This following is a guest post by Kai Crow, Marketing Director at VMob, a Microsoft Azure partner that helps businesses draw and maintain traffic in an ever-toughening market through the use of technology.
There has been a fair bit of hype around the Internet of Things or IoT lately, especially in the hospitality industry. But what does it really mean for businesses?
The concept of IoT isn't anything new; it's simply a network of connected devices. However, a few developments in recent years have made it a much more powerful proposition for customer-facing businesses, the biggest change being the number of customers now carrying smart phones and other connected devices.
At VMob, we're well known for helping brands personalize mobile content for individual customers. However, what many people don't realize is true personalization requires more than the customer's smartphone and an intelligent app.
In the background, our platform, hosted on Microsoft Azure, is pulling data in from a wide range of sources to help give us a better understanding of what's going on for each customer at any given time. In most situations, this includes sources like weather data, local events, traffic services and other localized information layered with the user's current location. For hotels and resorts, we can also link in services like booking systems, in-room entertainment, and guest management platforms, all of which contain valuable data that helps us better understand each customer.
It's not just collecting data from a range of devices that makes an IoT focus powerful for hospitality businesses, though. It's the fact we can also push that personalized content out via other channels besides the customer's mobile.
Intelligently Personalizing Hotel Experiences Through Big Data and the IoT
Picture this: Sarah, a mom traveling with her two kids, walks into a hotel in your chain. She has stayed a few times previously, has your loyalty app installed, and has arrived early in the day. It's cold and rainy outside, and her room isn't ready yet.
As she arrives in the lobby, a beacon tells the VMob platform to send her a push message via your app letting her know her room isn't ready and promoting an offer for two free hot chocolates in the café (because the platform knows from the reservation she's traveling with kids and knows from past purchase behavior they like hot chocolate). At the same time, the VMob platform has also triggered a large screen display in the lobby area to start displaying a promotion featuring the café, reinforcing the message being promoted in her app.
Now let's suppose Sarah doesn't see the push message on her phone and instead walks straight up to the counter. Not only has the VMob platform sent a message to her phone and changed content on the lobby display screen, it has also sent an alert to the desk staff along with the personalized offer for two hot chocolates. So when the staff greet Sarah, they not only know who she is, they can also make an offer for a special deal intelligently selected for her by the platform's personalization engine.
So what has happened here? We've made Sarah's day a little easier: Her kids will be happy while they wait for their room. Furthermore, we've encouraged Sarah to visit the hotel café, which she doesn't usually do, and visiting will most likely encourage her to also purchase a drink for herself. So in additional to making Sarah's stay more enjoyable, we've already started driving some incremental revenue from her visit.
The hotel industry has some of the best customer data and more customer touch points than any other service or retail industry, but so much of this data is trapped in siloed systems. At VMob, we've been working with Microsoft and some of the world's leading chains on ways to connect these data points and turn them into better customer experiences that are useful and enjoyable and, yes, more profitable.