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Trendline Issue 03: Ubitech

Bi-Monthly Newsletter

Welcome to Trendline, a bi-monthly newsletter created in partnership between The Gettys Group and TrendWatching. Here, we will examine TrendWatching’s global insights into numerous industries through the lens of hospitality, considering the possible implications and applications to our industry. 

In each issue, we will focus on one of TrendWatching’s sixteen Mega-Trends—their comprehensive list of the ways in which human needs and expectations are changing while defining modern consumerism.

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Issue 03 / Ubitech

In this issue, we’ll explore Ubitech —the ever-pervasive nature of technology.

Technology is all around us promising to make life easier, faster and frictionless, and—in many cases—it’s fulfilling that promise. As it increasingly senses us, anticipates our needs and serves us more efficiently and effectively than other humans are able to do, the questions raised for hospitality include:

  1. How much of “hospitality” is defined by humans taking care of the needs of others? What is the currently anticipated and accepted level of automation?

  2. As algorithms anticipate and address more behaviors and desires for hotel guests, which guests will welcome this tech-aided experience and which guests might find it intrusive? Which type of guest is most important to a given hotel’s performance?

  3. If—like your Trendline authors—you believe in the inevitability of technology’s creep into more aspects of our lives, then you and your teams should be asking yourselves: how should it be saving you time and money now?

A-Commerce

It is abundantly apparent that we are increasingly reliant upon technology—and even comfortable with it to the point of impatience as we expect to it be faster and smarter. As artificial intelligence and automation technologies help tech live up to our impatient expectations, we’re seeing the evolution of what TrendWatching has called “A-Commerce”—or automated-commerce—where our needs are monitored and satisfied automatically.

This trend has undgone some key moments of evolution in the past decade: 2010 saw the advent of subscription-based retail with brands like Birchbox curating products for consumers; in 2015, Amazon introduced the Dash Button for automatic re-ordering of household items like Tide laundry detergent at the touch of a button stuck to your washing machine; in 2018, Finery launched a way to digitize your wardrobe, suggesting fashion advice and offering deals to complement what you already own based on receipts in your inbox.

Much of this trend is caused by the symbiotic relationship between consumers—who are increasingly willing to trade data for discounts—and marketers—who, according to Forrester Consulting, overwhelmingly believe that “predictive marketing will be necessary to keep up with competitors.”

Keep Your Wallet in Your Pocket: In July, Chinese e-tail giant Taobao debuted the Tao Café, a staff-free store where customers scan their phone at the door, grab what they need, go—and their bill is automatically delivered to their phone.

There are many other factors contributing to the rise of A-Commerce. Among them is the price elasticity afforded retailers by sensors and IOT (Internet of Things), allowing them to fine-tune prices in real time, as well as consumers’ adoption of smart services to alert them of best prices and deals.

What could this mean for the hospitality industry? Is there a role for A-Commerce? We sat down in a New York sound studio to discuss this with TrendWatching’s Max Luthy, Director of Trends & Insights.

The Gettys Group: At some of their properties, Marriott International has installed mobile phone scanners for automated check-in and keyless, mobile-phone-activated entry to guest rooms. In essence, this is replacing team-member interaction with automation. In another example of automation at check-in, many hotels are now texting a welcome message to guests in lieu of the admittedly awkward phone call from the front desk to confirm that the room is okay. Are we losing the human contact in hospitality?

TrendWatching: Well, yeah, maybe we are losing some of that interaction to automation, but is that such a bad thing? Honestly, do you really miss waiting in the check-in line, having an unremarkable conversation with the front desk attendant—and then going on to find that your room key doesn’t work or getting that awkward call from the front desk? I bet not.

The opportunity might be to bring some of the brand’s personality to those automated interactions and let the on-site team deliver hospitality engagement where it really matters most.

Dynamic Pricing Through the Internet of Groceries: Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and electronic labels, Wasteless monitors stock levels and expiration dates, lowering the price for items that are approaching the end of their shelf life. 

TrendWatching: There is something particularly interesting around using this sensing and dynamic pricing idea for hospitality. We haven’t seen much in the way of sensor integration into hotels, yet. Beacon technology, as a sensor and broadcast tool, has been integrated most frequently into retail and transportation as a way of tracking people’s movements and behaviors.

The Gettys Group: Right. There definitely is an untapped opportunity for hotels to develop more dynamic offerings for their guests while they are on property to “capacity-manage” their amenities. For example, if the restaurant is half-empty, perhaps a notification could go out to guest with a special offer. The same idea could—and should—be utilized for un-booked meeting spaces in the hotel.

Conclusion

When we think about the possibilities of A-Commerce, we might want to expand our thinking beyond the obvious—e.g., a milk container that adds milk to your shopping list when you’re close to running out of it.

Automated commerce relies upon monitoring and some form of expedited delivery or fulfillment. With the costs of sensors and automation going down and the costs of labor going up, it seems only logical that we will be seeing many more examples of A-Commerce around us in our Ubitech world.

For a complete list of Mega-Trends and more examples of trends being spotted around the world, please visit trendwatching.com.

Read the Previous Issue

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Trendline Issue 02 / Joyning

Hotels have always been environments that facilitate and support the interactions that occur between guests.

This is more relevant than ever with the advent of artificial intelligence—so how can hotels pair this developing technology with their guests’ instinct for forming connections—and improve the guest experience in the process?

Read more…

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Author

Bio

With a passion for pioneering ideas and new approaches to hospitality design, Ron identifies new strategic growth initiatives for the whole company and serves as the lead in charge of the Branding Group, directing planning, design and strategic thinking for projects ranging from boutique properties, large-scale events and international brands. A collaborative and an innovative thinker, Ron has shaped dozens of hotel, resort and brand initiatives during his three decades at The Gettys Group.
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Author

Bio

Maxwell is the head of TrendWatching’s North America office. He speaks at conferences around the world and delivers consumer insights to clients such as Google, the Walt Disney Imagineers, Spotify and the Dubai government. Max has been quoted by The Financial Times, strategy+business and The Next Web. He previously ran the company's 3000-member spotter network and wrote the book Trend-Driven Innovation.

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