By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
Now that the current ‘crypto winter’ is weeding out all the cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes with no real applications or utility, it’s time to put on your futurist cap and ponder some actual use cases for what this coming technology will offer to hotels.
For background on blockchain, cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), web3 and all the basics related to how those work, there are lots of great resources out there, and explaining it all would make this article way too long for a casual read. On that note, here are ten possibilities to consider.
1. An Extension of the Experience Economy. We’re both keen acolytes of Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore’s ‘The Experience Economy’ which goes to lengths to describe how businesses will benefit most from looking at the customer’s time as the most-limited resource. When you think in terms of ‘time well spent’, it reframes all your operations from the guest’s exceedingly shrewd and hasty point of view. Guests value their time above all else and will therefore gravitate to those brands that in turn treat it with adoration. In this sense, the metaverse can be seen as merely the shiny new toy in the experience economy, whereby creating a virtual reality (VR) space for your hotel to exist in is but one more way to augment your service offerings and increase perceived value to drive bookings.
2. Digital Twinning for Maintenance Efficiency. There are a lot of great tools out there right now to help with preventative maintenance and the streamlining of work orders. The metaverse can help by imbuing a stronger sense of predictability into your engineering department via a ‘digital twin’ which is a clone of your physical property and all its mechanical components in the virtual world so that you can better monitor FF&E wear and tear. And with better monitoring, you can then develop better models for anticipating when certain devices will need repairs, all to limit negative reviews, optimize labor and reduce purchasing costs.
3. Digital Twinning for Spatial Orientation. Distinct from the previous use case, with a digital twin you can map out the flow of guests and staff through your property to improve route planning for various operations or optimize the furniture orientation of other revenue verticals like your lobby bar and pool area. Which tables or chaises get the most traffic? Do those seating arrangements correspond with the highest spends per guest? Having a digital twin can give you an extra overlay to evaluate how customer positioning and traffic flow relate to F&B sales. While the maintenance use case is more about cost savings, this latter case can also help to increase the in-room experience by identifying the dead spaces or A/B testing alternate orientations to drive ADR and guest satisfaction.
4. New ways to sell and enhance meetings and events. The pandemic has thrown the groups segment through the wringer but recovery is as inevitable as Thanos himself. That said, group sales may never be the same as 2019 and will favor those hotel brands that can have all the technology in place to move as quickly and as cheaply as the post-pandemic world requires. Of course, a big part of this is your sales management platforms and electronic contract technologies in place to expediently turn a lead into a sale, but the latest craze can help, too. It starts with enhanced virtual site visits whereby a metaverse clone of a hotel can be passed along to prospects so that they can ‘window shop’ a venue for a corporate retreat or wedding reception in lieu of or as an adjunct to a guided virtual tour and physical site visit. Then for the event itself, there are those who can’t make it and are currently reliant on videoconferencing options. For these remote attendees, the metaverse gives you the option to replace a laptop camera feed with a wholly immersive environment.
5. The Layering of Augmented Reality Experiences. There’s that word again – experiences. While not strictly an application for the metaverse per se, this would involve the coding of certain additive features into a hotel space that are only visible using augmented reality (AR) glasses. An extension of this would be to create a mixed reality (MR) experience that incorporates aspects of a virtual world with the actual world via AR. For those experiences, a hotel can charge a guest via a rental fee for a pair of Apple Glasses (still a rumor but hopefully to be unveiled later this year) or a hotel can just act as the chef to a BYO(AR)D experience where any AR device owner can hop on and get the benefit via a gated – that is, paid-for – access code.
6. Lead User Innovation. This is a term that deserves its own article specific to the hospitality space. Basically, it describes how your most loyal guests or ‘evangelists’ as some tech companies codify them will come to find new and extraordinary uses for your product that you never thought of or intended for. The metaverse can help you embrace the ingenuity of these individuals by giving them the space to interact with your brand in many more fun, fascinating and possibly perverse ways, all of which are tracked digitally and hence can be used to create actionable inferences for the physical product.
7. A Bonus for Tokengating. The future is all about the ‘gating’ or closing off of digital content for nonsubscribers. In this sense, ‘tokengating’ is simply the use of NFTs to govern who has access to a physical location, ownership of an asset or visibility of a digital construct. While you can create, say, a private lounge that only owners of a specific NFT will be allowed to enter, the prospects of MR and the metaverse introduce the possibility of even more added perks, specifically the access to certain areas or items that other non-NFT owners cannot interact with.
8. Boosting the Concept of Transformative Experiences. As the next generation of the Experience Economy, there is the notion of the ‘Transformation Economy’ where customers evaluate brands based upon how well products improve their overall livelihoods. So, can you use technology to ensure that a guest leaves a hotel better off than when they arrived? Without digressing too far into the wellness side of things, one metaverse-oriented application would be virtual exercise or yoga classes. Each room comes equipped with a VR headset and tracking suit, and guests can log in to an immersive digital environment for an on-demand training session with a highly skilled instructor, all without having to go through the logistics and inconvenience of meeting in person. In this sense, it’s a bit like what Peloton has done but much more personalized. Moreover, depending on the sensors in the equipment used, such sessions can be much more responsive to incorrect movements, presenting the opportunity for an upsell related to physiotherapy corrective measures.
9. Cataloging Experiences as a Post-Departure Gift. By deploying a digital twinning model to record aspects of the hotel stay, you can gain more data on a person’s onsite experience while the blockchain technologies underpinning the metaverse clone can ensure that that data is kept private to only the guest. For this use case, the data can drill down to the minutia of point-to-point decisions made on property, nutrition or wellness information and memorable highlights of the trip. All of these can be cataloged in the metaverse for future access, with the ultimate loyalty goal of having guests leave a property in person but never really checking out. As a somewhat extreme example, a bride and groom want to revisit the place of their nuptials on their anniversary at the exact moment when they said, “I do,” but must rely on the metaverse to offer that meticulously timed experience because the rigors of life prevent them from doing so in real life.
10. Further Incentives for a Loyalty Program. While you mull over all the previous ideas, you can see that not only are there applications for the metaverse to improve your physical product, but also to encourage guests to revisit your property, especially when you also incorporate gamification techniques. For instance, what if you only allowed access to various parts of your metaverse hotel clone to certain tiers of your loyalty program? Each tier could be determined from points accumulated not just from purchases on-prem in the physical world – rooms, suite upgrades, spa treatments, F&B, gift shop, golf and so on – but also, through the integration of all your various digital channels, incorporate online actions such as responding to a survey, social media mentions or getting friends to click on a bespoke referral link. This is but one use case that could have some lucrative applications. Next, you can throw in the idea of tokengating certain AR-based experiences to particular loyalty tiers, and then you have the makings of a compelling, modern rewards program.