I'M LUCKY TO BE BASED IN RURAL DORSET. i'm probably best described as A DIGITAL STRATEGIST. I EXPLORe DIGITAL AND SUPPORT BUSINESSES all over the uk IN USING IT TO THEIR AND THEIR CUSTOMERS ADVANTAGE.

The hospitality industry doesn't know where to look.

I read an absolutely invigorating article on eHotelier recently which considered a number of ways that hotels can compete against AiBnB. If You are interested here is a link; http://ehotelier.com/insights/2016/02/25/four-ways-hotels-can-better-compete-against-airbnb/

The author (Alex Shashou) very eloquently offered different ways in which hoteliers can leverage technology to improve the entire customer experience and how to differentiate your hotel(s) offerings versus not only AirBnB but also your more historical (and future) competition.

Reading the article made me consider that the hospitality industry is looking in the wrong place in respect of how to continue to grow and thrive in an ever competitive digital and experience marketplace. It is reacting to the behaviour of users and competition rather than investigating and understanding the causes that lead to this behaviour. The industry is treating the symptoms of the digital revolution and human reaction to it, as opposed to the causes.

I hear you say — “That sounds awfully academic, boring and has no real benefit or realistic justification for my time and attention in the real world” — well you could be right! You have rooms to fill, competition to beat, reducing budgets and increasing costs to contend with.

But I ask that you forget about technology, forget about mobile, analytics forget about digital marketing for a few moments.

Stop looking at the various number of systems and huge amount of customer data that you have a gathered over the years (which is — despite being data from which you can identify trends always going to be reactive data) and think about those customers as individuals.

Individuals who have emotions, distractions, pressures, problems and triggers that can lead to their behaviour and therefore interactions being different from those they have shown in the past or may indeed show in the future. Individuals driven by emotion who make 95% of decisions sub-consciously.

There are many numerous, subtle layers to human behaviour — however when working with clients I initially focus on three high level considerations which can help drive ideas and begin to affect beneficial change;

1. Digital Behavioural Types

2. Path to persuasion

3. Most effective persuasion techniques

To prevent this article becoming an essay — I will only focus on the Digital Behavioural Types and will discuss the path to persuasion and the most effective techniques in other posts (as long as there is interest!).

So, we know — as it has been scientifically proven — that humans exhibit similar high-level behaviour when interacting with organisations whether they are online or offline. The variances in this behaviour can broadly be summarised as (with thanks to Jeffrey Rohrs and his excellent book — Audience);

Seekers — people who are investigating an area of interest — be this buying a pair of shoes or looking to book at weekend break. This could be online (via Trip Advisor) or offline (talking to friends).

Joiners — people who have completed some level of investigation and are interested in an organisation, author or a product — they will in the online world ‘like’, follow’ or even bookmark some content (be this a product or an organisation) and in the ‘real world’ will maybe visit a shop.

Buyers — people who have completed a ‘transaction’ — this could be this financial or could be in terms of providing an extra level of personal data (for example date of birth, income etc.) — they have in effect provide an organisation with information willingly and do expect to receive a product or service in return.

Amplifiers — people who talk about you and your organisation. These could be people who simply like the look of your website, they could also be people who have experience you and your hotel. They could be any of the previous three types or none. Here a key is to turn an amplifier into a fan — someone who does not only talk about your organisation but become an advocate (think Red Bull and there success with customer feedback and loyalty).

Clearly the objective of any organisation when looking at these types is to turn Seekers into Buyers and Amplifiers into ‘fans’, not an easy task but the starting point however is to recognise that these types exist — you can then begin to look upon your customers and their behaviour from a wider and more human angle.

So what to think about now?

· Think about yourself, your friends and family and how you behave online depending on individual need. Don’t forget you are a human too…

· Start looking at your customer data from the angle of seeker, joiner, buyer, amplifier — can you see trends in your Google Analytics, PMS, CRM data that identify people at these different stages? Look for revisits, forms started and not finished, long time on a page, haphazard site visits (navigating around every page!) think like a human.

· Do not just take data at its historical word — people dropping off a page may not be because it is badly designed (it might be!) but consider that they may have been distracted by an event or another thought.

· Look at your user journeys differently — not solely focused on getting all users to ‘Book Now’ as quickly as possible, use the data to mould different journeys to different types.

Within the next article I’ll discuss the persuasion path and how you can use some of the learning from the above to better structure your services (both online and offline) to help you fully engage with an individual’s needs.

Don’t treat digital in isolation — use it wisely — customers will benefit and so will you.

Stop spending money on digital - or at least think before you do.....