There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed the way we do just about everything—eat, travel, work, and play.
And the hospitality industry is no exception. From restaurants to resorts, organizations are reimagining the customer experience to keep up with evolving leisure patterns—and no one knows which changes are here to stay. There’s one essential question on everyone’s mind: What does the future hold for hospitality?
Keep reading for seven key insights and discussion points from the panel.
Self-serve vs. humanized experiences
At the onset of the pandemic, many businesses were able to shift to a digital-first model with relative ease. For restaurants and hospitality businesses—which, by nature, rely on in-person transactions—this was not the case.
The businesses that were able to successfully adapt to these changes in consumer behavior were those that found ways to balance digital, self-serve transactions with authentic human experiences.
The panel provided the excellent example of Chick-fil-A, which reevaluated its operational practices to accommodate the significant uptick in drive-thru traffic. In order to make their drive-thru lines more efficient, they implemented iPads, introduced automated menus, ramped up curbside pick-up, and even piloted a delivery service. These changes enable Chick-fil-A to provide fast, efficient service with a human touch, and has proven valuable even after indoor dining became available again.
Depth of experience drives loyalty
Forming a connection with your customers is key to loyalty and retention—and it's getting tougher to do. The panelists cited that 36% of consumers are trying new brands in recent years. After all, contracts between brands and consumers have largely fallen by the wayside, and competition for nearly any good or service is only a few keystrokes away.
All of these challenges reinforce that your website needs to be optimized to engage users across all browsers and devices; it’s the core destination for users and customers. Then, once you’ve made a great first impression with your fully optimized website, you need to form that connection that gives site visitors a reason to come back and move deeper into the funnel.
This could be through a loyalty program, exclusive offers, relevant content, or any other type of added value—the key is to ensure there is incremental engagement or a reason to dive deeper and keep the dialogue going between your brand and your customers.
“Earning” is the key word when we talk about customer loyalty. Offering deeper, more connected experiences incentivizes them to stick with you.
Tech disconnects can cause costly disruptions
The pandemic not only exposed over-dependence on in-person interactions, it also revealed weaknesses in system-to-system communication in businesses’ tech stacks. The ability for your technologies to communicate is vital as you look at the experience across multiple channels and try to follow the breadcrumb trail of a customer’s interactions.
For example, a Blue Dot study showed that 88% of consumers are using QSR mobile apps to place restaurant orders, representing a major shift in behavior toward a new way to transact. But many restaurants struggled to link up the technology powering their different systems to effectively suss out what customers needed—meaning they were leaving money on the table.
According to a recent study, only 25% of restaurants currently have a digital strategy in place.
The takeaway? In order to respond to changing needs on the fly, you need a digital experience strategy that enables you to make data-driven decisions quickly.
One of the best ways to achieve this is with a Digital Experience Intelligence (DXI) solution—which provides a complete, retroactive view of how people interact with your site or app from the macro-level down to individual users.
Overt personalization gets the spotlight
In the travel industry specifically, 98% of customers don’t convert the first time they’re on your site. Often, they need help moving through the funnel, and personalized retargeting is a highly effective way to encourage return visits. But as consumers become more wary of how their personal data is used, it gets trickier for businesses to learn about their site visitors.
Using overt personalization is an effective emerging method for capturing customer info. Rather than feeling invasive or transactional, overt personalization makes it interesting for consumers to give information about themselves. Asking visitors to share their preferences so that they can receive tailored content is a far more humanized experience than asking them to fill out a form with their basic information.
There's an ongoing shift from the cookie-based marketing approach to a people-based marketing approach. Here are a few ways you can personalize your digital experience:
Geotargeting and geo-personalization let you serve up customized landing pages
Loyalty programs can build a stronger connection than a generic retargeting strategy
Digital Experience Intelligence platforms will help you understand user behavior and ultimately help you meet their needs
Perfecting the pivot with tech
Imagine a restaurant that builds an amazing dining room, but forgets something basic and essential—like chairs. That would be considered a huge failure.
This is the mindset that businesses need to take to technology: it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must.
The businesses that have invested in technology are more able to pivot quickly and adapt to things that have become the norm—like changing customer behavior or supply chain shortages.
Businesses that are able to use tech to meet customer in the middle—by doing things like recommending substitutions for things that are out of stock—are more likely to gain their customers’ trust.
The hidden winners of the pandemic
As mentioned previously, one unforeseen winner of the pandemic is the organization that’s taken the time to leverage technology to better understand the customer and improve service.
However, the primary beneficiary of these shifts is the consumer. The digital experience investments that businesses are making are designed to make customers’ lives easier by making interactions more efficient and more valuable.
Address the experience, not the transaction
The digital-first landscape of the pandemic era has been especially taxing for less tech savvy consumers. To meet this group’s needs, businesses need to make the digital experience intuitive, simple, and easy to understand.
In these times, it’s about providing guidance, having empathy, and thinking about how to educate your potential lead through the process. This could mean offering guided navigation, providing helpful content at the right moment, and finding ways to remove friction.
FullStory’s DXI platform delivers a complete, retroactive view of how people interact with your site or app––it's searchable, extensible, and dynamically built to enrich your tech stack, align teams and accelerate innovation. Get full visibility into how customers interact with your business online, with actionable insights designed to drive business results.