Michael Klein is the director of industry strategy at Adobe and is an expert in helping travel & hospitality brands deliver connected, personalized experiences to their customers.
Klein has been diving into the trends that are shaping the physical and digital experiences of travelers and how brands can work to connect the in-room, in-flight or in-cabin experience to the rest of the customer journey. We recently caught up with him by phone to talk about the research Adobe has done with digital agency Valtech and presented at the recent Phocuswright Conference.
Tnooz: How are the physical and the digital merging?
Klein: It is happening before a traveler arrives at a particular location. Let's say the location is more of a resort or Las Vegas-type venue, in terms of some of the opportunities or amenities. But some of the applications could take place with other sub-verticals of travel, whether it be airline, traditional hotel, resort, cruise, etc.
Resorts can use mobile tech to do a lot more to knit together pre-stay and post-stay interactions and really create a nexus within the stay itself.
If a customer logs in to a hotel's mobile app, their experience on arrival can be enhanced with notifications, location awareness, and personalized offers.
Once the guest is in their room, let's re-think the entertainment experience. Let's stream, say, NBC Sports coverage to the guests' tablet or Smartphone.
What we've been able to do is leverage the large screen of a TV in a hotel room or, if you imagine, this could be on the back of a seat on a train or plane or cruise room cabin.
But with certain technology running the hardware on that particular monitor, we can use the phone or the tablet as a master controller, so to speak
A traveler will be able to push content from perhaps their Netflix account onto the large format screen. The travel brand, in turn, may then also embed and use targeted ads as folks utilize both the smartphone and the large monitor. The brand can use third-party tech to inject an ad within the streaming video.
If I'm in my room, on my smartphone, this could be an advertisement for tickets to go to the local symphony tonight. If I'm on property, it could be for a discount for a meal in the property's restaurant. Today's tech lets the traveler use their phone or tablet to purchase those tickets.
Tnooz: What target size hotel property, in terms of their IT savvy, can this work for? Does it have to be a global chain or ... ?
Klein: No. We call these partner-led solutions. We've done them across the verticals.... There's always a little bit of a blend of what's possible today for most or all. When you think about taking content from your phone and being able to cast it onto a large monitor within your hotel room, that takes a little bit more savvy and infrastructure than some hotels yet have. It can be accomplished today because this is a live demo that we built.
Somebody, certainly, to do this soup-to-nuts is going to need to have that good foundation of content and some data and hardware. But this is a vision. Carnival, Hyatt, MGM, Wyndham, and some other travel brands are starting to go down these paths and trying to do some of this stuff in some way, shape, or form.
Tnooz: How can the industry handle the sort of VHS versus Beta Max kind of concept? I was in the Bellagio in Las Vegas and Kimpton in DC recently and each one had an iPod docking station as its alarm clock. The iPod stations were one of those things that that was popular at the time. Some hotels may be worried about passing fads.
Klein: Digitization is not a fad. It's here to stay. I agree, there are some applications of it via hardware, whether it be beacons in public spaces, that are still in a testing mode.
Docking stations and similar things are going to become extinct, but in some way you have got to be there, as a brand, to experiment....
Adobe research finds that 56% of travel and hospitality marketers believe that the way to differentiate themselves is through convenient, fun, and valuable delivery of guest and traveler experience.
I sometimes find the small operator that's trying to maybe differentiate outside of just price and booking may be the one who's a little more nimble to try some of these things. May fail at some of it, but they also create themselves a bit of a differentiation in the marketplace that helps their brand halo for the long-term, long after the docking stations have to be replaced, so to speak.
Companies have to ask themselves, Is this just technology for technology's sake or is this really solving a problem?
For my example above, does it solve a problem? Yes. Today's standard tool, Lodgenet Network, serves 2 million rooms, perhaps, but it's not desirable, people don't use it. Consumer behavior has changed. They want their own content, and they want to use their own content as flexibly as possible.
How do we not try to overcome that, but how do we compliment that? And actually leverage the fact that there is always a digital panel or screen in somebody's room. We're not going to replace that as an amenity category, but how do we make that better? How do we generate a bit more content and data about the customer from it as well?
Tnooz: On the content and data side, what do the hotels need to have on their systems?
Klein: If you're going to have all of these different assets in multiple places, you need a central repository for that content, whether it be video content, whether it be images, texts. You also need the ability to then deliver that content. You need to collect and analyze and easily interpret the data behind it.
Hotels are going to continue to have siloed data and content sources, but in order to do what consumers demand, all these enterprises have to find an eventual single repository for all the stuff in order to do it well.
Without a digital asset management solution and the delivery solution, you blow everybody's brains out within the organization, which is the challenge that everyone's finding. We'll be covering this at the Adobe Summit soon.
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