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By Michael Bennett

We can't escape the topic of AI today. In a world of big data and personalization, it's shaping how we approach everything in the hospitality industry. But as powerful as artificial intelligence is, machine learning must be leveraged alongside hotel expertise and data management strategy to drive forward smarter, more accurate marketing results.

With an actual intelligence approach, hotels can:

  • Use machine learning to create more meaningful and relevant marketing moments that drive revenue
     
  • Focus your marketing activity on segments with the highest affinity to win
     
  • Analyze booking patterns, purchasing history and sentiment for advanced targeting and higher guest satisfaction
     

So, where do you start? To help break it down, here are the key focus areas I've seen great success with myself as both a former hotel marketer and strategist at Cendyn in turning actual intelligence into action for higher revenues and guest loyalty.

Consolidate data & create global profiles

Guests expectations have changed. There are now multiple digital touch points that a prospective guest goes through before they reach your property. If you consolidate all those touch points into a rich guest profile through a hotel CRM, not only can you better serve that guest (on and offline), you can leverage those profiles to drive more demand.

Use data to create "best guest" segmentation

Deeper insights provide deeper segmentation, which results in better targeting and ultimately better ROI. Referring to the rich guest profiles I mentioned before, hotels today can build multiple best guest personas (mid-week BT, weekend leisure, etc.) and leverage 3rdparty data sources to find more guests who look just like them with the intent to travel in a hotel's market. I personally hate the word incremental as it's hard to prove, but this method is proven to driven more of the right kind of business. We like to say: the right guest, the right place, at the right time.

Map AI to the path to purchase

One of the biggest areas to examine is booking abandonment. Really use the data to understand where on your web site or within the booking engine they are leaving and then delivering the right message to drive conversion. That could be via email or display, but it must be relevant. If they have visited your site 5x and every time looked at the spa page and 3x left after seeing rates, please send them spa creative with an incentive (not necessarily a discount) to book. Let them know you "hear" them and make it relevant; show them that you care. This can all be done with the right CRM and marketing automation platform.

Personalize when seeking additional revenue

I think about check-in at the front desk as a great place to capture more revenue. The given is room upgrades. But with tools like our eNgage platform, desk agents have rich data at their fingertips to create more meaningful moments, resulting in more revenue opportunities. I can't tell you how many times I have checked into a hotel and they say "Is this your first time with us?" and the reality is I stayed there 3x this month. Shouldn't be more like, "Welcome back Michael. I see you were with us a few weeks ago. Would you like a similar room location in the East building as last time? I also see you enjoyed dinner at the restaurant, would you like me to book you a dinner reservation tonight?" or as simple as… "Welcome Mr. Bennett, I see you booked on Expedia. If you provide me your email address I will be happy to send you a code for 15% your next stay with us if you book directly." In both cases we turn a transactional conversation into a revenue generation opportunity.

It's doesn't remove it, but if we let it, intelligence can be an equalizer. We are all human and have opinions, but if we take the time to analyze the data and learn from it, we can significantly reduce the margins for error and increase the upside at the same time. Let's face it, there are always too many cooks in the kitchen when making marketing decisions and if we can streamline the process by putting data first, we should be much more efficient. That results in more action and less "talk."

Listen to sentiment to guide prioritization and purchasing

When I was on the hotelier side we used data intelligence to inform renovation plans. A specific hotel might say they need new TVs because the comp set has newer/nicer ones, when in reality when we analyzed all the public sentiment, there wasn't any negative sentiment about our TVs. What we really needed to address the Wi-Fi coverage issues. Taking the emotion out of the decision and letting the data speak, then using actual intelligence to make the right purchasing decision to fix the Wi-Fi ultimately drove up guest scores and ADR because it had a positive impact on our online review scores and ranking.

In closing, without rich guest data in a central data warehouse and robust marketing automation tools, actual intelligence is tough to achieve. Finding the right partner is critical. At Cendyn, that's our forte - we help hotels across the globe achieve up to a 33X ROI on marketing investments using an actual intelligence approach that's backed by deep hospitality knowledge and cutting-edge marketing expertise.

About Michael Bennett

Michael oversees global marketing, sales development and brand creative at Cendyn. He has over 22 years of international management experience, working with companies such as KSL Resorts & Capital, White Lodging, Knight-Ridder, The Nature Conservancy and Eastman Kodak. His specialties lie in marketing, ecommerce/digital and mobile implementations, all with a proven track record of success.

Contact: Michael Bennett

mbennett@cendyn.com / 561.419.2286

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