Factors Influencing Brand Equity In The Hospitality Industry
The hospitality industry is growing more than ever before, with a wide range of factors influencing brand equity. Guests now have an almost limitless range of accommodation options, from big chain hotels to local brands and independents, and even vacation rentals and home stays.
This should be excellent for the consumer, but this market congestion can also lead to confusion. It is estimated that there are more than 90 million hotel rooms (primarily from unorganized sector) in India alone, and according to STR, at least 25,000 units are currently under construction nationwide in the organized sector and lots of crowding is taking place in the unorganized sector. The said varied choice simply can’t be processed by the human brain, so we need technology to help us.
It is estimated that the average traveller visits over 20 different travel websites³ before making a booking decision. As a hotelier you have two choices; you can either try to stand out from the crowd and appeal to customersor you can try to take your customers away from this battleground altogether.
Loyalty will grow even stronger in the coming years, as guests turn to their chosen, trusted brands to help them make confident choices
There are several ways a company can achieve this:
Create a Club Mentality: The best way to cut through the confusion is by offering a sense of exclusivity. Creating a club mentality will help attract guests who believe they are receiving something that others are not a special price, an added extra, a personalized offer. Online travel agencies have been very successful at this; for example the Secret Escapes website or Hotels.com’s ‘Your Secret Price’ feature both play on the concept of mysterious hidden benefits that only you can access, while MakeMyTrip’s ‘MMT Assured’ icon is intended to inspire confidence among customers.
This all relates to guest loyalty programs. Some say that loyalty in the travel industry is dead that customers now have so much choice that they are not loyal to one brand. I disagree. In fact, I believe that loyalty will grow even stronger in the coming years, as guests turn to their chosen, trusted brands to help them make confident choices. In return, brands will reward guests with highly personalized stays, as discussed below.
Innovate & Personalize the Guest Experience: I would like to give an example of how innovation and personalization can drive competitive advantage. About a decade ago, a small upscale Asian hotel brand with properties in India took a fresh look at what guests actually wanted. It started allowing guests to prestock their room with their favourite teas, beers and chocolates. They also offered guaranteed 24-hour stays from the time of checkin, allowed guests to have breakfast wherever and whenever they wanted, and offered complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
As we approach 2020, many of these services are now commonplace in major hotel chains, but at the time, this forward thinking company stood out from the crowd. By doing something different and putting its guests’ needs first, the company gained considerable brand loyalty.
We have now reached a stage where apps can help to customize every element of the guest’s stay. By harnessing big data and using a targeted marketing strategy, companies tailor every stay to the specific needs of each guest, from which hotels they prefer to book and who they usually travel with, right down to what type of view they prefer from their window and how soft they like their pillows. If a hotel group gets this right, they will gain a customer for life.
Behave like a Retailer:Another way of enhancing the customer’s in app experience is by simplifying it. Probably the world’s most successful online company is Amazon, which has achieved global acclaim for the simplicity of its online ordering process. Features like ‘Buy With One Click’ and ‘Order Again’ make the entire shopping experience highly user friendly.
By bringing this convenience into the hotel booking ecosystem, hotels can elevate themselves above competition. For example; hotel apps and websites are now very image-led. So why not allow guests to book directly by clicking a room image, or make a restaurant reservation directly via the photo gallery? If we remember a guest’s preferences, we can allow them to make the same reservation again. By creating direct booking paths and removing unnecessary clicks, we can make the customer’s journey much easier. We are retailers after all, so let’s think like retailers.
Let’s remember just how important it is to stand out from the crowd. 93 percent of all buying decisions start with an online search, and Google alone processes approximately 3.8 million searches every minute. Moreover, results that appear on the first page of a Google search get 91.5 percent of the traffic, and by page three, this shrinks to just 1.1 percent. So yes, it is very important to appear at the top of search. But the easiest way to avoid this dogfight is to rise above it go direct to the customer, give them a bespoke experience, and encourage them to come back to you.
It is wonderful to think that, in this modern age of technology, the fundamentals of hospitality remain the same as they always did: to deliver exceptional service. By providing customer centric, stress free support at every brand touchpoint, from your app to your hotel, companies will gain loyal guests and achieve positive word-of-mouth recommendations. As the industry becomes ever more crowded, hotels that put their guests first will succeed.