Trying to market to the millennials? Get in line. It seems like these days everyone is trying to seek attention and gain loyalty from these Gen Y’ers. We’re currently reigning as the biggest influencers in the world with purchasing power of over $200 billion annually so why wouldn’t you target to this market? Hotels for so long have been catering to just baby boomers and because Generation X and Y are the future, hotels need to start adapting. BUT there are so many articles that discuss how hotels can reach the millennial market so how do you actually decide on what matters?
Millennials are currently between the ages of 18 to 34 and a very tech savvy group, embedded highly in social media. Now, even though dozens of articles have been published, one thing to note is that there are a few reoccurring themes in most articles that talk about what “millennials” are really looking for from your hotel. To start, authenticity is one of the biggest themes I’ve seen and Mike Dearing, Managing Director of Marriott Hotels, says that “one of the key insights from guests is that they want to know they are in San Francisco or Chicago or Omaha.” Millennial guests want their experiences to be culturally specific because they have grown up with experiences always being customized for them. Along with this, two other trends I’ve noted are an emphasis on digital experience and connectivity / integration with social media.
Authenticity, digital experience, and social media – is that really what WE are looking for? From a personal standpoint and as a millennial, I would say yes, it is appealing to me. I also conducted a survey to friends, and obviously, this is not a proper study but I wanted to confirm or disconfirm, if these areas are appealing to other millennials. Of my millennial friends, 9/10 said these are major areas that matter to them. Most had said that growing up in a customized digital age, where everything speaks specifically to you, these are areas that have the ability to make them feel comfortable and at home while traveling.
So now that we’ve identified the common themes and confirmed from a small audience that this resonates with our generation let’s answer the real question – how can you integrate these concepts into your hotel? To bring authenticity, hotels can follow a concept similar to one developed by Marriott’s Innovation Lab in Charlotte, “rather than a generic restaurant and café, local chefs and entrepreneurs have set up a permanent restaurant in the hotel, bringing their own taste, cuisines and aesthetics.” This way there are local touches throughout the hotel that make guests feel like they’re actually experiencing the city.
In regards to the digital experience, offering free Wi-Fi in the rooms is not enough anymore. According to How Hotels Can Utilize Technology to Attract Millennials, “They want the ability to Skype family from the lobby, check emails by the pool, or share a picture of the dish from your restaurant on their Instagram feed.” Providing free Wi-Fi throughout the property also addresses the final trend of connectivity / integration of social media and adds another benefit of increased hotel exposure. “While traveling, 75% of millennials publish social content at least once a day, so it makes sense to make it easy for them to share photos and posts when they’re relaxing and enjoying time around your property.” Another advantage for connectivity / integration of social media is that hotels are able to collect data about their guests’ preferences willingly. According to a recent study by Zebra Technologies, “Among Millennials surveyed, 44% are comfortable in sharing their social-media profiles with hotels” and ”34% of Millennials are comfortable allowing their current location to be tracked”, which are both more substantial than the baby boomer generation.
Some other digital experiences that are easy to implement include a choice of automated check-in, ordering room service through your smart phone, and being able to communicate with staff through text messages rather than the phone for guest requests. Whatever makes our lives seamless and easier, we like.
To go back to my informal survey, the majority of the people I spoke with said they would appreciate all these options and they would make genuine use of them while traveling. Some did feel that texting the staff may make them feel uncomfortable but they were happy to have it as an option. Hotels need to keep all generations in mind when targeting their markets but also need to understand that millennials are the future and adapting your hotel to serve millennials is now a necessity.
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