Want Brand Loyalty? Deliver on the Details

 
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In the digital world, hotels are continuing to invest heavily in marketing in order to stand out from the crowd as the noise online and on social media continues to increase. Regardless of what we think of them, influencers are now a vital way of attracting customers or guests to your business and brands are harnessing their reach to great effect.

PR agents will continue to tell you that print media and traditional channels are still relevant, and they’re definitely right.

Engaging Marketing

Operators understand the mechanics of marketing a modern business and how they can conjure up magic with video, photography and copy, reach an audience through influencer marketing, and use social media to open up the doors to a business and tell compelling stories. 

But with every element of operations, product and experience now under the spotlight and online for everyone to see, how do operators make sure that customers and guests fall in love with their brand when they first experience it in the flesh, tell everyone they know and then keep coming back for more?

Image courtesy of Conde Naste Traveler

Brand Experience in the Real World

With the bar and expectations so clearly set, hotels cannot fail to deliver in the real world. Frequently referenced, disruptive hotel brands such as Hoxton, Ace and Citizen M are keeping it cool, community-focused and restrained online, so they can over deliver and exceed expectations in their hotels. There’s no overpromising and underdelivering and this is one of the defining factors contributing to their growth, reputation and success.

Remaining Relevant

Large groups on the other hand are facing a challenge when it comes to engaging and maintaining the discerning, conscious consumer base they’re so keen to attract; relying heavily on generous loyalty schemes to keep guests committed to staying at their properties.

Corporate challenger brands such as 25 Hours Hotels, in which Accor recently took a stake, are a timely addition to the competitive landscape alongside Marriott’s Moxy and soon to launch Motto by Hilton’s coming out of the world’s two largest hotel groups in an attempt to attract a new audience.

Regardless of star rating or select-service credentials, brand loyalty will be won and lost by delivering on the details during guests’ stays and aligning the brand’s values with those of their guests. 

The challenge for the large groups is going to be ensuring they don’t offer a diminished guest experience that will undermine the anticipation created by slick marketing. And with complex, often unclear families of brands, ageing estates and the favoured brand/developer/operator model, stakeholder buy-in presents a real hurdle. 

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Image courtesy of 25hours hotels

The Essentials

Here are our top 5 non-negotiables for an on property guest experience that lives up to the marketing hype, and some great examples of how brands are taking this to the next level.


1. Environmental Credentials

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, there is simply no excuse for hotels not to be taking their impact on the world seriously. No one wants to see plastic-packaged snacks or confectionary, plastic-wrapped soap bars or miniature toiletries in their rooms. And no, removing plastic straws is not enough.

Case studies - In an effort to keep room rates, and no doubt investment at reasonable levels, Ace Hotel’s ‘Sister City’ hotel in the LES have cut down everything in room to only the essential, stripped-back necessities based on a deep understanding of what the modern traveller needs, and bolstering their environmental credentials to boot.

Here are our top 5 non-negotiables for an on property guest experience that lives up to the marketing hype, and some great examples of how brands are taking this to the next level.


And following on from Soho House’s lead with their in-room Cowshed products in refillable retail packaging that can also be purchased, Kimpton Hotels are now taking a similar approach with their partnership with NYC-based Malin & Goetz as part of their commitment to reduce their reliance on single use plastics across their estate.

2. Coffee

From cool lobby coffee bars to kettles in bedrooms, sachets of Nescafé or anything less than a locally relevant, independent coffee programme is not going to cut it. Guests would rather pay for a premium product than be left with something that doesn’t live up to their high street experience and expectations. 

With the premium-isation of coffee now firmly established in the mainstream it’s a simple and cost effective way to really elevate a guest’s experience in room.

Image - The Pilgrim Hotel in Paddington, who have partnered with Clerkenwell-based Workshop Coffee to deliver a ground floor coffee shop and in room coffee programme

3. Technology

It’s staggering that so many hotel brands make it so hard to get online, let alone understand how the modern consumer expects technology to enhance their stay. The large chains must move away from seeing wifi as a revenue making opportunity to a necessity that must be delivered seamlessly. Especially in room, when properties have captured guest data at check-in.

Aside from the basics, smart TVs with access to Netflix, easy-to-operate air-conditioning, and a lighting system that doesn’t require five minutes of experimentation just to turn the whole system off are all pretty essential parts of a satisfying hotel experience. 

A multi-country plug including USB right next to the bed is also an absolute essential. 

Case Studies - Looking past the basics, US-based hotel group Life House have recently raised $70 million off the back of their pioneering tech platform which allows guests to connect and network ahead of their stay. Their tech-forward approach includes a mobile app “that serves as your room key, personal concierge, and so much more”.

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Room service revitalised, boutique hotel Lokal in Philadelphia have recently launched an iPad service in their rooms, loaded with room service apps allowing guests to order take away or stock their mini bars/pantries from local businesses.

Image - Rivié at The Hoxton, Paris serves breakfast to hotel guests and locals alike as is as much a part of the local

Image - Rivié at The Hoxton, Paris serves breakfast to hotel guests and locals alike as is as much a part of the local

4. A Great Breakfast Experience 

Leading on from coffee, a varied breakfast offering that’s fresh, seasonal and locally relevant is a must in today’s hotel market. To succeed, this needs go beyond the buffet, but doesn’t necessarily mean increasing choice. 

A concise, considered programme is essential in order to meet the needs of today’s busy business and leisure travellers. This must cater to choice diets, health and indulgence, and be underpinned by the ability to eat in or grab and go.

Increasingly, the new generation of hotels are doing away with buffets, markets and bed and breakfast rates entirely, instead creating great neighbourhood all day restaurants that tap in the local community, give guests a sense of place, and offer an experience and level of product that they’re happy to pay a premium for whilst understanding that many will choose to check out somewhere local for the first meal of the day, rather than sacrifice quality and the opportunity to tick that hot café off their bucket list.

5. A well maintained branded environment 

Guests are less concerned with up to the minute decor, but can be negatively impacted by poorly-considered brand touch points. Poorly presented, dog-eared, tired collateral can really affect a guest’s perception of a hotel.

With guests now wanting to feel part of the local community when staying in hotels, in room collateral presents an opportunity to communicate clearly how seriously the hotel takes its environmental impact and how it contributes positively to the locale.

This needs to focus on what’s going on around the property that guests may be interested in, not just self-promotion of in house facilities, which must of course be carefully considered and beautifully presented. 

Stocking co-branded local products in the bathrooms and minibars is also a great way to celebrate a property's local, collaborative credentials.

However, with the drive towards digital continuing, we look forward to the day when printed collateral in room is a thing of the past, save potentially for a cornerstone in-house magazine that keeps print media alive.

Case Study - Brands such as Park Hyatt, St Regis and Kempinski have partnered with Grey Door Publishing to produce in house magazines for their properties that are aligned perfectly to their brands and focus on individual properties and their surroundings, including attractions, bars and restaurants that are relevant to the properties’ target clientele.

Grey Door say “Each edition is completely unique to the host hotel and city, offering the reader a compelling narrative into the hotel’s services and the city’s culture, encompassing dining, shopping, nightlife and experiential attractions.”

Of course, none of this matters a dime without a great people experience and slick, personable service driven by subtly captured data that is effortlessly deployed. We will follow up soon with a post on this very topic.

Have a good week.





if you’d like to know how we’re transforming the culinary experience for one of the largest select service hotel brands across Europe and the US, or to talk to us about how we can enhance your bar and kitchen programme or drive engagement through branding and collateral design, then do get in touch. 

 
Edward Francis