In Newsletter #20: HotelTonight talks disruption | Marriott on the why and how of content marketing | Improving productivity with Hospitality Academy
A few months ago we were invited by our friends at Skift to join a podcast on in-room tech (see below). Truthfully, I had never been exposed to the medium. After listening to the content, I realized I had under appreciated this way of presenting news.
You can learn so much from panels and presentations, as we saw first hand at HTNG this week. A podcast can deliver the same rich content and allow everyone to gain a deep level of understanding without flying to a conference. So this one’s our podcast special.
What a conference it was! Hats off to the whole team who worked tirelessly to put the show together. It was ALICE’s first HTNG and we learned so much and made great friends. Thank you for welcoming us.
We’ll share more on the conference soon but for now congratulations again to Interel, Savioke and Rate Tripper for such innovative tech. They rocked the stage.
- Alex Shashou
Last year, Skift sat down with ALICE founder and CEO Justin Effron and Chris Holdren, Starwood Preferred Guest and Digital SVP to talk about the future of in-room technology and the evolving guest experience.
“If we’re disrupting their businesses, we’re not going to have a business.”
- HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank on his relationship with hotels.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK'S PODCASTS...
What would you do if you could build your guest service model from scratch?
Recode Decode Podcast | HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank Doesn't Want to Disrupt All Hotels - Just Hilton and Marriott
Why it matters: If you want to exceed your guests’ expectations on mobile, get inspired by the origin story of HotelTonight, as told by CEO Sam Shank.
It takes courage, when you see a paradigm shift coming, to throw out the familiar and envision what could be, but that’s what HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank did five years ago when he started HotelTonight. Rather than design his OTA for the desktop, Shank created HotelTonight as an app - and an app only - because he believed mobility would soon become the defining characteristic of the day. These days, on-demand bookings and services are commonplace, thanks to Uber and the like, and so are businesses that seek to sell excess capacity at the last minute (a trend that seems to have reached its zenith with the Overnight app, an app that sells last minute offers with local hosts - think Airbnb meets HotelTonight), but five years ago Shank’s vision spurred a seed change within the industry.
In this interview with veteran tech reporter Kara Swisher, Shank lists factors that contributed to his app’s success, many of which are worth considering for hotels that are still finding their way on mobile.
We often ask our hotels the question, “What would you do if you could build your hotel’s guest service model from scratch?" Shank asked himself the same when designing HotelTonight, honing in on simplicity, convenience and only the experiences that could be afforded on mobile. Three taps and a swipe - or roughly 10 seconds - are all that’s needed to complete a booking on the app. While other elements of the app have changed, this value proposition of three taps and a swipe has stayed the same from day one. Shank also attributes his app’s success to automating elements of the hotel experience that guests might possibly consider “annoying,” like checking in and checking out, as well as providing more value to guests through hotel descriptions that eschew star ratings for a keyword based system - one that speaks to the character, quality and price point of the hotel without all the confusion and ambiguity (we’ve written about the value in using mobile technology to automate the predictable in order to humanize the exceptional, as well as the utility of text reviews over star ratings).
The interview is also a good listen to hear how Shank views his hotel partners - “If we’re disrupting their businesses, we’re not going to have a business” - his OTA competitors, his alignment with Airbnb on the importance of authenticity, and his predictions on the effects on the hotel industry of automation more broadly.
It’s worth asking asking, in light of Shank’s insights, as to how your own hotel’s mobile offering can be similarly compelling to guests, most of whom have had years now of mobile-optimized, instantly gratified experiences, and some of whom might in fact have come to your property via HotelTonight.
“And oh, by the way, we also sell rooms.”
Skift Podcast | Reinventing Modern Travel Brands Through Content Marketing
Why it matters: This interview with David Beebe, Marriott’s VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing is a worthwhile listen for hoteliers, not for just for lessons in content marketing, but also for inspiration to look outside of the industry for ways to improve your position.
Beebe, who leads the Marriott Creative Agency, Marriott Content Studio and M Live (real time marketing) came to the hotel company after more than 15 years in the entertainment industry. After watching companies like GoPro, Red Bull and GE, which have built their brands in recent years through content rather than their core products, he built Marriott’s dedicated in-house content team to think about the hotel not just as a place to stay, but as a “platform for experiences.”
Why is content - and not advertising - right for Marriott - and more broadly, right for any travel brand? Beebe says that people no longer engage with anything that’s disruptive in nature - they respond much better to content that engages and informs, that talks with them and not at them. Content also accomplishes multiple objectives that are not as naturally accomplished by advertising, like brand building, brand engagement and shifting perceptions as well as more traditional goals, like driving bookings. Content also has all the same benefits as advertising, in terms of building your sales funnel. In fact, with good content, it’s likely you’ll attract even more eyeballs than you would through traditional advertising. These same viewers can then still be retargeted and engaged further down the funnel.
Content generation, especially for the larger chains, is often generic - making it hard to tell which hotel, let alone which country, it pertains to. As we have written about, travelers crave authenticity. Rich dynamic content on your website is an important part of this value proposition and may be the best distribution investment you can make.
How can hotels find success with their own content initiatives? Beebe says start by thinking about the conversation you want to have and what space you want to own. Be relevant and authentic. Tell stories from scratch so you’re not inserting yourself into someone else’s story, and build in your brand as a character. Beebe says Marriott likes to use their content to craft one-on-one relationships that only belatedly and very casually say “and oh, by the way, we also sell rooms.”
What managing housekeeping has in common with baseball.
Hospitality Academy Podcast | Improving Housekeeping Labor Productivity with David Heath
Why it matters: With housekeeping making up as much as a third of some labor budgets, it’s important that hoteliers seek to get as much use from their dollars as possible. This episode explores a number of tactics hoteliers can employ to not only make their housekeepers more efficient, but also boost their morale and reduce wasted expenditures.
In it, you will learn about why some hotels separate their housekeeping staff into checkout specialists vs. stay over specialists, how replacing telephones with iPod touches can improve the efficiency of your internal communication, and what managing your housekeepers has in common with baseball (both all come down to smart tracking and statistics).