The first truly digital generation has the most buying power and is increasingly more vital to the labor force
By Ryan King, Director of Strategic Partnerships – StayNTouch
Hoteliers, we have news for you. Millennials – that group of individuals born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – own your future. Understanding millennial consumers has become a significant discussion point across industries over the last few years. Why? Because they are the first truly digital generation with more buying power of any other demographic before them. With $600 billion in annual buying power and notably different purchase motivations and values than baby boomers, the eighty million millennials (in America alone) possess a great deal of influence. In fact, by 2020, researchers predict that millennial spending in the United States will grow to $1.4 trillion annually, representing 30% of total retail sales.
Millennials and Loyalty
Most brands, regardless of industry, argue that millennial consumers lack brand loyalty. In fact, in a survey of retail industry leaders, a lack of loyalty across millennial consumers was cited as the number one concern by 40% of respondents. However, this is a gross misinterpretation of millennial behavior. Millennials crave transparency and are more connected to social issues and value-driven brands than previous generations. As long as they feel like they’ve been understood and valued, millennials can be incredibly loyal to the brands with which they engage. If anything, millennial buying habits paved the way to the consumer-centric landscape that now rules the retail – and travel – experience. Accenture found that 95% or more of millennials say they want their brands to court them actively, and coupons sent via email or mailed to their homes currently (or will in the future) have the most influence on them. Other channels, such as text messages, have an impact on just over half of all respondents in terms of their shopping behaviors. In short, the age of personalization is here, and it came as an answer to millennial demands.
It’s also important to recognize that the millennial generation is notoriously less infatuated with material goods, placing a greater emphasis on the curation of unique experiences – a tendency which is especially valuable to the hospitality industry. While millennials may be hard to understand at first glance, they represent a wealth of potential business for those hotels which know how to connect with them.
Demand for a Tech-Friendly Experience
It comes as no surprise that millennials are increasingly tech-savvy. Growing up in a digitally-affluent landscape, they have participated the rapid evolution of many of the platforms and digital processes that now define the consumer experience. In fact, 87% of millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once daily. Not only that, but 52% use mobile devices to book hotels and many reserve within 24 hours of arrival, and when checking in and out, 83% prefer self-service rather than interaction with staff.
As such, hotels which are slow to adopt and implement the latest technology will not be in a good position to cater to millennial travelers or their own younger employees. Fortunately, while the hospitality industry has traditionally lagged behind in the adoption of emerging technologies, recent disruptors have inspired an industry-wide shift in mindset. A good example is the updates to the Radisson RED app which now enables guests to self-serve to order food at the on-site restaurant, schedule transportation, check-in, check-out, request amenities and even interact with other guests.
As a hotelier, ask yourself – do you have the processes and platforms in place to empower a flexible, data-driven and seamless service model? Are you providing your staff with everything they need to enhance the guest experience? Are your operations productive, efficient and well supported?
Implementing new technologies is the key to a profitable, scalable model in the modern age; one which can cater to millennials and the generations that follow. The technological trends gaining the most traction across our industry include mobile check-in/out, next-generation PMS systems that enable more personalized marketing, self-service kiosks, keyless entry, virtual concierges, and voice-enabled assistants. Millennial travelers have a penchant for instant gratification, and with the help of intelligent, insight-driven technology, hoteliers can create more satisfying stays for each guest.
While new platforms and capabilities are increasingly important, those which inspire the most success will help hoteliers to strike the perfect balance (suggestion, link to last TLA here) between digital and in-person service. This is the modern definition of a ‘seamless experience’ – the provision of a consistently personalized, on-brand experience that is tailored to the needs of each guest at every touchpoint (online or offline, anytime and anywhere). The digital platforms and processes implemented by hotels should cater to a more personalized, efficient and convenient experience, but the subsequent more traditional model of in-person customer service must remain intact. It is this level of care and guest-centric service that will attract millennials and inspire their long-term loyalty.
Tapping into the ‘FOMO’ Generation
It’s no secret – millennials love to travel. Studies indicate that 66% of millennials consider travel to be a very important part of their life and are more interested in traveling than other demographics by 23 percentage points. The United Nations estimates that 20% of all international tourists 一 or nearly 200 million travelers 一 are young people, while the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation projects that young travelers will take 320 million international trips by 2020. That’s a 47% increase from 217 million in 2013.
The millennial penchant for travel is primarily rooted in a desire for unique experiences, and ultimately a fear of missing out (FOMO). Millennials, a generation both liberated and burdened by social media, are plugged-in and acutely aware of opinions shared across social media and review networks. Millennial travelers are more likely to ask for travel opinions on social media (44%), and 97% will post on social networks and share experiences with friends while traveling. With this in mind, hoteliers should focus on the elements of their offering which lend to a ‘share-worthy’ experience and generate positive online reviews and clout. After all, studies show that 70% of millennial travelers want an immersive travel experience and 78% say they wish to learn something new.
So, the demand exists, how can hoteliers capitalize on it?
Major hotel brands like Hilton and Marriott are employing new strategies to draw millennials away from micro booking sites like Airbnb. These include new, “micro hotels” that include smaller rooms, but offer other amenities like bars, grab-and-go food, and pool tables. Hotels are also highlighting the memorable aspects of their property such as unique local culture and experiences, beautiful views, outstanding amenities, and cutting-edge technology. Hyatt Centric is targeting the millennial traveler by encouraging staffers to share their favorite local spots with guests.
When it comes to booking, millennials look at photos first and foremost. According to Webdam‘s research, content and visuals including images produce 650% more traffic, and 60% of bookers look only at the pictures posted before making a decision. Websites such as Booking.com and Trivago rely heavily on photos to attract millennials’ interest, while modern mobile-PMS platforms rely on images to drive room upgrades and ancillary revenue.
There is simply no denying it – millennials are the future of our industry. Fortunately, with the right service approach and technology in place, modern hotels are in a position to reap the rewards of long-term millennial loyalty.
Is your hotel in need of a PMS make-over to stay competitive, attract more millennial guests, and keep them coming back? We can help. Click here for more information about StayNTouch.