Amazon’s personalization efforts aren’t exactly new — but they’re certainly noteworthy. For years, its product curation and recommendation algorithm has made headlines. Amazon knows if you’re a country music lover with a dog, or a runner with an obsession for organic snacks. And, in turn, it delivers to you a plethora of personalized recommendations that often inspire unplanned purchase decisions.
Amazon is far from the only brand going one-to-one with its digital marketing. Target, Spotify, even certain airlines and vacation rental services are launching personalized marketing strategies that let their customers know they’re paying attention to their habits, behaviors and buying patterns and trying to customize offers that are specifically geared toward the individual. Stop by potterybarn.com, for example, and put a leather chair in your cart. Then leave. Within a few hours, you’ll likely get an email asking if you’re still interested in said chair and oh-by-the-way here’s a 15% off coupon code to use if you come back and purchase it.
Such data-activated marketing based on a person’s real-time needs, interests, and behaviors represents an important part of the new horizon of growth, according to a recent McKinsey & Company report.
Now for the million-dollar question: Can hotels do something similar?
“There’s a lot of opportunity here in the hospitality segment,” says Duetto’s Nathan Crisp, who was recently named VP of Managed Services and Customer Success, Americas. “At the moment, there isn’t a good platform to collect and analyze the cookies about a person’s online shopping habits and then translate them to present a personalized hotel offer—but the technology is coming soon.”
The goal for hotels, according to Crisp, should be for hotels to have a deeper digital profile on a guest based on their online behaviors. If they spend a sizeable amount of time on a golf-related website, then purchase a business-class airline ticket, a personalized offer for a corresponding hotel should be presented.
“In theory, the person using that computer would then be presented with personalized rates based on the buying persona they’ve established,” says Crisp.
The offers might range from discounted pricing on suites and penthouse to simply changing the search order to show the higher value rooms first.
Tech Teams Falling Short On Enabling Personalization, Hotel Loyalty
“Hotels are just now starting to figure out how to use this information,” Crisp says.
Unfortunately, in today’s landscape, personalization is focused more on guests who have already stayed with a hotel and are “known.” Even then, offers aren’t perfected, especially from a digital marketing standpoint.
“Those guests tend to fall into an email marketing cycle where we know you’ve stayed with us so we’ll send you personalized offers, but it’s still far from sophisticated and one-to-one,” says Crisp. “Most brands simply take a shotgun approach.”
By this he means, for example, an adult single man continually receiving offers for family vacations, even though he’s never once stayed in that brand’s hotel with a family.
The problem here, according to Crisp, is that there’s often a disconnect between marketing and distribution. These two departments must be symbiotic for personalized email marketing to be truly effective. The digital team must understand how booking flow works, the differences between product types and be able to analyze the data collected to then create a profile and present an offer.
“It can be accomplished if all the systems talk to each other and create a fully encapsulated profile,” says Crisp, adding that the biggest challenge is how many technologies are in place in most hotels. “You’ve got one vendor handling transactional email communications, then another vendor doing your email marketing, then another in charge of maintaining your loyalty database. All those vendors would have to work together for personalization to be truly effective.”
It’s certainly possible, but the technology isn’t quite there yet. When it is, though?
“Once we have the information, we can use email marketing and display advertising throughout the web,” says Crisp. “We just need to tie that digital space back to the CRM.”