For several years, there has been a theme of disruption. Meetings and events are being disrupted by technologies offering everyone access to new models for accommodation, transportation, meeting space booking, and transparent buying of a plethora of goods and services. We receive messaging saying we must integrate now. The question becomes, how do we prioritize our adoptions of new demands and technologies?
SWAG, the “Stuff We All Get” is a simple shift to start with. While there remains an expectation of getting something free on arrival, during an event or on a trade show floor, the demand is for useful, cool and ideally sustainable, fair-trade SWAG across all industries. If you can add a CSR element to your SWAG where choices made by the planner in the sourcing or by the delegates at an event support either a local or global need, even better. When they get it, they will Google its source, share it on social media and amplify your brand integration in ways unseen even a decade ago.
You book a hotel room block tied to your meeting space needs. But 20 per cent of your group books on AirBnB because the locations are nearby, cool and often less expensive. If not AirBnB, what about boutique properties? Many of these are subsidiaries of larger chain hotels, but they’re all designed to fit uniquely into a market and create a more local feeling, something we know from research more travellers are seeking.
Do you change your meeting room needs? Your room block? You could strike a deal with AirBnB as some agencies are now doing. Or like some associations, do you tie your registration fee to your participants buying into your room block where it costs them more to register to book outside of the block? There is no right answer, but you now need to look at new ways of managing this specific to your groups and the destinations you are selecting.
Data analysis and the human factor
New technologies give you a whole new set of data. How are you using it? From your website and market segmentation at registration to mobile apps with location services, way finding and heat maps, social media trending and community building there is an overwhelming set of tools and data which can help you create more meaningful experiences. But, does your organization’s budget allow you to bring on new tools and analytic support?
The companies that are leading the way globally – in hotel rooms booked, retail sales in all sectors, communications, and events – are doing this based on a combination of using the reams of data they have available to create a deeper understanding of their real clients, optimizing their web and mobile experiences, and ensuring every human touchpoint is exceptional. You won’t care if you get the best deal on a ticket or a room if you arrive to a surly greeting and a sub-par experience.
As human beings, we have been innovating since the beginning of time, from the invention of the wheel, to trade routes, the industrial revolution…. you get the point. Our pace of innovation has rapidly accelerated with the digital age and the sheer number of people on the planet – as inventors and consumers. We understand more about human response to marketing and to experiences than we ever have, and we have the greatest opportunity to use all of this knowledge to elevate experiences, making them more relevant, memorable, and useful than ever before. What we can’t do is expect that anything will stay the same. It won’t.