This week Omnico sponsored and attended The Caterer’s Digital Summit. With a range of presentations looking at the changing role digital technology plays in the catering and hospitality services, here’s an overview of the key trends and themes that emerged during the event.
BECOMING A DESTINATION
In the retail sector, we have long discussed the growth of ‘destinations’ where shopping centres, retail parks and high streets begin to create an experience, centred around the retail stores. This trend seems to be evident in the hospitality and food services industry as well. John Lewis Partnership Group Development Director Tom Athron discussed the retailer and grocers’ ambitions for the future given the growing trend of consumers spending more money on food and beverage, and not just on retail than before.
This point was reinforced later by the owner of independent hotel The Cottage in the Wood, Nick Davies, who commented that today’s customer wants an occasion-led engagement with the brand. Andrew Gallagher from Cote Restaurants further defined this by saying that “digital isn’t about communication, it’s an experience.”
THE CURRENT TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE
There were various comments made throughout the day on the confusing technology landscape and the difficulty companies and operators have on where to invest. Kris Shaw, the Digital Director of Soho House & Co mentioned their frustrations with integrating into third party technologies and software, with those in the industry often underestimating the difficulties that companies could come across. The challenge of integration is often cited by brands, not solely in the hospitality and catering services, but retail and even theme parks.
DATA: THE NEW BATTLEGROUND FOR RETAILERS
Big data and customer insight was a prominent theme at the event, particularly in highlighting what we mean today by the term ‘millennials’. CGA Strategy first mentioned this during their presentation of consumer research, citing that this age group accounts for 20% of restaurant or bar mobile app downloads. They also re-classified millennials into various segments, highlighting the ‘Trending Tastemakers’ who are using mobile in new and innovative ways to engage with brands.
Next, Andrew Gallagher the Group Marketing Director of Cote Restaurants, who was being interviewed by Mark McCulloch from WE ARE Spectacular, highlighted that “age is not a definition of someone”. It is more about their attitudes to brands and where their attention is. In order to target today’s consumers, you have to understand their attitudes and find out where their interests are.
Later, Simon Gaske from Novus Leisure summed up the use of data well by saying that brands should “use data to shock and awe”, personalising the experience and transforming customer loyalty.
THE FUTURE TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE
There was various discussion on the future of technology in the hotel sector, with a panel on The customer journey: digital vs. real world highlighting just some of their predictions, including; voice search, robotics, AI, virtual and augmented reality and big data.
The Director of Global eCommerce and Digital Services Europe for Marriott International Hotels, Christina Purnell, discussed in an interview the various ways today’s guests now want to engage. Un-surprisingly it’s via the latest technology, including the fastest WiFi through-out the hotel, Netflix available on TV’s, and even calls for Amazon Echo in hotel rooms. Imagine ordering a burger from room service by asking Alexa! This profiles the next generation of hotel guests.
Mobile too was a dominant theme with Andrew Gallagher from Cote mentioning their plans to launch pay-at-table, or pre-order, and Suzie Thompson from Red Carnation Hotels calling for an end to specific check-in and check-out times. Perhaps the use of mobile apps will create the customer journey of the future.
THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
Ultimately the consensus from the day is that the customer journey, whether for a restaurant, hotel, caterer, grocer or retailer, is radically changing. Today’s consumers are demanding speed and convenience, a sentiment echoed by Omnico’s own research that says 74% of consumers demand speed and convenience from their shopping experience. Today’s challenge with the wealth of customer data now available and innovative new technology, is creating a meaningful customer engagement.
As these sectors continue to merge, creating what is now known as The Experience Economy, understanding and embracing these new customer journeys is paramount for brands. No longer can they solely rely on word-of-mouth or fixed till points and check-in desks. Consumers today demand always-on, authentic digital communication.
Photo credit: Steve Dunlop, http://www.stevedunlop.com/.