The quality of service has always been at the heart of the hotel industry’s requirements. But the coronavirus crisis has set new conditions in terms of hospitality with the implementation of rigorous sanitary procedures.
In a context of gradual but uncertain recovery of the activity, hoteliers have no other choice than to use tools allowing to reassure the customer on the safety of the infrastructures. In addition, the current period also requires a redoubling of efforts to attract and seduce customers, in particular by arousing positive emotions in them.
For several years, the hotel industry has been organizing its digital transformation thanks to the development and adoption of new technologies, especially connected objects.
The latter have a dual purpose, as they increase the performance of hotels and present new opportunities for sensory interactions that can revolutionize the consumer experience.
With this in mind, we conducted a study to identify the effects of the use of connected objects in high-end hotels (4-5 stars) on the customer experience.
Our results indicate that the stimulation of customers’ senses (touch, smell, hearing, sight and taste) through the use of connected objects can influence their emotions and more generally their state of well-being.
Seducing the senses
High-end hotels typically use two types of technology: those used to increase the efficiency of the hotel and the quality of its processes, such as applications that provide information about guest preferences at the time of booking, and those used to enhance the digital guest experience, that is, the perception and personal interaction with the digital service that is provided and that a guest may experience during their stay. This can be the atmosphere of the hotel room, in terms of music or light.
It is this second application, associated with the implementation of a sensorial marketing strategy that interests us here.
Sensorial marketing is a marketing approach that aims to create a link between a brand and its customers by using the five senses. This approach is based on the S-O-R (stimuli – organism – response) model developed by researchers in 1974: the variables originating from the five senses (the stimuli) are perceived by the customer (his organism) and have an impact on his attitude, his learning, and his behavior (the response).
Thus, based on this work, we suggest that touch, smell, hearing, sight, and taste, stimulated by connected objects within hotels, positively influence the customer’s emotional value, affective experience, but also well-being within a physical place (the room, the lobby, the hotel restaurant, etc.).
However, it is the customer’s overall view of the environment that counts, before paying attention to the details. Because of the overall perception of services by consumers, the stimuli used in a sensorial marketing strategy must ensure a positive evaluation by consumers of the environment.
The managers of 4-5 star hotels interviewed in our study are on the whole quite favorable to the use and availability of connected objects, saying for example that they could improve the customer experience, “it could be something useful”, because “today the customer experience is a challenge for hoteliers” who must be able to “differentiate themselves and surprise the customer”.
For some managers, connected objects are even proving to be unavoidable, as one manager explains:
Tools to be handled with subtlety
While the results of our study suggest that all five senses can be stimulated by connected objects, a more detailed analysis allows us to identify differences in impact according to the senses as well as differences in perception between men and women.
Indeed, the results of our online survey of 357 4-5 star hotel guests reveal that the emotional experience is positively influenced by touch, hearing and sight. At the same time, the state of well-being is positively impacted by smell and taste (two chemical senses that are more difficult to study).
Moreover, the impact of one stimulus can be amplified by another. For example, virtual reality experiences (visual stimulation) can be amplified with the diffusion of odors, just as images of the dishes served in the hotel restaurant can be accommodated with odors consistent with them.
Furthermore, our results confirm those of neuroscience research showing that smell, taste and memory are connected to each other in the brain.
The senses are therefore more effective in influencing customer mood and memory and by extension their satisfaction and loyalty to the hotel brand.
The survey results also show that the sense of smell has a stronger impact on well-being in women. This confirms the findings of other studies showing that women remain more sensitive to odors and can better distinguish and categorize them. Managers can thus apply smells thanks to connected objects with lower intensities or even different smells in the direction of a female clientele vis-à-vis male clients.
Prestigious hotels have many tools at their disposal to provide their customers with surprising, seductive and personalized multi-sensorial experiences. This includes the creation of unique and original worlds in different rooms and suites thanks to connected objects. For example, gamification mechanisms can lead to increased customer engagement, as some hotels have shown by offering rooms dedicated to gamers, allowing them to access highly immersive environments.
With the crisis, customers and hoteliers tend to focus their attention on safety and precaution. But in the current gloomy context, the prestige hotel industry has a real card to play to interest new niche markets and make its customers experience intense and unforgettable moments of happiness.