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How to engage with tomorrow's customer with Kate Ancketill

Posted By HEDNA News team, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

During her keynote at HEDNA Lisbon, GDR Creative Intelligence’s Kate Ancketill set the scene for the fundamental contradiction facing hospitality today: reconciling guests’ dueling desires to stay connected with their lives and escape from those very same lives.

Below are some highlights and key takeaways from Kate’s presentation, which was rich with examples of how brands from inside and outside of travel address this modern conundrum. We’ve embedded the relevant clip in each section below; the full keynote can be found at the end of the article and on YouTube.

The continuity/escape conundrum

One of the most revealing topics was the impact of 24/7 connectivity on how workers vacation. There’s actually a correlation between internet adoption and the drop in vacation usage. As the internet expanded, says Ancketill, “your availability was a measure of your employability, and you needed to be on all the time.”


The shift to always-on work blurred the lines between work and play, creating a new work/life permeability that changed how people vacation -- and thus how hospitality brands engage with their guests.

When polled during the live session in Lisbon, there was a similar divide: 51% of the audience checked into the office daily, 35% connected only a few times, and 14% did not check in at all.

The permeability between work and play continues to have implications for hospitality. Hotels must consider how to best serve these different ways of working, offering both a space to get work done and a haven away from the pressures of work. This is an inherent contradiction that challenges hospitality to provide products that address this fundamental tension in guests’ lives.


Continuity: Understanding “contextual desires and needs”

Successful navigation of modern guest preferences requires understanding of contextual desires. A brand requires a thorough understanding of its customers lives to truly solve their problems. Brands reach this understanding through a firm grasp on contextual desires, needs and problems, says Ancketill:

“For us, owning the customer problem means considering the full context of the rest of their lives when we’re delivering our service or product.”

The following examples highlight how other brands have used contextual understanding of customer interests, desires and needs to solve customer problems:

  • IKEA. Using augmented reality (AR) to help customers visualize furniture placement in their home. Rather than force inaccurate measurements, the app simplifies the process of measuring and placing furniture.

  • Martine Jalgaard. The fashion brand logs each step in its manufacturing process on a blockchain, so customers can see a garment’s complete provenance -- down to the individual animal a wool garment came from, for example.

  • Buzzfeed’s Tasty. The recipe arm of the global publisher created an induction cooker that ties into a recipe library to streamline food preparation. Solves a key problem for the outlet’s main demographic: those learning to cook.

  • Virgin America app. Transitions from informational and fun in the weeks leading up to the trip to purely trip-focused in the 24 hours prior to the trip. Adjusts to the changing needs of the traveler as they prepare to travel.

  • Alibaba Supermarket. Massive food operation targets a variety of customers needs with seven different purchase paths, each targeting a specific type of food need.

Escape: Making it immersive

Next-gen retail appeals to a sense of immersivity that’s been magnified by social media. The popularity of crafting personas online, from Instagram to Snapchat, leaves many users searching for media fodder to populate their profiles.

“Instagram ready” and “Instagram bait” have become qualities of the retail experience, which itself has morphed into less of a functional industry that sells things and more of a destination-based industry that sells experiences (alongside things).

“We are seeing [retail-as-destination] filter through to all kinds of retail and hospitality spaces: the need to have extraordinary backdrop for the taking of selfies. These are fully facilitated and highly sophisticated with perfect lighting.”

Hotels are joining the retail revolution, curating pop-up experiences to attract locals and give guests a unique experience that they can’t get at other hotels. These exclusive and/or temporary events drive interest and engagement in ways far beyond what a traditional hotel space could accomplish. To be immersive, these experiences stand apart by helping participants escape from the sameness of day-to-day life.

Some examples of contextual escape to provide extraordinary experiences:

  • Castorama Magic Wallpaper. The DIY chain created wallpaper that has an interactive AR app that creates stories for children. It’s an example of a home improvement company leaning on its core -- helping people build spaces to create memories in -- and then creating media to expand this further into consumers’ lives. Not to mention building a new potential recurring revenue stream by releasing new stories and new wallpapers.

  • Mr. Simon. Secret bar that requires guests to find the entrance -- and only after being invited through a PIN code. The bar has its own fictitious founder, Mr. Simon, who has traveled the world to find the best cocktail tinctures.

  • Zhongshuge Bookstore. A whimsical approach to experiential retail. The bookstore chain takes consumers on a journey through multiple spaces. Each space has its own atmosphere, and the recommended books are placed according to the themed areas. Each store is unique with a singular standalone design.

  • Corinthia Hotel. A neuroscientist on staff optimizes both the hotel staff’s performance and VIP guests that purchase a wellness-focused package. Read more here.

  • Zanadu Travel Agency. The Shanghai-based agency receives 10,000 visitors per month, who explore potential destinations through virtual reality.

The welcome desk at Zanadu, where visitors use QR codes to try out destinations in VR.


How to resolve the continuity/escape conundrum

In her session wrap-up, Ancketill shared a final slide that outlines concrete steps for hoteliers to resolve the tension between guest desires for continuity and escape. It really comes down to understanding the target demographics and delivering the experience they seek.

Watch Kate Ancketill’s full keynote:

Tags:  emerging tech  events  keynote  video 

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