Finding and booking the perfect hotel stay is becoming easier thanks to artificial intelligence, which works behind the scenes with other technologies to present guests with the ideal option.
Frank Reeves, Chief Executive of hotel technology specialist Avvio, an exhibitor at Travel Forward, said: “When people shop with eBay, or Amazon, or Spotify, they are experiencing artificial intelligence, machine learning, responsive design, dynamic content. But they do not see it in those terms, they see personal recommendations. Hotels have access to similar tools and can offer comparable suggestions and recommendations for stays, deals, upgrades.”
Potential guests need a helping hand when there are so many accommodation options available from so many sources. The scale of choice explains why there is so much talk in hotels and the wider ecommerce world about ‘personalisation’.
The ecommerce giants are setting a very high customer engagement bar. Their targeted upsell and cross-sell offers are personalised, based on previous interactions and patterns derived from those with similar tastes. Shoppers at these sites are prepared to share data, allowing the web giants’ artificial intelligence platforms to analyse the insights and present individualised suggestions.
Hotel shoppers are no different. They also share data and reveal trends throughout their digital decision-making process. If Amazon remembers who they are, then hotel websites should do too. Guests will also start to notice this more.
In practice, this means that a guest whose patterns and preferences reveal an interest in golf will be presented with pages that include tee times, images of the course, and testimonials from other guests.
Similarly for hotels with a spa, the tech in the background can configure the site so that the lead image is of the treatment rooms and that the prices include discounts on treatments.
Guests are used to online retailers following up a purchase, and targeted messages during the post-booking pre-stay phase are a chance for the hotel to build their relationship with the guest before arrival. Communications reflecting a guest’s preferences are an effective way to build a personal relationship and contribute to a positive overall experience.
All of this is possible because artificial intelligence is now mainstream across all ecommerce activity. The cost to hotels of implementing systems is starting to come down, at the same time as guests expect them to have it.
In time, hotel guests will join online shoppers, digital filmgoers, avid readers or music downloaders in making decisions and purchases without knowing it is artificial intelligence that has made the suggestion.
But the digitally-savvy guest expects more. Using artificial intelligence to create the perfect stay is a waste of time – and resources – if the website looks like something from the 1990s. In this context, having a site that works across mobile devices is essential. The stats vary but the consensus is that mobile now accounts for more web traffic than desktop. It is more likely that a guest has searched for a hotel on their smartphone than their PC or Mac.
Guests have been trained by the ecommerce leaders to expect a hotel’s mobile page to load instantly, for the page to look great on a 5×3 inch screen, for images to be crisp and for videos play perfectly. If a potential guest decides to book, the payment process needs to be secure and seamless.
Creating a great user experience such as the one outlined above is about more than fonts and navigation – the systems behind the scenes all need to interact and push out, in real-time, content appropriate to the guests.
Reeves added: “The best technology for a hotel is one that the guests do not notice. All that matters to guests is a great stay at a fabulous hotel at a reasonable price. Hotels have always tried to satisfy these demands – emerging technologies are making this easier to deliver which is good news for hotels and even better news for guests.”
Travel Forward Manager Richard Gayle said: “I am delighted to have Avvio as an exhibitor at Travel Forward. Travel Forward is the event to inspire the future of the travel and hospitality sector, Avvio is the perfect example of this with its use of artificial intelligence to improve the hotel booking process.”