It’s my favorite time of the year, when over 7,000 marketing professionals get our geek on at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit in Salt Lake City. There are always so many things to look forward to each year, and this year did not disappoint. From the celebrity speakers like Batman, I mean Michael Keaton, to Steve Young, to seeing Wayne Brady perform as a moderator and use WYSIWYG and eVar in an R&B song, to a top notch concert by Imagine Dragons, to all the helpful breakout sessions, and lest we forget the sneaks session, where we get see some of the behind the scenes projects that Adobe has in the works for its customers.
I have come to expect the unexpected here. While Michael Keaton dropped several F-bombs on stage, and hearing about a Girl Scout project called “The Power of Poo,” what surprised me the most this year was sitting at the Birds of Feather lunch, where they have tables designated for various industries. Waaaay in the back corner of the huge eatery were 5 tables allocated for the travel/hospitality industry. Yes, 5…that’s seating for 40 people…out of the 7,000+ attendees. What does this say for our industry? We are a very small speck in the enormous Adobe spectrum of customers. This indicates to me that this industry may be a bit behind in the scheme of digital marketing. That said, I’m going to recap some key takeaways from a travel/hospitality standpoint.
Have a Coke and a Smile
Throughout the general sessions and many of the breakout sessions, one thing was very clear. Regardless of the industry you are in, the customer experience is top of mind again. Customer experience IS your brand.
Laurie Buckingham, the Chief Development Officer at Coca-Cola, made me realize that Coke and resorts have a very common goal. From an outsider perspective, you might think the beverage company was selling beverages, just as hotels are selling a place to sleep. The fact is that Coca-Cola “continuously tries to create happiness experiences.” Yes, that is what a stay in a good hotel/resort should aim for as well. The company embraces the art of surprising people. Laurie talked about their Hug Me machines they put in colleges, and their Small World machines that are connecting people in other locations through video mirroring in the machine. Hotels need to be thinking of surprising guests with ways of making them “feel good,” especially those properties that are primarily vacation getaways.
Some Words from the Wise
In spite of such a small percentage of attendees in the tourism space, Adobe acknowledged that they are focused on growing this customer base. They put their money where their mouth is by having a travel “super session.” Presenting at this session, were representatives from MGM Resorts International, IHG, and SapientNitro. It focused on the challenges of leveraging data and technology to deliver customer satisfaction.
According to SapientNitro, 80% of travel companies feel they deliver a superior experience. Just 8% of customers feel they receive it. This is a real problem that the hotel industry needs to address. Julie Hoffmann of MGM Resorts is hoping to beat those stats. They now have a Chief Experience Officer, focusing purely on the customer experience. She explained that over the course of time, the process of booking a hotel has become such a lengthy process. Because of all extra choices available, customers have to sort through a lot of information.
50% of travelers start their trip with no brand in mind. The reservation process goes something like this:
In order to achieve loyalty, there needs to be a shift in thinking:
One of the big features that was announced in the beginning of the Summit was the ability to import customer attributes from CRM systems into the Adobe Marketing Cloud. What this means for the hotel industry is that data from a hotel PMS, such as customer purchase history, loyalty points, bed preference, age, etc. can now be used as data points to analyze website traffic and target potential new customers based on your existing demographic data. The challenge I see with this capability is the same I see with the ability to track cross-device visits: you need the visitor to sign into the website. This is where hotels, especially independents, differ quite a bit from an online retailer. We need to figure out a way to entice visitors to sign in so we can match their previous purchase history with their current online behavior.
That’s a Wrap
Nothing ends a conference better than a bunch of marketing folks getting their Karaoke on with the help of a live band. This conference always leaves me pumped up, and ready to solve the data problems of the world. We had a blast, and are already looking forward to next year.