Following the launch of the Digital Leisure & Hospitality Innovations 2017 Report (sponsored by Webloyalty) a series of Q&A’s with the leading figures behind some of the key entries in the report are being published.
Here is a Q&A with Andre Hordagoda, Co-founder, GoInStore, which is placed at number 5 in the report for its work with Marriott International.
1.How did the original idea come about with Marriott?
My fellow GoInStore Co-founder Aman Khurana and I were presenting at a VISA event in Cannes during the summer of 2016. The event was largely focused on retail payments, which fitted well with our target audience back then. One of the innovation leads from Marriott International got talking to us and we came up with a fantastic use-case together.
They knew that when an event planner visits one of their venues during their research stage, there is a significant improvement in their ability to decide whether it is the right venue for them, compared to just browsing the details on the website. So, it was obvious that making the Marriott website visit experience closer to being in the actual hotel space, combined with live advice from one of their sales team would have a positive impact on their sales.
They could see the benefit of using immersive live video streaming to show events planners their venues, as it would shorten the sales journey and improve customer experience.
As a result, we did an initial proof of concept across 12, then 21 of their European Convention Network hotels and due to its success, we then moved into a full-term partnership. We are now actively expanding the service throughout Marriott International across other international regions.
2.What has been the level of take-up of the service been with Marriott clients?
The take up has been really strong with Marriott clients. For many, using GoInStore means they don’t have to visit the conference centre before booking, they have the confidence that the venue is right for the event they are organising and they are saving budget and time by not having to visit in person.
Marriott International reported that 53% of customers who took a live virtual site inspection between March and October in 2017 went on to book or were progressing with their enquiries. This shows how effective live video is when selling event space in hotels.
3.What about competition in this area?
There are a number of technology companies and hotels experimenting with 360-degree images, which in a sense can give a web customer the ability to have a look around a space. While we see some value in this technology, our focus is in bringing both visual aspects as well as the expertise and knowledge of the hotel staff together. As our sessions are hosted in real-time, valuable information can be shared, and questions can be dealt with there and then, saving the sales team time. Whether 2D or 3D pictures will become out of date in time and there is always a risk that images could have been doctored. The real-time element of our technology gives an enhanced level of transparency and trust – which again is an important factor when buying considered purchases like events space.
4.Has the solution been tweaked over time?
We work with clients in partnership on an ongoing basis to ensure that our roadmap reflects the features that they need. With Marriott we developed functionality like call transfer and scheduled call, all of which have applications in other sectors such as for concierge / personal shopping type services in retail or for estate agents in property.
As well as offering ‘one to one’ live video for Live Advisers as we call them, we developed a feature for ‘one to many’ customer engagements through our Live Broadcaster solution in Q4 2017. This enables our clients to broadcast using live video streaming across their website, Facebook and YouTube simultaneously.
For our Live Broadcaster feature we are currently developing more interactivity due to launch in Q1 allowing the host to take questions from the audience. The broadcaster will also be able to pose questions or topics back to customers for them to then vote on, creating live interactive content. This can be used to promote events like new hotel openings, offers, and to create engaging live video content to reach existing and new customers. We are about to launch play and record funtionality for Live Broadcaster so that the recorded live broadcasts can be placed on relevant web pages, which creates up to date rich content to help improve conversions on those key areas.
5.Have there been any surprises along the way in the way it has been used?
I guess the main surprise is how many ways it can be used. Clients are always coming to us with new ideas. For example, Dyson recently started using the technology to do remote sales training. To date, they had a trainer that would travel around Germany visiting sales staff to deliver product training, now they can hold these sessions without the need to travel.
6.How do you see it being used in the future by Marriott or being extended into use by other organisations?
We think live video browsing and shopping will soon become the norm, and this will be enhanced by live video featuring augmented reality (AR). Virtual Reality (VR) is great but until costs come down, the headsets reduce in size, and it is truly integrated into the customer journey, mixed reality of live video and AR will be used to enhance customer experience and increase sales.
Whilst the live video element still provides the human interaction, AR will provide product and brand information overlaid on the live video stream. For example, a sales person at a hotel could take a call, show the event planner the conference space and show them how it looks with different colour schemes or set ups that suit their event. These AR overlayed prompts could be given to both the web-based customer and the Live Advisor conveying huge valuable elements of information, window views during different times of day through to historic information, and so on.
7.Do you have any recommendations for entries in the next Digital Retail Innovations report?
Yes, our work with Dyson using live video streaming has had phenomenal uplifts in online conversion rate, AOV and dwell time. Aditionally, as consumer demand for video increases, retailers are faced with the challenge of creating up to date, relevant content in a cost effective way.
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