What does Amazon’s ‘Alexa For Hospitality’ mean for marketers?

The voice technology revolution is not just occurring within the home. Hotels, restaurants and the wider hospitality industry are rapidly adopting new tools and solutions to keep pace with the demands of modern consumers.  

The Best Western hotel chain, for instance, is expanding its partnership with Watson Ads on a series of artificial intelligence-powered interactive ad units that engage mobile users checking holiday destinations through The Weather Company. Once engaged in conversation, Watson offers tips on how to make the most of their trips.

Elsewhere Amazon’s announcement last week that Marriott will feature in-room Echo smart speakers at select properties to act as a ‘virtual butler’ marks an innovative new chapter in the Alexa story.

An astute move from a global tech giant, the confines of a hotel room offers probably the most secluded and suitably private environment for voice assistant interaction while traveling, while simultaneously showcasing Amazon technology to potential new users.

Deepening the guest’s engagement

So, what makes Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality such a great experience for the typical hotel guest?

Right now, the Alexa experience is customised and tailored to each individual hospitality location, so guests will be able to do things like order room service, request a housekeeping visit, or adjust room controls (thermostat, blinds, lights, etc.) using an Echo in their room. They can also ask location-specific questions such as what time the hotel pool closes or where the fitness centre is.

In Amazon’s words, Alexa for Hospitality, “helps deepen guest engagement through seamless voice-first experiences that offer new ways for guests to access services and amenities during their stay.” But this only scratches the surface of what might be possible in future through voice-controlled search.

The application of voice search

Voice-controlled search provides the optimal convenience that modern mobile and AI technologies offer in our everyday lives. There is no doubt that this is why Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality is being rapidly adopted across the travel and hospitality industries.  

Voice search is very much about “ask a question, get an answer.” It’s intuitive, considering the wider topic area as opposed to the immediate keywords. Take the example of a technology purchase: if I am purchasing a new Xbox, what else might I be purchasing? Perhaps an HDMI cable. I might be purchasing an extra controller. I may want games. I’m probably going to want a subscription online. There are at least four other discreet elements there that are directly related to the purchase someone is making that a marketer needs to be talking about.

Now let’s look at the application in travel. While Marriott’s use of Alexa is strictly a complement to existing ways of providing hotel services; in the future people are going to coordinate their holidays through voice-activated technology both inside and outside of the hotel.  

Alexa voice search allows instant access to fast, accurate and context-appropriate information on local businesses. “Alexa, where can I get Mexican food?” “Alexa, what is on at the local cinema?” “Alexa, is there a swimming pool nearby?”  

We’ll see the service evolve to not only provide local dining suggestions, but also book guests a table, secure them a place on the best experience days and packages, and provide an easy way to feedback to the hotel on their service. The possibilities are almost endless.

Travelers in a foreign city, without family or friends who’ve visited before, are completely dependent on information found online. It’s a common situation that many people, particularly those who travel for business, have found themselves in. Voice search is a game changer.

Ensure your online business information is correct  

To ensure your business is taking advantage of the opportunities voice-search presents for at home as well as in hotel users, it’s essential to constantly update the digital knowledge about your products and services. The latest information about what your company offers, along with relevant, correct and up-to-the-minute information on opening hours, menus, special offers and events and so on, must be managed across all publishing platforms so that consumers can discover your business easily.  

Consumers will depend on the accuracy of what they’re told. While a small inaccuracy in the hotel menu isn’t a make or break affair; a voice assistant utilising inaccurate location data or hours of operation, for example, would lead to a poor traveler experience. Digital knowledge is a precious resource in these scenarios and due diligence must be done around this important step forward for the hospitality sector.

In addition, it won’t be long before we are able to leave reviews about the hotels we're staying in and the activities and restaurants we have experienced during a holiday, via the Alexa-powered assistant in the room.  

The future of ‘word of mouth’ marketing

As systems such as Alexa for Hospitality become rapidly and widely adopted across the hospitality industry, what we generally refer to as ‘word of mouth’ might well be delivered from an AI-powered voice-controlled app and not a real person. People do not mind if a voice-controlled device delivers the information, as long as it is correct, trustworthy and useful.

If you are able to use a platform such as Yext that automatically updates your business information across all the publishing platforms that people look to for local business information - such as Facebook, Google, Apple Maps, Yelp, Tripadvisor and many more – then you are far more likely to attract new and regular customers via word of mouth.  

Taking a close look at your Digital Knowledge Management and ensuring the business information is accurate and consistent is imperative for brands to engage travelers that will be using Alexa for Hospitality.

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michael atkinson
5 Jul 2018, 11:33 p.m.

Great advances in general, but all task oriented skills. But just asking where one can find Mexican restaurant is a big yawn. I want to be able to ask "Alexa, I want chicken enchiladas" and have her take me to that item, at a restaurant, near my hotel. Then, I can select the item, add to my order like "add rice, beans and an order of chips and salsa", and have it delivered. Then, this will be cool. When is that going to happen at hotels? #voiceordering

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