Expert: Richard Last, founder of JCPenny.com, Board of Directors member for Shop.org and lecturer in Digital Retailing at the University of North Texas
I think there are a few lessons from online retailers that would apply to hoteliers as well, and not that most retailers are getting this right yet either but there are some who are. I think the first one would be about integrating channels, meaning providing consistent experiences for the customer. Not that every experience would be the same, but that there is a logical flow from channel to channel, from touch-point to touch-point. And it’s difficult to do in all environments including the hotel environment where we have franchise operations, but the consumer doesn’t want to understand your business model. What the consumer wants to know is if she connects with you through the web, or over the phone, or in your facility that the experiences be consistent. Consistent marketing, consistent product, consistence in promotion and most importantly customer service. She believes she ought to be able to see that consistency from channel to channel, and not restart her quest if you will, as she moves from channel to channel. Expects really a seamless experience.
The second lesson I think is around offering customers solution vs. product. Today’s consumer is looking for solutions really to simply his or her busy everyday life. And to a degree we can could think about solutions to problems, efficiency, advice. In the retail side it might be mix and match, it might be fashion trends. Things that can help that customer edit and simplify and I think the same applies to the hoteliers.
The third important lesson is around having a very clear and strong value proposition. Customer really needs to understand the relationship between quality of the offer and the price that she’s expected to pay. And that equation has to be very clear, the proposition has to be very clear, which is very value conscious consumer.