Technology Infrastructure's Hidden Agenda-Data and Connectivity

Claudia Infante, Sr Director, Revenue & Distribution Strategy- Hotels & Casinos, Hard Rock International
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When was the last time you witnessed the launch of a NEW technology product? I mean new as in you'd never seen anything like it before. Think really hard about it; odds are, you haven't, at least in the last 2-3 years and definitely not in the realm of the Hospitality Industry. Don't get me wrong, there's innovation going on everywhere and happening throughout every industry, but what we're witnessing is a steady line of updates, upgrades, and modifications to products and applications we utilize regularly.

For the most part, the property management system (PMS) continues to be the foundation and guiding principle of all operations in a hotel environment and hence, the implementation of new technology is always predicated on the interaction and interface with the PMS. The launch of new technology platforms that can drive innovation is therefore centered on 2 critical factors: Data and Connectivity.

  ​Connectivity is the ugly duckling of the technology spectrum. It seems complicated, but fortunately more and more companies are taking it seriously and driving the innovation train 

With the rise of data as a major component of every aspect of business in a company, it is critical that CTOs and CIOs understand the importance and value of data in all its facets: Standardization, Accuracy, Quality, Privacy, Security and Governance. These critical attributes are the mainframe to assign and determine the intrinsic value of a datum in the overall schema of your warehouse.

Let’s use John Smith as an example of data value. John Smith is a business traveler who stays in your hotel every time he visits your city, and has for the past 2 years. You can go back into your PMS and review John’s history to find out via a simple query, how much John Smith spends in your hotel and what his business is worth to the enterprise, pretty simple right? That is of course, if the reservations were entered appropriately, if the profile data was not duplicated a few times because it’s easier to just push the button that says “create new profile” instead of verifying the information to match a new record. What about spelling? Email address? Phone number? Do we know John’s frequent flyer number?

Now let’s imagine that you have an incredible staff and a rock solid standard operating procedure for data capture that goes hand in hand with training and data quality audits and assurance programs, then yes, John Smith can be easily found and tracked and we can determine in a matter of seconds, the value of his business and even calculate his forecasted life time value based on travel habits. Your data is on point! (No pun intended)—So, how do you use that data to attract more “John Smiths” to your hotel? (A.k.a. Look Alike Audiences) You now have to think about connectivity.

Connectivity is the ugly duckling of the technology spectrum. It seems complicated, but fortunately more and more companies are taking it seriously and driving the innovation train by ensuring their platforms are agnostic, flexible and scalable. Of course, data standardization is key and organizations like HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation) and OTA (Open Travel Alliance) have helped the industry bridge the communication gap. This standardization has enhanced our ability to pursue the ultimate objective of our business: generate revenue. In doing so, plugging our John Smiths’ data into programmatic marketing platforms like Sojern®, Adara®, Double Click Ad Exchange or Facebook Ads is a sure way to cross reference and match exact or similar users in the “interweb” to power up highly targeted marketing (email or digital advertising) campaigns; and in this case, more is actually more. The extent of customization based on data from these, and many other similar platforms, is only limited by the quality and completeness of your own targeting data. And we have now come full circle.

When John Smith comes to your hotel and has an average spend of six hundred dollars per visit and repeats the operation 3 times a year, you’re looking at eighteen hundred dollars of annualized spend. Upon more extensive review, your data points tell you that John also spends an average of two hundred dollars on meals and spa treatments; that he is an active social media user with few thousand followers on Instagram and Twitter; and likes to brag about his travel and purchasing habits. You now are looking at a potential ambassador and evangelist who can put your hotel in front of thousands of customers in seconds. Leverage that data into Look Alike audiences on Double Click or Facebook ad networks and you could now find and target millions of potential “John Smiths” that can generate the same 2K a year for your hotel. How much is that worth? (hint: we could be talking eight digits here!)

As technology professionals, we sometimes get too involved and concerned with the basics of our applications: up time, redundancy, security, cost, amortization, all valid parameters and definite must haves! Don’t abandon those. What I am suggesting here, however, is that you take a step back and review all the ways in which the architecture and connectivity of your systems can impact the value and usability of your data. Consider from your tech perspective and positioning, how you can facilitate a healthy data standard, a streamlined process of checks and balances, and of course, a tight collaboration with all other disciplines that consume and utilize this data, day in and day out, to make decisions on revenue, pricing, marketing, advertising and even operations. I am positive that John Smith likes to be recognized and rewarded for showing up at the front desk every couple of months.

Our mission, when thinking about our technology infrastructure, is where John Smith lives within our data universe and how many of them are out there, waiting to be told that we are the perfect hotel for them: their friend John Smith told us so.

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