By Ellis Connolly

At a dinner last year, I overheard a conversation unfolding between two other guests, one of whom worked at a PR agency. “Believe it or not, micro-influencers are often more impactful from a social media marketing standpoint than the big players,” she shared, at which point my ears pricked up to listen closely. “Campaigns with someone at a high level of fame, like Kim Kardashian, will cost a company incomprehensible sums of money – which may be fine if the ROI justifies it, but if the engagement is predominantly views and general sponsored exposure rather than tangible actions, it’s not necessarily a smart business move. On the other hand, content creators with a smaller following – say, 5,000-15,000 followers – are generally more connected to their following, and their posts and recommendations may be viewed as more genuine and organic, so the ROI is often better.”

As she explained this, I found myself nodding along. Social media marketing is hardly my area of expertise or interest; however, there is a lesson in this sentiment. Bigger isn’t always better, and smaller businesses now have an opportunity to outrun their larger competitors in the business world. Using the dinner guest’s example, years ago, micro-influencers wouldn’t have represented an advertising opportunity because we lacked exposure to them. In today’s day and age, social media has created a new medium for impact and reach, allowing smaller players to benefit from the same exposure and connection opportunities traditionally enjoyed by celebrities. I see a similar trend when I apply this lens to business, specifically the hospitality industry. With the continued emergence of next-gen technology and digital innovations, independent operators that were once confined to the shadows of large chain hotels can finally edge ahead. Social media is to micro-influencers what innovative technology is to independent hotels – and now, more than ever, hotels should leverage that advantage.

Technology (and the way companies adopt and leverage it) is the primary competitive differentiator between the hospitality brands that succeed and those that struggle in our ever-changing and ever-challenging landscape. In fact, if you ask me, next-gen technology is leveling the playing field for independent hotels in the race for guest loyalty.

The Independent Advantage

When we look at the hospitality landscape, specifically, it’s essential to take note of the advantages held by independent operators. While large chains benefit from brand power, recognition, and larger marketing budgets, independent hotels experience more autonomy, freedom, and agility. They can capitalize on guests’ demand for unique, personalized experiences with experiential offerings that don’t have to adhere to strict brand standards like those properties tied to a large chain.

A more personalized offering also empowers these hotels to establish more meaningful connections with guests to keep them coming back. As you might have guessed, that perceived intimacy and personal connection can go a long way in guest satisfaction and loyalty. With the additional influence of next-gen technology, independent hotels can prioritize their independence while simultaneously streamlining and automating their operations similarly to their larger competitors. Moreover, many modern hospitality platforms allow hotels to offer data-backed personalization that directly benefits the guest experience.

Many of our Laasie clients are independent hotels, and like most, they don’t have a lot of group brand recognition to attract direct bookings, so they often have to rely on OTAs to drive their revenue. When visitors engage with Laasie’s incentives throughout their booking journey, hotels see much higher booking conversion rates. Additionally, guests love the rewards offered – they select rewards a whopping 80% of the time! The platform is designed to encourage members to book directly again and again with personalized, instantly-selectable rewards that only get more perfect with every booking.

The impact of technology adoption is far-reaching, empowering hotel teams to mitigate workflow inefficiencies, reduce operational pressure on staff, enhance productivity, improve service, and better connect with guests via the service mediums they prefer. The writing is on the wall – where independent properties lack resources and massive budgets, they can close the gap with intuitive technology that exists to change how hospitality teams of any size serve guests.

New tools for a changing era

In an article posted to Skift this year, the author wrote, “Traveler expectations have shifted dramatically since before the pandemic. To capture demand in a competitive market, independent hotel brands must deliver a compelling alternative to the traditional loyalty programs the large chains offer.” Citing Chris Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the article noted that the hospitality industry had seen a huge shift towards leisure travel. “So we need to be more responsive to the needs of those travelers,” said Harley. “For one thing, they’re asking for more flexibility on how they earn and spend rewards, including the chance to accrue and redeem rewards close to home.”

This sentiment speaks to an emerging trend – hotel loyalty models, which have remained unchanged for many years, are finally beginning to shift in a more innovative and personalized direction. Fortunately, next-generation loyalty technology works to champion this transition, guiding hotels along the path to a new kind of loyalty. By moving beyond the constraints of legacy loyalty programs, modern loyalty technology adopts a rewards-based model that leverages data-backed personalization and instant gratification to incentivize guest behavior and enhance satisfaction with each transaction moment. Rewards-based insights for audience building and guest acquisition help hotels get closer to their guests, capitalizing on their advantage as an independent property with enhanced service autonomy. Even better, this technology is fully customizable, meaning it can be adapted to the needs of any independent hotel and launched within days, with no operational headaches.

While many large hotel chains focus on legacy, points-based reward systems, the instant gratification rewards-based loyalty model provides independent hotels with an incredible opportunity to differentiate their property while delighting guests at every turn. With the help of next-generation loyalty technology, independent hotels can truly capitalize on their competitive advantages and not only make the ongoing race between independents and large hotel brands fair – but maybe even win.