Cruise technology integration specialist HMS Group and cross-device platform provider UIEvolution have announced a new venue for their guest-centric technology Guest Evolution: cruise ships.
The concept is familiar to many other hospitality ventures: a cross-platform guest experience that ensures a consistent and familiar guest experience, regardless of the device being used.
"Engage at every stage" has become a call-to-action for marketers, and has been encouraging many in the travel industry to experiment with delivering a seamless flow between devices. And for the first time, cruise lines will have access to this technology.
It actually makes perfect sense - the cruise ship is a giant floating city, and should be connected as such. Guests expect it - and technology can now deliver it.
The Guest Evolution technology takes advantage of HTML5 and is billed by the company as
a mobile platform, product and services provider that helps large Enterprise customers evolve their digital business to better support a fragmented landscape of screens and platforms.
Imagine this: the guest checks in on a mobile phone while boarding the ship, loading previously recorded preferences. These preferences are automatically loaded into the guest room, turning on the TV and playing a user-specific soundtrack.
Upon arrival in the room, the mobile phone can be used to control the television - which is an interactive outlet of its own, where guests can view detailed information about the ship and scheduled events alongside a full raft of content choices.
Maps, schedules, menus, and a variety of other content can then be accessed from the mobile phone as the guest wanders the ship. Digital signage can be linked into this journey, delivering another layer of interactivity in the experience.
Guests can learn about upcoming ports from their tablets as they lounge in their cabins, exploring tours and activities - and then book off-boat excursions seamlessly.
All of these devices can be connected, providing a seamless guest experience wherever the guest happens to be.
UIEvolution also points to the lack of a single unified system that allows cruise companies to grow and adapt quickly to the latest devices.
Because of the this lack of single platform, cruise operators will not be able to quickly keep up with new devices which will have a significant impact on their guest's customer experience. Besides the underlying platform support challenges, applications must also adapt themselves to different screen sizes and input/output methods.
This means developing apps for cruise operators is not only going to be time consuming but also very expensive. These problems are going to be more challenging as guests continue to bring more devices with them on their vacations.
As cruise ships get bigger, this sort of connectivity is going to be increasingly vital to providing the best guest experience. This graphic shows just how enormous these floating cities have become over the years:
The larger cruiseships are carrying thousands of passengers, creating multiple communications challenges that are only increased as guests begin to expect always-on connectivity to follow them around the ship. The beauty about localized technologies lies primarily in the ability to scale on a local network without needing to connect to the global Internet - in the middle of the vast oceans, guests can stay connected to the ship's information network.
Even on the smaller ships, guest expectations have shifted rapidly alongside their gadgets. Trained to have all pertinent info at their fingertips - the majority of airplanes are now WiFi-enabled - guests are beginning to expect the same access at all points on the planet. In addition, as cruise companies race each other to provide more hotel-like luxury amenities, related technologies are increasingly seen as must-haves.
UIEvolution explains that
...it’s about delivering what guests already take for granted when they are at home – the ability to access content and services when they want and where they need it.
Beyond being convenient for customers, these technologies are also a boon to cruise ship companies. Guest communication ship-wide is made much easier with the cross-platform dissemination, and having familiar interactive media makes guests happier and more fulfilled in their sea-faring experience.
It also allows the companies to begin experimenting with the technology to move people around the ship - too many people in one place? Send out an alert about a happening on the other end of the ship to even out some of the crowds. Upselling a premium diner spot? Geo-fence the nearby area and tempt any device-toting cruise goer that wanders by.
By leveraging this new cross-device reality, cruise companies will most likely see a significant return on the investment into the technology to harness this experience - and have the opportunity to unlock new value by reducing friction and eliminating inefficiencies in the guest experience.
NB: Cruise ship size comparison image courtesy STX Europe.