By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology and the internet, the role of chief digital officer expands every year. HSMAI brought together about two dozen CDOs from hotel brands, management companies, and owner groups at the Chief Digital Officer Executive Roundtable in New York City on Jan. 23 to pick their brains about challenges and trends they’ve been seeing in the past six months. Here are nine of the biggest trends they identified:
1. Digital strategies: CDOs had different experiences with the amount that hotels are willing to invest in digital. One CDO mentioned that all of their marketing strategies are digital, so “there’s no question about selling management on investing in digital.” Another, however, said that one of their biggest struggles is having to spend a lot of time convincing hotels to optimize their digital presence.
2. Mobile: Several CDOs said their companies have a heavily vested interest in developing mobile content. “We’re going to see it be omnipresent and really where our focus and efforts in innovation should be,” one CDO said. Another added: “The growth and pace of our mobile adoption hit me pretty hard in the last six months, to the extent that it’s clearly the largest way that we’re getting our digital reservations.”
3. Personalization: Several CDOs identified personalization as a trend they are seeing. “Strategically, it’s the right thing to do,” one CDO said. “It helps with customer acquisition, retention, everything else that customers really want. But it always seems like the lawyers don’t want it. It’s a challenge to get there.”
4. Voice integration: “The integration of voice into so many different things, not just in the rooms but just in everything that we use, is going to be challenging for us to figure out how to apply to our customer base,” one CDO said.
5. Digital IQ: Particularly when asked about social media, one CDO said, interviewees are more likely to say that they are interested in digital strategy and not just hanging out on Instagram, as in the past. The CDO also sees internal employees going through more training and certification and increasing their digital efforts.
6. Labor: Finding talent is always a challenge, according to CDOs. “It seems like we have a great talent pool, but how do you keep them engaged?” one CDO said. “How do you keep them on board once you have invested all this money?”
7. Data protection: “We need to protect the customers’ information, because it’s very easy for hackers to come into our system,” according to one CDO, who also mentioned spending money on monitoring the dark web, to make sure their hotels’ information is not on there.
8. Forecasting: “I’ve been planning and forecasting for a while now, and it seems like it continues to get more and more dynamic,” one CDO said. “And that implies that our company needs to potentially change some of our processes and really prioritize agility over things like scale.”
9. Desktop: “I was surprised at our ability to keep the desktop conversion really high and that we’ve got the amount of traffic still invested,” one CDO said. “The shift to mobile is undeniable, so we’ve seen that inflection point, but I think we’ve been able to come so far on an old platform, we’ve got to re-platform.”
The session was sponsored by Tambourine. Hotel companies represented at the Roundtable included: Extended Stay America; Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts; OTO Development LLC; Wyndham Hotels and Resorts; Highgate Hotels; Concord Hospitality Enterprises; G6; Club Quarters Hotels; AccorHotels; Noble Investment Group; Crescent Hotels & Resorts; Leading Hotels of the World; Marriott; Prism Hotels & Resorts; Viceroy Hotel Group; Aimbridge Hospitality; Omni Hotels & Resorts. HSMAI brings together Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Digital Marketing Officers, Chief Sales Officers, Chief Revenue Officers, Chief Loyalty Officers, and Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Executives through the year.