviews the interactive media technologies currently available.
When it comes to spending their time on hotel websites , consumers face an information overload that forces them to become instinctively selective. A guest searching for accommodation, will rarely go past the first page of a Google search and according to research the average consumer will spend a mere few seconds reading a typical web page.
So in the race to gain new customers and retain loyalty from existing ones, hotels must consider interactive technologies that allow them to engage their guests with meaningful content. Such content should not only retain customer interest but create an experience that would turn them into advocates of the hotel spreading positive word of mouth.
So in this article I briefly review six of the many interactive solutions that can help hoteliers better communicate their message.
Customers receiving an email with a hyperlink offering a special discount or some information about your hotel are likely to either ignore it or at best consider to visit the link at a later time. Chances are that “later” becomes “never” as your customers are bombarded with so many emails on a daily basis. If you wanted to see what others in your industry are doing then look no further than emailium.com. The few emails relevant to hospitality I have researched there at best translate “email being interactive” with social media integration. An example is “click this banner to Like us on Facebook and get x discount” again hoping for good intentions. But what if those intentions could be converted there and then from within the email without having to even open a browser? See an example of truly interactive emails in this video about “Hotmail Active Views” and enjoy the future of interactive emails. Even though conversion rates may not change dramatically, I hope you can still see the potential here.
2. Interactive Videos
The fact that the hotel product has numerous intangible elements would suggest that most hotel websites would try to strengthen their brand by offering some visual confirmation of quality in the form of video. Yet a large number of small and medium hotels do not utilize this simple form of marketing. If you already do then I suggest considering producing an interactive video. See for example this interactive card video and consider creating a similar one for your hotel offering choices to your customers from going to the bedroom to visiting the hotel restaurant.
Imagine how interactive can take the quality of content to the next level and help you attract new customers or engage with existing ones.
3. QR codes
Quick Response (QR) codes are two dimensional bar codes that can be scanned with your mobile phone and do a number of things from taking you to a specific webpage to automatically creating a text, to creating an electronic business card. This is not new technology. QR codes have been used in Japan for years, it is just that we have not adopted them in the same way in Europe yet. Having said that they are making a comeback and we often see them in newspapers and posters. An example of QR used in Hotels is the case of Radisson Edwardian hotels who use them in their hotel restaurant menus to provide additional content such as a video of chefs creating the menu item you are thinking of buying. Hoteliers have nothing to lose as generating QR codes is easy and free (it is creating the content they point to, that may prove a little costly) and although it is my opinion that augmented reality will eventually take over, for the next couple of years at least you should not be missing the opportunity of offering extra content to your customers.
4. Augmented Reality Brochures
In terms of interactivity I think that augmented reality has only started to touch its enormous potential. Nhow Hotel in Berlin has really utilized this technology exceptionally well. You hold their brochure in front of your webcam and content becomes alive see this video to get a glimpse of how this works and imagine the potential.
The video does not do justice to the technology. I actually printed their brochure and tested their augmented reality attempt and was amazed by how engulfed I became with their content . Imagine the up-sale techniques having restaurant menus that become alive once your customers point their mobile cameras to them! My guess is that augmented reality technology will make QR codes redundant within five years.
5. Interactive Screens
The whole idea of ensuring integration of your email, website, social media and the physical space of your hotel is nothing more than competent story telling. If your brand is best communicated through a story then why have a great web and social media presence but miss the opportunity of continuous engagement when your customers arrive at your hotel. At the recent Screen media Expo Europe exhibition at Earls Court there was huge focus on 3D technology. However, thankfully there were some screen media technology companies that were offering packages that allowed your customers to continue to be part of your online community by interacting with touch less screens that integrated your website and social media content.
There was even technology that can identify your gender, and approximate age just by you standing in front of it. Imagine the potential of customized marketing and customer engagement. The barriers between physical and virtual are thinner than ever and the sooner hoteliers realize how to take advantage of this cultural change, the better.
6. Online Gaming
The market potential for clever hoteliers is huge. We had some early experiments with Accor, but I believe that opportunities for brand awareness are enormous. Imagine the brand exposure potential in developing an online game that takes place in the surroundings of your hotel. Although I can see that such an investment would probably be best for large hotel chains, in its simpler form a small flash based online game can generate interest from new markets as well as retain the interest of existing ones. For example the “Hotel Dash Suite Success” flash game shows the sponsor to be Hyatt hotels, but the sponsors have missed an opportunity to have their hotels and hotel locations utilized in the content of the game and thus creating a continuous engagement with future customers.
You may consider that some of those technologies are simply gimmicks and they may not provide a return on investment. The important thing is to look past the technology and consider not if you would use it but how to use it to ensure return on investment. In the end, in a market that is flooded with marketing messages, hoteliers will need to decide what will work best for their properties. No matter what technology you chose it is important that you realize that to stay in the forefront you will need to use at least some interactive technology. The ones reviewed here are simply the tip of the iceberg and ones that are likely to have some impact in the industry in the next few years, and it is my hope that at least a couple will capture your imagination and prompt you to do more research.
By Ioannis S. Pantelidis
But since we have been looking at interactivity we leave you with a little interactivity of our own! Chose the article you would prefer to see next month featured in the Hotelier 3.0 column: