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Monday, 09 May 2016 17:13

Millennials redefine hospitality service expectations

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Millennials – born from 1981 and replaced by Gen X in the mid-late 1990s – are the first generation of tech savvy users that grew up with the internet using smartphones and tablets.

There is a lot written about Millennials – I have two – but let me try and define the essence.

  • They want it now – instant gratification is the key leading trait, but ‘experiential’ is also a big part of that. When Millennials dine out, they often search for something exotic, adventuresome, memorable or new to explore during their dining experience.
  • They want it their way – they don’t accept that systems need to be rigid. They want to be able to order pizza their way - half and half, meat on one side, and vego on the other – not conform to the business rules.
  • They are willing to delay kids, mortgages, and responsibilities – finding themselves - until in their late 30s and 40s and eschew Baby Boomers values of work hard to secure the future.
  • They are impatient and invented the all-important 90-second rule where they will happily drop one supplier/website/app for another if it is too slow. They expect technology to simply work and won’t use clunky interfaces.
  • They are more giving and will exchange personal information for free or relevant services – their digital footprint is huge.
  • They are almost all mobile – a PC or Mac is so yesterday.
  • They are social – pictures of meals, cats, places, things, … litter their Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media pages. They will seek affirmation from their social circle via these means and meet for coffee. But this sociability and affirmation must be sincere and real – the term IRL (in real life) is key to all experiences online.

As customers they realise what ‘wallet-power’ they have and their focus is on great customer experience (CX), engagement and how much a business tries to please them – it’s all about them. And with the caveat that all warnings about Millennials are at best generalisations – back to the article.

Chris Adams, Vice President, Food and Beverage, JPAC, of Oracle Hospitality hosted a media and analysts event to review the results of Oracle’s global research into millennials and how hospitality – food, beverage, hotels and more – need to adapt their services to meet the needs of the next biggest set of wallets.

More than 9,000 Millennials from around the world have discussed their use of technology in hotels, restaurants, bars and coffee shops in a ground-breaking survey that quantifies the impact mobile devices are having on hospitality.
 
Demonstrating that mobile use is pervasive and reshaping the industry, key findings from Millennials and Hospitality: The Redefinition of Service highlights that in Australia, 36% of millennials have already ordered delivery or take-out using their smartphones, and 24% have used a mobile device to check-in at a hotel.
 
“Mobile is very much here and happening in hospitality,” said Adams. “The results underscore how technology is altering consumer expectation and presenting hospitality operators with an unprecedented opportunity to win millennials’ business. It will require a redefinition of service – one that offers millennials tremendous choice, speed, and personalisation based on their individual preferences. Providing such tailored service not only means accommodating consumers’ use of smartphones but for operators to leverage their own mobile devices to serve them better.”
 
Among the report’s other major findings:

  •  Loyalty is a priority for food and beverage: 52% of millennials globally want to use their mobile devices to take advantage of loyalty programs offered by restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Millennials want to be acknowledged with personalised rewards that reflect their individual preferences. For the operator, this offers huge potential in collecting invaluable data about customer behaviour and delivering targeted promotions to drive order value and revenues.
  • Hotels face a mobile frontier: Make no mistake – millennials in every country are already using their mobile devices to conduct core functions with hotels. Among the findings: 24% of Australian Millennials had checked into a hotel using their mobile while 52% had booked a hotel room through similar means. Only 14% had ordered room service by smartphone, yet room service was the number one request when millennials were asked how else technology could improve their stay.
  • Gaps exist between desire and ability: In several instances, millennials’ desire for mobile-driven activities and their experience using them varied significantly. For example, only 24% of Australian millennials reported already having paid with a mobile device, but 44% expressed a desire to do so, suggesting an opportunity to grow the business by meeting demand.
  • Geography makes a difference: Many similarities exist among millennials around the world, but behaviour and preferences also vary greatly by geography and culture. Japanese millennials, for example, were surprisingly less likely to use their smartphones in hotels or restaurants – only 19% wanted to pay for food or drink by mobile device compared to 44% of Australian millennials.
  • Voices need to be heard: When evaluating hospitality employers’ use of technology, more than 35% of Australian millennials who had worked in the industry said that there was much room for improvement. Interestingly, only 18% said their employers solicited their suggestions for improving technology use.
  • Not all mobile devices are equal: Millennials, no surprise, can’t part ways with their smartphones – 87% of all survey respondents said they use one daily. The Apple Watch is already being used by 9% of Australian millennials. But other devices are used less than perhaps expected: only 41% reported using iPads and tablets daily.

Adams said, “The other significant finding is that the demand for ordering and paying by smartphone is not universal – there are plenty of Millennials that still want personal service when they’re in a hotel or a restaurant. Our job is to help operators adapt and define how technology supports a personalised, flexible service offering.”

Oracle Hospitality pursued the research project to aid hoteliers and food, and beverage operators gain a better understanding of millennials, who represent the largest segment of the workforce in many countries. Such insight is essential not only to engage the tech-savvy demographic as customers but to enhance their abilities as employees to deliver stellar guest service. Conducted by an independent research firm, the survey polled participants, ages 18 to 35, in eight countries, including a subset that had worked in hospitality within the past five years.
 
Anna Jones, Chief Marketing Officer, Guzman Y Gomez, commented, “For us, it’s about listening to what the millennial generation wants and ensuring we are staying up to date if not ahead of the curve. “Millennials make up 56% of our customer base and are incredibly important to us. The millennial generation wants a level of personalisation and to be acknowledged by the brands they stay loyal to.  When relaunching our mobile app, we worked directly with our loyalty members to understand where the pain points were on our current app and to help develop a new experience that aligned with their needs.”


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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