What you will learn:

  • Cliff notes on simple ideas to think through
  • Recovery Plan
  • Technological advancement in the ‘New Norm’
  • Ways to promote customer engagement and experience

“Hopefully, this whole mess that we’re going through is an opportunity to get away from the transactional and begin something more meaningful.”

I love this quote (see links and references below). To me, this is the part that sets the stage for focusing on recovery, innovation, and creativity. This is what I have always loved about retail, fashion, and overall store experiences. That this industry is creative, and along with hotels and travel, really appreciates and does its best to understand and service their consumer.

We all know that Covid19 will change our world forever and we know the impact is not yet known, I referenced a few links below that can get you deep in the numbers and ideas it’s not a bad read.   However, the purpose of this blog is to assemble the research, articles and information that I have gone through. As well as provide some insight from a technologist and consumer’s perspective. The one thing I have said in many of my blogs and webinars as of late is none of this is surprising. Guys this was already happening, if you were not focused on digital online and instore experiences well now is your wakeup call.

Whether you look at the stats of your core buyer or just understand the fact is that people will increase online buying, and still want to go to stores and shop (see gen Z and millennial info below).   Now the question is what are you going to do now and how to prepare for this.   Here are some facts, stats and information to help you think this through. I want to say this as well, you can implement this technology for little investment and in many cases just based on monthly short-term agreement.   If implemented properly it will pay for itself in a short amount of time and with year over year gain.

A whopping 87% of U.S. shoppers prefer to shop in stores with “touchless or robust self-checkout options,” for example, while more than two-thirds are using some form of self-checkout, according to new research from weighing solutions firm Shekel.

  1. In-store Experience- Digital, Health and Wealth
    1. Provide hand sanitizer and ways to protect the returning customer
    2. Provide ways to allow customers to check inventory or look for sizes through their mobile phone or interactive screen
    3. Provide ways for automated checkout
    4. Look for more frictionless engagement features, video and interactive options while they are looking in store
    5. Connect your In-Store with your eCommerce
    6. Focus on the Omnichannel, get your experiences consistent from online to store to social.

“The millennial consumer, they do demand the in-store experience,” he said in an interview, adding that e-commerce will continue to be reserved for buying essentials. “They want the experience to be embracing, and the brand’s responsibility is to build a level of trust, and the store experience helps anchor that.”

  1. “Right now, we all feel vulnerable, and once the crisis is over, consumers will look up to brands to redefine the value of trust. Could that translate into an upgraded level of in-house services that provide comfort and a sense of wellbeing? Could it be more innovations for low-touch services, more sanitary display and handling of merchandise? In other words, could inventory control change the way retail is experienced?”
    1. Think through what touchpoint you can add as a flow through the store
    2. Rich content on screens and interactive points, connect your buyers to Social, Local and Mobile
    3. Easy inventory lookup or ways to get products in or outside the store, home delivery and convenience as a focal point
    4. Provide social distancing places and technology so people can look through inventory while they sit or wait for others to move
  1. “Good for your body, good for everything will continue to be sticky. Health is the new wealth. And it’s not just the product, but the process to get the product into the consumer’s hand, that needs to be sustainable.”
    1. As you provide distancing options, welcome customers back with new offers, product displays, brand information
    2. Use technology, Temperature sensing options at the front are affordable and effective to help employees and customers feel safe
    3. Connect your brand with health, comfort and digital experiences that convey this connection point throughout the omnichannel

Healthy, safe, and local. One of the biggest challenges facing retailers is the need to protect customers and employees from contracting or spreading COVID-19. Concerns about health and safety have never loomed larger for stakeholders across the value chain. The retailers with the highest degree of touchless automation, both in stores and in warehouses, may enjoy a clear competitive advantage, as they face lower risk to consumers, employees, and their overall operations.

The longer the crisis lasts, the greater the likelihood that online and omnichannel purchasing will become the next normal. While this shift is pronounced in grocery and other essential categories, the channel shift within apparel, fashion, luxury (AF&L) brands and retailers have not come close to making up for the lost brick-and-mortar sales as per McKinsey & Company’s  recent article on the impact of COVID-19 on the sector demonstrates.

