In the film WALL-E, lazy, ‘spoon-fed’ guests are continuously exposed to commercialised messages of retail, F&B and ancillary revenue ‘products’, via robots (AI) and augmented reality (AR). Is this the future of a cruise ship experience? For Hollywood, and science fiction in general, tech-enabled futures are dystopian ‘controlled’ environments devoid of nature, humanity and genuine enjoyment.
Today, the level of advance in technology according to Moore’s Law is enabling brand experience to accelerate highly effective and efficient operations in service delivery. The question should be, does this come at the expense of the ‘human’ factor and the ultimate interpersonal aspects of hospitality?
Often, the question is raised in boardroom– ‘where or how does the future for our brand and business get created?’ Is it in the analysis of consumer insights? In an innovation ‘lab’ operating at the fringes of the core business? In a start-up that seeks to disrupt a category and then go to IPO or get acquired?
The truth is, all of the above, but more often than not is starts in the imagination of leaders and innovators who seek to create better experiences, business models and/or products that create value.
Brand identities are critical for differentiation and protection of IP assets, however they rely upon innovation in order to create both greater bottom line efficiency and top line growth. Ideas within a business that are ‘on strategy’ and ‘on brand’ need to be translated into actionable and commercial propositions that support desire, demand and differentiation. The greater the proprietary aspect of an innovation, the greater the differentiation and potential for added value commercialisation. Yet, many organisations only innovate for low hanging fruit deploying more features to existing technology and operations than real value added benefits.
How do brands avoid a resentment from customers who feel that innovation is working to the commercial advantage of the brand and the intrusive and non-secure disadvantage of themselves? Can innovation be both profitable and customer-centric?
At the heart of driving growth is linking innovation to a long term and robust approach to deploying technology and value equally towards a brand vision and value proposition. At the core of this strategy is the need for a brand to recognise a few of the fundamentals for success.
Trust is the key
Only via a foundation of trust will customers enable a brand to innovate. To leverage an increasingly digital fingerprint, customer must trust brands with their information to allow targeted, segmented and personalised offers.
Security is your differentiator
The increased need for cyber-security and reassurance will extend to all aspects of a guest experience and become a differentiator for brands who acknowledge and deliver with confidence and reliability.
Real personalisation is really powerful
And, the ultimate goal is for a service firm to deliver a ‘you-topian’ view and experience for their customer that is personal, predictive and profitable. The fundamentals of hospitality shine through: making the guest feel special.
How to futureproof your hospitality brand
So, where should a brand start when considering how to ‘future proof’ their offer and deploy innovation to products, services or experiences? A good starting point is to consider whether the brand experience can be improved via resources and efficiencies, or via service enhancement and differentiation.
A brand increases its ability to attract consumers and retain their loyalty only via a deep understanding of the drivers of value, choice and satisfaction. The role of deploying new technology enabled by developments like big/fast data, artificial intelligence, blockchain security and voice recognition should be to create more seamless experiences.
Hold your line
Both the benefit to the brand and the customer must remain the focus. As ecosystems of personal data, targeted financial incentives and connected experiences begin to return on investment of innovation, growth will follow. Innovating with existing technology creates differentiation (step/horizon one), deploying next generation technology creates additional value/choice/consumer consideration (stretch/horizon two), ‘game changing’ technology creates new behaviour and commercial models (leap/horizon three).
The game-changers of the past 10 years have all amplified the ability of consumers to select and purchase goods and services. The advanced nature of technology linked to ‘smart’ devices, cloud based analytics and shared economies means there is no longer a fixed approach to service, product and experience. Today, the strongest brands will be those that recognise the importance and value of ‘mass personalisation’ in creating ability to choose, specify and select every aspect of a product or service experience. The seamless delivery of both virtual and tangible product and service will be a critical dimension to hospitality.
Chris has worked over the past 25 years across all sectors in the area of Brand Strategy and Marketing for Corporate, Consumer and NGO Brands around the world.
A passionate innovator, Chris believes in the power of creativity to define the future through branding. In particular, Chris is a lead practitioner in Corporate Vision and Purpose strategy.