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Guide | May 10, 2022

How headless commerce powers personalization for hospitality

“Build it and they will come” might have worked for Kevin Costner in 1989’s Field of Dreams and in the hospitality industry for years, but it’s no longer the case.

Hospitality has always been an extremely competitive industry and the advent of the internet and social media have only ratcheted up the competition. Now, consumers have reams of information at their fingertips and a plethora of options when it comes to choosing where to dine, drink, stay and more. When you factor in apps like Uber Eats, GrabFood and Airbnb into the equation, it becomes clear that standing out is more important than ever. Gone are the days of the one horse and one restaurant town.

So how do you stand out from the crowd?

The author Kurt Vonnegut advised budding authors to write for just one person and it may surprise you to learn that the American satirist was also making a salient point for the hospitality industry of 2022.

Customization and personalization are crucial to making every customer feel like you’re serving, marketing to and interacting with them and them alone. We’ll get into why exactly that is shortly, but if delivering a personalized experience is the way to hospitality guests’ hearts, the obvious next question is how do we provide such an experience?

The answer may just lie in headless commerce.

Why hospitality businesses need to offer a personalized experience

It’s no secret that consumers, in general, crave a personalized experience. After all, McKinsey has found that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions with companies and a staggering 76% get frustrated when they fail to deliver. But what about the hospitality trade specifically?

The trends are the same in a global industry worth more than US$4 trillion according to Statista. Research from PSFK found that 79% of consumers would be interested or extremely interested in receiving personalized menu recommendations and a staggering 84% are willing to share their personal data in exchange for a better experience.

When you consider how important it is to secure repeat customers, personalization becomes even more crucial. Research has found that increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by a whopping 95%, while on the other side of the equation Invesp Consulting found that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one.

“A great metric to consider when measuring your personalization success, is the number of unsolicited sign-ons,” says Matt Boland, Global Director of the Ultra Commerce Partner Program. “The SmartOSC Hospitality Solution, along with its partners, strives to make your website the trusted, go-to source of information for the traveler. Ask yourself how often customers log in to your site without being pushed there by email marketing?”

Aside from the fact that your customers want personalization and that doing so will help you make more money, keeping up with the competition is another good reason to dive in. A Statista survey found that 73% of travel and hospitality companies were “somewhat” or “quite” confident in their ability to “deliver personalized experiences and messaging to their customers”.

When we’re talking personalization though, it’s important to note that this particular part of eCommerce has advanced a lot. It’s no longer enough to provide a basic personalized experience, as evidenced by the Pure360 research which found that only 8% of people would be likely to engage with a retailer if they addressed them by their name in marketing communications.

To achieve the hyper-personalization required to really wow the spoilt-for-choice hospitality customers of today, having technology like the Antsomi CDP 365 in your arsenal is vital. Their customer data platform gives companies the ability to secure a 360-degree view of their customers (among other features) and therefore better personalize their online experience.

hotel 600x400

Hotels need to offer a personalized experience to compete these days.

3 ways headless commerce powers hospitality personalization

Before we dive into three ways that headless commerce can power hospitality personalization, it’s worth dropping in a quick reminder of just what we mean by headless, courtesy of our partners at Ultra Commerce:

“Removing the frontend aka ‘the head’ or the customer-facing layer of your eCommerce from the backend. This allows both to function independently, providing greater freedom for organizations to use what they need and when they need it without extensive code rewrites or other custom configuration.”

1. Better content management

Decoupling frontend and backend makes personalizing the frontend (aka what your customers see) a much more doable task than it might be with a monolithic system. This is because you’ll be able to make changes to the frontend without impacting the backend, which avoids the need for the dreaded “extensive code rewrites” that Ultra Commerce warned us about.

A headless CMS is an obvious choice if you want more personalized content for a hospitality business, and our partners at Magnolia CMS have plenty of experience in giving hospitality brands the power to achieve greater personalization. Their work with Thomas Cook involved more than 1,000 pages of pre-written web content that their new website needed access to. The cloud-based Magnolia CMS makes the old content on the new site much more efficient and made use of APIs to connect with content from other platforms, applications and sites that guests use to browse and book Thomas Cook trips. This has given the brand a great deal of scope for improved personalization.

2. Gives marketers more control

With all due respect to your IT team, they probably don’t have the best handle on what makes your customers tick. Staff in your marketing team, on the other hand, likely know their pain points and triggers like the back of their hands. With a headless approach to your eCommerce architecture, you’ll be able to give marketers more control over your website.

That’s because moving away from the monolithic approach will make it much easier for staff members without advanced coding skills to make changes to the website quickly. They’ll also find it easier to carry out A/B tests and thereafter make the tweaks your site needs to offer a more personalized experience.

3. Powers omnichannel commerce

With the frontend and backed of your site separated, APIs are used to send information back and forth. APIs also make sending the same content to different frontends much easier. In plain English, that means going headless makes it easier to display content the way you want to on your website, mobile app, mobile browsers, tablets, and pretty much any other internet-connected device.

This can make your hospitality business’s omnichannel offering much more effective, as delivering different content to different channels will be much easier, and therefore tracking the results will be easier. You can ensure your monthly wine promotion is displayed one way on desktop and differently on mobile, and even placed more prominently for those more likely to snap up the deal.

“An eCommerce Platform like Ultra Commerce is built from the ground up with a robust library of API to accommodate omnichannel capabilities that can be more than eight different channels.  It gets even more complex in a multi-enterprise or multi-brand hospitality business,” Matt Boland says, adding, “having a second brand doubles the complexity and managing both in a single instance can serve to flatten that complexity.”

Being omnichannel efficient is important because it’s how virtually everyone shops today, and it’s the same in hospitality. Think of the last time you went out to eat. Maybe you looked up the restaurant’s opening hours on Google, then checked out their social media presence for reviews, and then went on their website to browse the menu. The story is the same across the sector and McKinsey research found that the average purchase journey for a single hotel room hits 45 touchpoints.

Viking Cruises wanted to build an online booking portal that supported omnichannel experiences, so Magnolia CMS was the natural way to go. The solution Magnolia provided allows Viking Cruises to deliver contextualized experiences to customers and prospects by providing tailored payloads from backend to frontend, via APIs.

Next steps

Personalization is a key ingredient to success in plenty of industries (just ask the guests from our first podcast episode) but especially hospitality.

If you want to learn more about how a headless approach can help you deliver the personalized experience your guests crave, get in touch with SmartOSC here.

You can also contact Ultra Commerce here, get expert advice from Antsomi here and get connected with Magnolia CMS here.

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