Technology is key to how Starwood builds “loyalty beyond reason”, but its vice president of marketing Daniel Kerzner has said it only works if it's behind the scenes.
Kerzner was speaking at the ADMA Global Forum on how to use technology to create customer experiences to build loyalty for a brand.
“One of the thing we're laser-focused on at Starwood is how do we build loyalty beyond reason,” Kerzner says.
“What are those small things, what are those intrinsic touch points that we have with our guests that make them so loyal to Starwood that they always want to come back.”
It's not the first time Kerzner has spoken on the subject but with technology constantly on the move he pointed to recent use cases, noting “the beauty of technology is when it's seamless behind the scenes".
He said the strategy it focuses on when building technologically-based solutions is using the guest's own device and on their own terms.
As an example, Starwood launched, 'Let'sChat', which allows guests to use WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger and iMessage to message the hotel staff, for everything from booking dinner to asking for assistance in their room.
In Europe, Africa and the Middle East 75% of its hotels use the service, and it boasts a 60 second response time to messages.
“We thought if we're going to do this well we need to be authentic and talk to our guests the way they talk to everybody else in their lives,” Kerzner says.
“The feedback we've gotten from guests is overwhelming."
With technology continuing to evolve it is also looking to add Facebook Messenger to the mix.
Starwood is also experimenting with 360 degree photography, with Kerzner himself taking a 360 image of a hotel room at the W Dubai on his way to Sydney for ADMA as a case study. With only a $200 media boost, it received 201,000 impression, 5100 likes and 622 shares.
“We're actually sending [360 degree cameras] to our hotels and letting our hotel staff go crazy, taking photos of their meeting rooms or restaurants and posting them on Facebook or YouTube,” he says.
“It's something our guests are getting very involved with.”
But despite success of newer technologies, Kerzner says that when it comes to social media photography is key.
“Photography is the foundation of any content strategy,” Kerzner says. “At Starwood, like a lot of companies, we sometimes make the mistake of jumping into whatever is new or whatever is next.
“In our industry if you don't have great photography you shouldn’t be doing anything else, that needs to be the staring point.”
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