The world as we know it changes faster by the day, which means businesses and companies are harder pressed than ever to keep up with this altering landscape. What consumers wanted yesterday is forgotten by tomorrow, and companies that aren’t evolving at the pace of their customers are going to lose out.
One industry that is going through one of the most significant transformations is the hospitality and hotel industry, which I have witnessed firsthand as the CEO of a retail and hospitality manufacturer. With the success of room-renting apps and smaller niche chains, it’s clear that while the Goliaths are seemingly struggling, the Davids are finding their unique places and thriving.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to retail and hospitality companies. Retail is one of the most recognized industries in the midst of this transformation, though others are also working to meet the needs of unique consumer trends and habits. Clearly, business owners and entrepreneurs in all industries must embrace some transformation to keep up with the new consumer habits in order to stay relevant — and in business — in the 21st century.
These are the lessons that any business owner can discover from how the hospitality and hotel industry has worked to evolve in this transformative age and how other companies in all industries should keep up, as well.
Listen to consumers to inform new directions.
To keep up with new trends from consumers, forget what the standard used to be. Listen, and use data to inform how it should be today. Dive into consumer insights, trends, data and spending habits to inform new directions, as opposed to relying on previous generations’ preferences.
Hotels learned this with the emergence of boutique hotels, forgoing the past notion that the definition of hotel luxury was sprawling suites. Instead, they embraced millennials’ preference for smaller and more efficient — thought still luxurious — spaces. Boutique hotels dazzle on experience, rather than square footage. Smaller rooms aren’t an immediate detriment as they once were, and hotels all across the country are cashing in on the novelty of unusual small-space room setups.
It’s not always about chasing the ‘new’ thing.
When a disruptor enters an industry, it’s not uncommon for the incumbents to worry about falling out of fashion. However, this can sometimes create more distractions that cause a company to fall short on providing their best in hopes of being seen as new and trendy. It’s important that companies that have heritage within industries evolve with the times but don’t lose sight of the core role and function they serve, ultimately delivering exceptional experiences that keep their consumer base happy and encourage repeat business.
Take hotels versus Airbnb. You’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel that isn’t casting nervous glances at companies like this famous company. But surprisingly, in this case, the establishment seems to be winning the war, as Travel Agent Central reported that 52% of that coveted demographic, millennials, prefer a hotel to an Airbnb rental. Part of that wooing process is presenting them with more than just a room for the night; it’s offering an experience — an admittedly lofty goal that essentially defines boutique hotels. Whether it’s unlocking your room’s door with a handy smartphone app or answering the door to find a robot bearing that dental floss you forgot to pack, boutiques are increasingly geared toward digitally driven customization. Consumers want the ease of technology they rely on at home, even when they travel. Hotels are in a position to provide that at scale.
Above and beyond goes a long way.
Taxis are as old as travel, but that didn’t stop the ridesharing apps from making them feel new, different and, perhaps most importantly, hip. The function provided is getting a rider from point A to point B, but what keeps them coming back is the experience — when positive — that goes above and beyond the functionality. All industries and companies that embrace a customer-service-first mindset will win big with this millennial consumer set.
Simply put, boutique hotels work because they’re built on the intersection of a luxe guest experience and an affordable operational setup. Because a number of amenities are either guest-controlled or only presented upon request, these establishments get all of the prestige of their offering menu without necessarily needing to roll out the red carpet for every single individual. It’s not unlike tucking a concept in the check-in folder, an idea of luxury and modern convenience that supersedes what may or may not be tapped during the stay. Affordable luxury may have vacancies available, but their innovative approach has nonetheless done an admirable job of booking up their niche. No matter the industry, giving consumers a VIP and top-tier experience, even if not within the traditional confines of your operations, keeps loyal consumers who will be likely to return again and again.
As we enter the intersection of technology, a digitally native generation coming of age and the dedication to restoring older, smaller and uniquely sized buildings, it’s not surprising that these and other unique and even formerly lower-brow concepts are seeing new life with higher-end upgrades and attention to detail.
We will see more transformations to meet the needs of this generation and the younger ones to follow. All industries are facing this, and the ones who ultimately stick around for the next 10, 20 or 50 years will be the ones who evolve for each new generation that comes of age and dominates the consumer space.