Why design eats strategy for breakfast? Agile business strategies for hospitality venues.
What is a business strategy? For years, business theorists have been trying to come up with a universal definition. Yet, they did not reach a definitive answer. One reason for this is that people think about strategy in different ways. Some base their analysis on the present, in efforts to anticipate changes in their market or industry and help them define how future success looks like. Others prefer to evolve their strategies organically, by being agile and responsive to changes instead of trying to predict the future.
In the hospitality industry, the concept of revenue management has emerged in the last decade or so, shifting the thinking from “big abstract strategic goals” to answering specific questions, such as “how to sell the right service (e.g. hotel room), to the right customer, at the right time, for the right price, via the right channel”? This approach succeeded in the airlines' industry in the 1980s and was made possible with the use of performance data and data analytics that assisted in answering these questions. Data can be a powerful tool only if the business acts on it in a timely and effective manner. The key word here is ‘Agility’.
Global hospitality operators often think of tools that will make them more agile and more responsive to what the data tells them. One of the most popular tools is Dynamic Pricing Models (DPM), which has proven to be an effective revenue management strategy in hotels, but not necessarily appropriate for F&Bs. Other tools include loyalty programs, incentivizing direct booking, group packages and so on. What is interesting about all these strategies is that they are responsive to what data tells us about what our clients want and how they behave. These strategies aim at optimizing the benefit out of the existing trends of demand. They do not aim at using the data to reshape demand or create new demand from scratch.
Reshaping the demand also requires handing the control of the brand over to your guests, let’s call it “social offering”. Here is how, by creating a social, intimate, and networked environment, where there is always a buzz around your venue. The buzz creates feedback, the feedback creates data, which can be used to change how your venue looks like, which eventually creates more buzz. This is where design comes in. It is important, to begin with, the understanding that an agile strategy calls for agile interior design. Having the flexibility to alter the look and feel of the space empowers the management to anticipate, nourish and replicate the guest’s experience.
1. Repurpose spaces – constantly
In the age of technology and innovation, it is time to reimagine regular spaces into immersive spaces. For example, instead of a normal hallway, implement mini art installations that the guests would interact with on their way to their rooms. Consequently, based on their interactions, regularly change the installations, or relocate them within the property. Imagine developing different journeys that would guide the guests’ experience. Of course, the journey from the room to the breakfast restaurant in the morning will be very different from that of the boardroom to the restaurant at lunchtime, and even more so for the journey between the late-night bar and the rooms. All these experiences can change based on the season (summer vs. winter) or when there is a major event in town (Expo vs. comic-con vs. a trade fair), and above all, based on your guests’ preferences.
2. Creating a personalized experience strategy should involve a personalized experience design
A personalized experience strategy starts with analyzing your guests’ preferences and providing tailored solutions to their needs. Personalization has commonly been achieved through operational solutions or functional separation, i.e female hours at the gym and spa. Strategies, such as extending breakfast hours or allowing extended hours of fitness facilities will add convenience to the guest’s experience and data analytics will help to drive this process. Yet how to take this personalization into interior design, you might ask?
Historically interior architecture has been constrained to static and not flexible spaces due to technological restrictions, as well as budgetary limitations. Integrating innovative materials and design solutions into the interior design will open a new realm of opportunities for personalization of guest’s experience, as well as maximizing the revenue. A retreat for staff of an NGO that works on animal rights will be held in a boardroom that looks very different from that that will host an oil & gas, or a banking conference. The guest room accommodating a young newly married couple will look different from that of business travellers. The beauty of this approach is that they can both stay in the same room, but after applying a few smart transformative technological design solutions.
3. Create an experience consistent with your venue’s destination
Tourism and travel are all about the cultural experience of travellers. Showing cultural awareness and sensitivity at your property will make both local and international travellers appreciate its authenticity. Travellers will enjoy engaging with the local culture of their travel destinations. Guide them through this experience by integrating the local culture into your property. Consider using the work of local designers, artists, and craftspeople into the property or, even using local pop culture icons, creating activities and spaces that reflect aspects of the local culture (i.e. a small winery, a farmer’s market, open kitchen with traditional local cooking stations, the reinterpreted cultural elements in branding,…etc.). With the application of the right cultural, business and design ingredients, it is possible to create a destination venue rather than a place to sleep or eat.
In conclusion, if you want to capitalize on collected data by employing an agile strategy, ensure to have an agile interior design that will mirror and enable this strategy. In today’s fast-changing world, it is important to integrate flexibility into the design of the project. After all, we live in the age, when it is possible.
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STUDIOVN is an experiential interior design studio with an interdisciplinary approach to interior architecture, interior design and experiential design. We believe that curated design experience provides the novelty that will indeed become the real differentiator. For collaborations & opportunities get in touch.