Even Deeper:

Although we are all still learning, let us share with you some deeper ideas:

  • Mixed Retail services – The retail industry’s volatility can then evolve into having several retail companies merge together.
    • This will help effectively on cost sharing (rent, electricity, staff, etc.) while offering complimentary mixed product offerings.
    • Brands may collaborate with co-retail brands, influencers, individual entrepreneurs and experiential companies.
  • Increased Digital Purchasing
    • E-Commerce has shown a significant increase in users and orders. As more people stay and work from home, online services have been mainly one of the go-to’s.
    • According to Statistica’s recent research, in the US, 31% of the people utilized online services for restaurant deliveries. 24% used online ordering for hygienic products, 23% for household items.
  • Local goods and product demands
    • Due to increased local unemployment, customers will now prefer to support local products over imported goods.
    • The usual companies relying on international manufacturers may now rely on local suppliers. Considering the shipping costs, timely arrival, availability and technically, just the local market livelihood support.
    • People may start upgrading their comfort products – this includes upgrades on kitchen products and digital devices. As some may retain the work-at-home scenario, more consumers will consider replacing and powering their home products.
  • Loyalty and Value-Based offers
    • The most important thing for retailers right now is to keep constant, meaningful communication and relationship to their customers. Though discounts do not necessarily create long term connections, this can help promote loyalty.
    • For promotions consider prolonging the point expirations – this would allow your customers to delay their purchases due to the outbreak
    • As most of the buyers are one-time purchasers, it is imperative to look for marketing offers to get them to re-order. Second purchases even out of the 1% could lead to about 7% improvement in your store’s top-line revenue.

Having the ability to craft your customer’s experience despite having a different mindset is key at this point. Find options and solutions that would provide a different level of experience without compensating health and safety. Consider the technology needed to get you to the next level and how it can help your customers in a more frictionless experience.   That is what we do here at OmniExperience we provide affordable technology that allows you to connect the omnichannel and provide healthy, self-service and brand connected ways to improve efficiency and increase the customer experience.

Call us at 833-300-6664 or email us at [email protected].  I love feedback and research even if you want to discuss an idea or kick around some content ideas you can reach me directly at [email protected].

Doug Ralston
President& CEO, Omniexperience

https://www.retaildive.com/news/the-consumer-after-covid-19/575634/

https://fortune.com/2020/04/20/coronavirus-retail-industry-ecommerce-online-shopping-brick-and-mortar-covid-19/

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/m-and-a/our-insights/the-next-normal-retail-m-and-a-and-partnerships-after-covid-19

https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/perspectives-for-north-americas-fashion-industry-in-a-time-of-crisis

https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/the-young-and-the-restless-generation-z-in-america

After this pandemic as we all try to go back to school, work, social activities, and events, many will be trapped in previous mindsets. The fear of acquiring a virus or some sort of health issue will be of common concern.

For event and conference organizers, this will take more than just sales and marketing strategies to get past these issues. This will require an appealing public relation that would not only focus on how to get people to attend your event but also making sure that their safety is your priority. How do you really encourage people to attend live events when their appetite to attending social gatherings have decreased? And though we are still dealing with current issues and aftermath, here are some key marketing, engagement, and technology options to consider:

How to get people to go to your meetings and making them feel secure:

  1. Ensure the facility has cleaning policies that you can share.
  2. Social distancing and reduction of crowds as a policy for sharing.
  3. Temperature sensing equipment. Yes, keeping sick people out but its also a sign of security and reassurance as anything.

Meetings and Moving forward

  1. Dedicated and proactive communication – Transparency not only shows that your organization is well-prepared it also helps your audience to be more loyal to attending the event. Consistent messaging can provide assurance that you are still in control of your event despite still being in the process of coordinating your recovery plan. Ensure you update your audience through Social media channels and other messaging options.
    1. Consider using the power of social media channels. With over 3.8 billion social media users around the globe.
    2. Utilize the power of feedback and testimonials. As per Status Labs’ research, know that 85% of consumers will trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
    3. Let your previous attendees, sponsors, or exhibitors do the talking for you as they help encourage new organizations/individuals to join.
  1. Providing and Performing online or hybrid events
    1. Online events – Online or virtual events allow both attendees and organizers to reduce any possible health risks. As well you can acquire more attendees and have a broader reach.
      1. Promotion through different means – social, text, emails or via any other interpersonal communications.
      2. You can still drive sponsors with the right technology you can have ads and sponsor-based promotion opportunities
    2. Hybrid events – we see as an increasing opportunity for meeting areas and planners. Reducing the number of people allowed to attend the meeting, or understanding it will be diminished either way.  Provide options for on-site and virtual.
      1. Limit the meeting to hosts, speakers and key members of value and content portion of the event
      2. Provide full-length normal settings to drive facility and connect audiences to attendees online

