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E-Commerce Innovations With Applications for Hospitality

The arrival of ecommerce has transformed the way thousands of industries do business. From retail and finance to construction and agriculture, more and more businesses are embracing the ecommerce boom. Improved customer experience, targeted advertising, streamlined marketing processes — the benefits for brands are almost endless. But what does this mean for the hospitality industry? There’s a variety of exciting innovations out there that will transform how the industry works. Here are just a few...

A More Personalized Hotel Shopping Experience

Today’s consumers are increasingly demanding a more personalized service in their ecommerce experience. When they shop online, they provide a wealth of data: name, age, date of birth, gender, past purchases, product views and so on. Armed with this information, ecommerce stores can tailor their approach to their customers to provide them with products, offers and deals that they might be more interested in, and therefore more likely to buy.

For example, the online retailer Amazon offers a staggeringly personalized service to its customers. Based on what you bought or even looked at in the past, they provide you with a range of products, TV shows, and films that you might be interested in.

And the hospitality industry can take advantage of this too. With a variety of online visitor tracking tools out there, hotels and similar businesses can monitor individual customers when they visit their site, and tailor their offers and recommendations based on their behavior. For example, if a customer regularly looks specifically for family-friendly hotels, they can automatically show special offers, deals, and suitable hotels for them in later searches. This can be utilized across a variety of customer channels, including email.

Traveler Persona Led Selling

Another innovation offered by ecommerce is selling to segmented buyer personas. These are imagined creations of your most common types of customer, built on consumer data that takes into account how and why they shop with you. For example, a fashion retailer might have customers who only shop when there’s a sale on, or those who only buy clothes that are practical and will last them a while.

Almost every industry has their buyer personas, and the hospitality industry is no different. You’ve got your once-a-year family travelers, your regular businesspeople, and so on. Once these buyer personas are created, hotels and casinos can tailor their marketing efforts to reach one, for example, by offering seasonal travelers special deals and offers when they are typically looking for them.

Not only does this increase potential sales, but the customers themselves only receive messages that are relevant to them. This saves them the annoyance of receiving irrelevant information.

Tracking the Traveler’s Booking Journey

When a traveler books a journey, it’s not quite as simple as A-B-C. They might Google hotels in a specific location, then search through the first page of results to see what hotels there are. They might then click on a couple of links to see if any catch their eye, or they might go to TripAdvisor to see what other travelers have said about the hotel. It’s possible that they might even go to social media to seek recommendations as well.

Ultimately, the traveler’s journey is complicated, and can very from person to person. It means that there is much more competition online, and hospitality industries have to compete to get shoppers’ attention. However, the localization of shopping online through ecommerce also means that there are more avenues to do this.

One such avenue is through retargeting. This is the process whereby shoppers who have visited a website are displayed adverts for that site even after navigating away from it. It can also be employed when a shopper adds a product or service to their cart, but then abandons it before paying.

This is a useful technique employed by a number of online stores. Shopify, for example, gives its merchants the option of automating follow ups through their online store — allowing them to target anyone who abandoned their cart before paying by displaying relevant ads and sending emails with special offers and discounts. By ‘chasing’ consumers as they browse the web, online businesses can ensure that they follow up on any missed sales.

Increase Your Hotel’s Conversion Triggers

As ecommerce grows ever more popular, online businesses are given more and more options to capitalize on psychological triggers to turn potential customers into sales. There are a number of these available out there, from storytelling, to building a sense of community. Customers are human beings with needs and fears and desires, and the online marketplace is the perfect place to utilize these.

So can these triggers be used for the hospitality industry? In a variety of ways, as it happens. As an example, one of the most simple tactics is to use ticker counters to denote how many rooms are available for certain dates, with the number steadily decreasing as they get snapped up. Urgency is a powerful motivator of action, and a countdown is perfect for conveying that.

eCommerce is also a great medium for utilizing social proof. This is the leveraging of user-generated reviews and testimonials to convince dithering customers to commit to a purchase. By sharing customer sentiment in emails or on websites at the point of sale, brands can head off any concerns that shoppers might have with authentic testimonials.

Implement Virtual Reality Tours of Your Hotel

One surprising application of ecommerce innovation in the hospitality industry is virtual reality.

VR is already being experimented with by a number of big-name brands. For example, the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea created a feature on their app that let customers use augmented reality to place virtual chairs, desks, lamps, and more in their offices and homes.

Letting customers see how they could transform a space from the comfort of their own chair proved hugely popular.

But how can the hospitality industry capitalize on this? With recent advances in 360-degree photography, hotel websites can now offer virtual tours of their rooms and venues. This lets any potential customers to see first-hand (almost) where they will be staying before booking.

London’s Strand Palace Hotel offers their guests such an experience, with the option of navigating through their restaurant, cafe, lounge, gym and more, all without ever even setting foot in the hotel.

Ecommerce is opening up new avenues for businesses all over the world across a variety of industries. Hospitality has a lot to gain from adopting new technology and ecommerce innovations. Use smart tech to help you market experiences. And don’t forget to invest in data and personalization to drive up conversion rates.

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Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene is an e-commerce brand marketing consultant and freelance writer who works with companies to create valuable content and targeted SEO strategies. She can be reached at hello@victoriaecommerce.com

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