By Sandy James, Director of Business Development – North America at Zoox Smart Data

In recent years, big data has grown to become an indispensable asset for virtually any type of business, regardless of industry or customer demographic. But for hospitality in particular, big data has taken on a greater importance as industry professionals search for new ways to provide the ultimate guest stay experience. Capable of offering valuable insight not only into the day-to-day business performance but also into the unique desires and preferences of each customer, the use of big data has even been shown to increase a hotel’s performance over competitors by 20 percent in virtually every financial metric.

Yet to truly leverage the mass of data that hotel systems can generate or receive on a daily basis, hoteliers must ensure that they adopt a smart data strategy that is seamlessly able to provide actionable insight from the moment a guest books and arrives. They must work to eliminate information silos that prevent hotel staff from instantly and fully identifying what each guest expects to find at every step of the guest journey. At the same time, they must also ensure that guest privacy concerns are respected whenever collecting or utilizing personal information. However once effectively implemented, a smart data strategy can make all the difference in a hotel’s ability to maximize satisfaction rates, guest loyalty and business revenues. Read on to discover what key factors should play a central role in any hotel’s pursuit of implementing a successful smart data strategy.

Taking Care of Guest Needs Means Respecting Privacy Concerns

Before even beginning to deploy a smart data strategy, hoteliers must first consider any implications regarding the use of sensitive guest information to protect business reputations and limit potential liability. As with virtually any consumer-based industry, hospitality professionals are faced with not only the need to overcome guest hesitancy in sharing personal details but also must adhere to various national or regional privacy laws.

The first step towards gaining guest confidence and trust is to specifically state what sort of information is being collected and why. This information should always be easily accessible and clearly highlighted before a guest provides permission for a hotel to collect and use their data. Once a guest understands that their information is only being used to enhance and personalize their hotel experience, many will be able to identify the personal value presented and will be much less likely to opt out. According to Skift, for example, more than 58 percent of travelers aged 55+ indicate a willingness for hotels to use personal information if it results in being provided with relevant service offerings, promotions or loyalty points.

Yet with fluctuating shifts in privacy expectations and with new legislation continuously being passed, it can also be challenging for a hotel to keep pace with how their data collecting operations should adapt to the latest requirements. To overcome this issue, hotel businesses should seriously consider implementing their own privacy program with staff members dedicated to upholding all privacy laws. Specialized data privacy employees can continuously evaluate data compiling processes throughout an organization to ensure ongoing compliance and can alert hotel leadership to any needed adjustments before guest trust is negatively affected or a liability issue arises.

Vital to the guest data collection process is also working with a reputable smart data provider that has extensive experience in ensuring that any solution implementation aligns with legal requirements and guest expectations. Smart data providers can also serve as a valuable asset in advising a hotel’s data privacy teams to ensure that best practices are being followed and to provide guidance on how to proceed with any new data privacy developments.

Creating a Single Source for Real-time Guest Intel

With privacy issues addressed, the next step in deploying a successful smart data strategy is knowing precisely where to look for valuable insight on each guest. Fortunately for virtually every hotel, existing guest Wi-Fi networks are ideal in serving as a fully comprehensive window into the many diverse guest behaviors, likes and dislikes. Traditionally viewed as an amenity expense with little to no ROI beyond catering to guest connectivity needs, a hotel’s Wi-Fi when combined with an advanced smart data platform can instantly offer real-time access to specific analytics on individual guests; all without any need for staff members themselves to first manually compile the information.

Sidestepping time-consuming processes that can often stall or limit the effectiveness of a hotelier’s guest business intelligence strategy, Wi-Fi integrated smart data solutions instead automatically create individual profiles for each guest that can be accessed at any time. Once a guest provides authorization, an advanced solution can maintain a consistently accurate profile by updating information each time a guest connects their device to the network. This not only applies to onsite networks, but also any network around the world that is likewise supported by a smart data platform. Once armed with specific data that is still actionable, hotel employees can waste no time in identifying what each guest considers to be the ideal representation of a satisfactory hotel stay.

The Future of Guest Service is Personalized

 With as much as 81 percent of travelers now desiring personalized experience recommendations from their hotel, an effective smart data strategy and platform will play a crucial role in the industry’s recovery efforts and a hotelier’s ability to remain competitive. However, many hoteliers may wonder exactly what sort of analytics a smart data platform can provide and how such information can be used to seamlessly personalize experiences.

Once a guest opts in and a unique profile is created, such platforms can instantly compile details on hobby interests, memberships, marital status, family size, income level and much more. The technology can further locate reviews or social media posts with regards to previous hotel stays in order to demonstrate what precisely led to either a guest’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Equipped with these metrics before a guest even visits the front desk to check in, hoteliers can for example, effortlessly determine if an arriving traveler has a specific preference for health and fitness which may lead to an interest in participating in onsite yoga classes. Perhaps recently wed guests may like to hear about specific experience packages that are tailored towards couples. An arriving business traveler may demonstrate a habit of visiting the onsite bar or restaurant and can be enticed to spend additional revenue by being made aware of current F&B promotional specials. Such experience personalization backed by psychographic and actionable analytics can prove to be a defining differentiator that doesn’t just result in a substantial increase in guest loyalty but also maximizes an employee’s upselling efforts to generate additional revenue.

Pushing experience personalization and hotel profitability one step further is the ability for more advanced smart data platforms to provide guests with personalized recommendations for nearby attractions and services. Able to draw from a wide-ranging library of promotional advertising content that sidesteps the need to pay third-party ad publisher fees, today’s smart data technology can automatically determine the physical location of a guest in order to push relevant geo-based offers. Again taking advantage of individualized guest profiles, a smart data tool can further make recommendations for local restaurants, tour guides, theme parks, museums and much more depending on a guest’s specific predilection. With every successful sales conversion, localized and personalized advertising capabilities represent yet another opportunity to boost hotel competitiveness and guest loyalty while creating another reliable source of alternate income.

Opening Up a Line of Communication Between Hotels and Their Guests

One of the most common discussions regarding technology within the hospitality space is the risk that new solutions may jeopardize the human interaction element that is central to fostering long-term guest relationships and loyalty. Yet rather than limit opportunities for staff to interact with guests, smart data technology-backed strategies work to enrich conversations by providing employees with the insight they need to drive discussions towards creating greater value. No longer content with being offered the same options as every other guest, today’s travelers expect hotel staff to instantly know exactly what services match their specific interests and budgets. With actionable smart data analytics by their side, hotels and their employees can finally gain an upper hand and can remain fully confident in their abilities to engage with their guests in a manner that always results in enhanced satisfaction, loyalty and business revenues.