Both Online and Hybrid events provide tons of pros and cons.  Here is a quick list to help you think this through and find the right mix for your event:

  1. Lessened cost – can save venue rental, electricity, and other commodities that will be present on an actual event. Focus normal paper costs to online advertising or the overall reduction.
  2. Broader audience scope. Ability to reach people from all around the globe. Have more people know more about your industry despite sitting in a different time zone. Utilize different media channels in promoting your event.
  3. Easier analytics – can be considered for tracking, sponsorships options, feedback, reviews, and more.
  4. Test the technology to provide things like virtual marketplace, demos of new products, and services to drive value.
  5. Opportunity to talk with your sponsors and technical teams to see how using this technology can actually help drive more traffic to their sites, increased audience opportunity and ways to keep them plugged into the industry.
  6. Higher risk of technical issues – may occur on both the host and attendees. This may pose a risk in possible refund requests.
  7. Consider bandwidth and places you have your meetings. This is a real good reason to have the hybrid event where you can utilize hotel or meeting locations for their network and high availability bandwidth.
  8. Security using secure networks ensure people feel safe with sharing information and even at times purchasing or engaging think through the complete transaction model
  9. Consider postponement or cancellation – If all else fails and your organization cannot proceed with the event, you might as well consider canceling or postponing the actual conference. Take into consideration your event’s topic: Is it sensitive or does it require a quick turn-around time? Carefully deliberate your past event’s performances and decide whether you need to pivot from continuing, taking the risk of canceling or just postponing for the next couple of months

A quick overview of technology to consider:

  • Use online marketing tools and lead gen to get your meeting out to a more expanded market
  • Review different meeting platforms, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google all offer options.
  • Look at enterprise solutions, our OmniPlatform and others have virtual communication options for the entire meeting, visitor and guest experience.
  • Use mobile solutions such as PWA” s and native mobile apps to provide easy ways for attendees to connect securely and provide options for remote engagement
  • Sharing, use YouTube, Dropbox or other channels to host and share all your meeting recordings, allow feedback and reviews to continue to shape your content

Indeed, Coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives forever. Living the ‘New Normal’ is something that we all need to be accustomed to. It has opened our eyes to some overlooked, positive thoughts: That we are all innately interconnected to each other as we manifest interdependency during these times. And that technology, as we all take for granted, is now showing its real reliability and advancement by making things truly convenient.

At OmniExperience, we are focused on providing new ways of engagement in the industries we serve.   From thermal scanning devices and kiosks, to mobile and digital signage, we can help you build a plan for your facility, meeting area, attractions etc.  Included in our solutions are over 50 modules built for virtual, interactive and mobile communication we would love to share with you what we have learned and help in any way we can as we all focus on getting back to business.

https://www.cvent.com/en/blog/hospitality/safe-meetings-events

https://www.citmagazine.com/article/1678668/5-ways-events-will-change-coronavirus

What you will learn:

  • Planning for recovery
  • New technologies and the shift
  • Ways to build a more frictionless sustainable travel experience
  • Some tools and engagement, things to consider for both staff and visitors

We could all write a book on the effects of Covid19 on business and especially travel. We have heard the horror stories and the continued doom and gloom. One thing we can all agree is that things will change forever, and a shift is now underway on how people will engage in travel and commerce. What is interesting after being in this industry for over 20 years is that I feel most of us knew things would change and evolve. The progression of the newer generations and their connection to social and all things virtual was the topic of many conversations. We shifted over 5 years ago from Information Age to Experience age, this was the turning point of the renewed understanding and focus on how digital will impact our industries.

Many of us also considered what the deeper impact would be, what about our lives, our work, our connection points we had all grown up with, how would values shift? We were all asking the right questions but at the time we thought we had many years before having to truly make significant changes.  Now the organizations who embraced this change, virtualized or upgraded their visitor centers, those who have given deeper thought to digital engagement will set the stage for all of us. (See changing economy blog – it’s the deeper effect from a business perspective).  (Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Poconos, San Francisco our see case studies)

I recommend a few articles and reading points below, but one thing is clear: the decisions we make now will shape some businesses and may end others. Many intellectuals can tell you in 5 different ways how they project things will be after this pandemic, to shift completely, however I believe we can start with a simplified approach that should help us all find our path.

Basic concepts and solutions:

  • Organizations need to focus on virtual collaboration tools to ensure no matter when or how this shift, you can still work from anywhere and collaborate with anyone.
    • Standard work products will now be Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, etc.
  • Think through how this will affect your ecosystem and how to deliver economic value virtually. Think through culture and mindset while using technology as a facilitator. Keep in mind that you may need to pick a product that is unique for your organization’s needs.
  • Digital transformation will take on a new meaning. Shifting from capital investments to technological advancements. What was considered a nice-to-have is now becoming a necessity.
  • Traveler facts: Now more than ever, visitors will be continuously connected, they will ask for options to have virtual rather than face-to-face communication; they are empowered by shared experiences.
  • Technology to help connect with the Internet of Things (IOT) will now be the largest shift to facilitate automation and virtual connection points.
  • Some suggestions on tools you can easily implement to ensure you can provide more virtual and digital tools for communication, meet this new demand:
    • Mobile – Not your Grandma’s native mobile app but a Progressive App that is light and easily accessed through browser or store, with the same as native.
    • Virtual terminals & Kiosks especially for high traffic areas, visitor centers, conventions centers, etc. Allowing safe and frictionless access to key information, directions, etc.
    • Video Conferencing connects your staff through any of the channels above. With a push of a button, a traveler can have a one-on-one interaction through their mobile app or kiosk.
    • AI and Chatbots, providing automated responses and information to commonly asked questions; allowing your staff to work on more strategic services.
    • Connection options using virtual technology lets your travelers connect with staff from anywhere, through a mobile device or PC. They can be easily alerted and can establish any conversation.
    • Instant Messaging and good old texting come back to life, allowing easy information and the ability for 2-way information from an expert.
    • Interactive Trails, scavenger hunts and new ways travelers can explore unique areas without having to rely on human interaction

This is a simple starting point to consider. Keep in mind that this technology can be affordable and highly impactful and will integrate directly with your existing systems. As well many organizations like ours have implemented pricing models that include no money down and leasing programs.

We all still have unanswered questions on what the post-virus and digital era will look like? And how will the digitization of these services become an essential part of our lives?  While Covid19 has brought many of us to a standstill, it is providing us the ability to step back, evaluate our position within the market, and chart the course ahead. Whether you choose to be reactive or take this opportunity to embrace this shift, coming to terms with this shift for many of us will determine our future no matter what industry you are in.

What you will learn:

  • Planning for recovery
  • New technologies and the shift
  • Ways to build a more frictionless sustainable guest experience
  • Ideas that won’t break the bank and offer efficiency and new points of revenue

Hospitality is likely one of the oldest and most resilient industries in the world. While this virus has dealt a crushing blow to our industry and life, we know this too shall pass. Many of us are now looking to the future and the changes necessary to compete in this new world of virtual meetings, social distancing, and ensuring our properties are safe for our guests.

A new normal will proceed and recovery will happen. The younger generations will lead this charge as we are all aware with many debates about millennials and their known impact on the services we offer in hotels, the addition of this virus will now shift and accelerate everything. Those organizations that understand this change and embrace the technological impact will be the ones to survive in this economy. (See blog from 2019, Why Marriot hopes you get your marketing strategy right.) The Internet of Things is now in full motion and these shifts will now make technology a necessity instead of a nice-to-have.

As responsible business owners and hoteliers, we have to prepare for the recovery and below are some ways that you can start to migrate without breaking the bank. The options below also ensure that you connect to the next generation travelers as they will be more important than ever to our recovery. The good news is, millennial travelers spent $200 Billion in 2018 and this will continue as they look for experiences, not products.

So, let’s refresh our memory of what this Next Generation of travelers want and as well consider the new climate with health and safety concerns.

  • Mobile First – is alive and well. And this isn’t your Grandma’s hotel app, it must be accessible through browser, light and quick to respond, with integrated messaging
  • Skip the Front desk – 48% of guests don’t see the value of having to line up to check-in and that was before the virus scare. Mobile check-in/out is now a necessity, Kiosks are also viable options to help ensure less human contact.
  • Mobile key – Get rid of the cost and risk of germs by pushing mobile key options at check-in. Note: Most locks can be converted and there are programs for no-money upfront.
  • Mobile food ordering – Uber isn’t the only company that should profit on the shift in food delivery. Avoid mistakes and make it easy to explore and order from anywhere on your property.
  • Kiosk or interactive connections – Concierge desks will likely change forever. Tools for reservations, exploring the destination and booking can be done through strategically placed Kiosks.
  • Instant messaging and good old texts are still a great way to connect and provide personalized services to your guests.
  • Upgrade your meetings– providing interactive ways to navigate, but also new ways to have virtual meetings or a combination of such.

As mentioned all of these solutions don’t have to be earth-shattering on your time or budget. They should connect to your existing systems and many organizations like ours offer flexible startup programs to reduce money upfront or provide one-time purchase options. No matter where you set your sight, it’s a great time to re-examine your hotel offerings and provide more frictionless engagement. Constantly connected guests will look at their mobile devices and shy from in-room products. They will also look for properties that value digital experience, provide convenience, and less human interaction alternatives.

You now have the ability to craft experiences and connect your brand to products that the next generation will require. They will be the first groups to kick-start their bookings and evaluate along with the rest of us on how to deal with our new reality.

Articles and Key Take away:

  • As luxuries become necessities, companies that fail to take advantage of further advancements through digital transformation may become companies transformed out of the industry.
  • Let’s Refresh our Memory – What do Millennials and new travelers want?
  • The virus will change how people want to engage with your property. Providing more digital options and more virtual ways for guests to connect is key.
  • 74% of travelers will choose more frictionless options of engagement but still want personalized services.
  • Video Conferencing, Instant Messaging and connecting any time through a device is the new normal.
  • Omnichannel strategy is now, more than ever, focused on connecting both online and offline functionalities.
  • You can easily build a phased approach to any automation services. Take the time to think through what makes sense for your property and team.

Know your Device
Every touch device requires a little different handling methods however most of the kiosks are similar to how you take care of your regular computers or laptop. If you are able it’s always good to know what type of Kiosk you have, they usually fall under the following categories: Projective Capacitive (PCAP), Infrared (IR). The main difference is PCAP is sealed better and typically edge to edge glass, IR can be more like a monitor and thus more suspectable to allowing water in the device. So just be thoughtful of amount of liquid you are using.

Cleaning and Disinfecting
In dealing with touch devices, know that cleaning is different from disinfecting. Cleaning is basically removing any dust, grease, or dirt which you want to do at least every other day. Disinfecting is enabling chemicals to destroy the presence of bacteria which prevents the spread of disease, at this point in time it’s best to do this daily or as often as possible in a 24-hour period. Try to follow the two-step procedure in maintaining your kiosks cleanliness and longevity.

Cleaning your Kiosks on a daily basis, key pointers to ensuring a clean surface.

  1. Note: Kiosks are no dirtier than a doorknob, sometimes you have to remind people, Kiosks will become more prevalent than ever to protect both parties
  2. Take any type of antibacterial wipe. Clorox wipe is the best on the market, there are other mixtures you can use below as well that work just as good.
  3. Wipe down the Kiosk in one motion left to right is easiest or top to bottom.
  4. If available, use a soft or a microfiber cloth as a glass cleaner to take away any smudges or build up.
  5. Mild soap and water can also be used just be careful not to get the unit too wet.
  6. Recommend having hand sanitizer near the Kiosk, so people can use before and after.

Here is a quick guideline on how to properly clean your Kiosks on a weekly basis:

  1. Turn off your device or ensure any on-screen software is able to handle false touches while you clean.
  2. Always use non-abrasive wipes or microfiber cloth on the screen, paired with mild soap. Do not spray solutions directly to the touchscreen and ensure no liquid gets inside the unit.
    • Here are some mild soap alternatives:
    • 50% isophropyl alcohol mixed in 50% water solution
    • Steriplex
    • Novus 1
    • 1:9 dilution of Clorox in water can be a great antibacterial and all-surface cleaner
    • Household bleach solution (1/3 cup of bleach per gal. of water)
    • Note: Omni is releasing it own line of Kiosk cleaners and hand sanitizer attachments reach out for more details
  3. To remove unnecessary residue, ensure to use a microfiber cloth to totally dry the screen. This will also remove fingerprints

To avoid discoloration and scratches, remember to avoid the following:

  • Alcohol at concentration > 70%
  • Methyl or ethyl > 35%
  • Thinner or benzine
  • Strong alkali lyes
  • Strong solvents
  • Acids
  • Detergents with fluoride
  • Detergents with ammonia at concentration > 1.6%
  • Abrasive cleaners
  • Detergents with abrasives
  • Formula 409
  • Steel wool
  • Sponges with abrasives
  • Steel blades
  • If you have further questions or if you need any help with your OmniExperience Kiosks, feel free to call us at 1-833-300-6664 and one of our Support specialists will help you right away!