The customer experience is undergoing profound change, and brands are confronted with the digitalisation of the customer journey and the importance of meeting the needs of hyper-informed consumers who want everything on the spot.

On cruise ships, in hotels or restaurants, the use of visual content with supporting audio is seen as an essential means to engage visitors by placing them within a unique and memorable environment.

“A connected hotel space today means much more than placing a few screens on the walls,” asserts Marta Fernández, CMO at Netipbox Technologies. “The transformation in both technology and the expectations of the consumer, who seeks maximum interaction with every product and services consumed, demands completely customised solutions. Hotels should not focus on selling accommodation but on personalised experiences.”

Mood Media suggests consumers are increasingly drawn to venues that they find captivating and exciting. 4K videowalls are one way of instilling loyalty.

“Installations allow restaurants and hotels to curate a unique visual brand story,” explains Linda Ralph, vice-president of international business development. “Humans process visual cues faster than text or even spoken words. This places the consumer at the heart of the sensory experience.”

A great example can be seen in world-renowned chef, Paul Pairet’s Shanghai restaurant, Ultraviolet which allows guests to sit in a dining room surrounded by large screens displaying artistic visuals to accompany each dish. “The videos help offer a unique dining experience facilitating a new level of immersion,” Ralph claims.

The arrival of players like Airbnb has quickly put the hotel industry under pressure to deliver exceptional customer experiences. For a long time, guests were able to find services that they did not have in their home such as international channels. Now, international travellers have everything at home and are looking for something more.

“BYOD is especially important,” says Christophe Malsot, director of hospitality, leisure and retail EMEA for Crestron sales agency, Technological Innovations Group (TIG). “Hoteliers have to provide guests with the capacity to use their devices and all contents on a TV set in the room, presentations on the meeting room, playlists for music – it is now a must have.”

“Matching the capability of the hotel infrastructure to the desired guest experience is a real challenge,” says Colin Farquhar, CEO at IPTV specialist, Exterity. “We often see hotels looking to provide a next gen experience but with a previous generation network, often still delivering TV on coax. Understanding the connectivity and infrastructure piece is fundamental before you can go any further.”

He adds: “Guests want to be casting Netflix to their room TV and they don’t want a lot of break-up in that experience. Casting has become an essential part of what hotels are expected to provide but this depends on what capacity is coming into the hotel at peak times and how well it delivers potentially hundreds of different user video experiences at the same time.”

The concept of the ‘smart hotel room’ has risen up the agenda because of its positive enhancement of the customer experience. A smart room, Malsot explains, is one in which everything from lighting scene settings to Do Not Disturb notifications can be managed through touch panels, keypads, personal smartphone or voice commands.

“Hotel staff should be able to use and maintain it without effort,” he says. “When you enter a guestroom, the learning curve for a client should be close to zero. They should understand immediately how the room is working. So, this means the hotelier has to be helped to build its tender and has to provide AV with a unified control system to provide a perfect and easy to use solution.”

The Lutetia Hotel in Paris has been refitted for whole building control with Crestron systems. Guests are provided with touch panels on the walls, without any keypads. Room control is done only via icons.

“Anyone is able to use the controls, whether millennials or older generations, without any training or instructions,” Malsot says. “It offers a fun and useful novelty factor with technology hidden away behind the scenes.”

“Hoteliers have to avoid deploying AV without careful technical design and without a functional analysis of what’s required and how it should integrate,” he insists. “An update or new installation can be done in several stages, but this has to be properly prepared. The target for AV equipment is to be perfectly integrated and not just interfaced.”

It’s the whole experience
It’s not just the room but the whole hotel/resort experience which benefits from harmonised AV customisation. Interactive information points, digital shop windows, self-service kiosks, menuboards, structured or anamorphic videowalls, or even via smartphones… “the possibilities of digital signage and AV for hospitality facilities are unlimited,” says Fernández. “All devices are capable of serving as a communication or interactive media between the property and the client.

“Strategically placed in lobbies, elevators, rooms, entrances and exits, corridors, conference rooms, restaurants and cafeterias or event spaces, the facility is able to use AV to send completely personalised messages to guests, communicate events, conduct cross-selling or manage the occupation, through a realtime update.”

If there is one thing that guests ask for, it’s an easier, quicker and simpler process when they arrive at the hotel, go shopping, or want to eat or leave. Technology allows customer focused businesses to streamline back-office functions (some hotels even automate room cleaning), as well as allowing customers to take control of their experiences through the use of technology.

On-demand hotels with easy reservations, robotic concierges, a telephone that serves as a key, connected speakers dedicated to hotel services or an electronic bracelet that replaces wallets and gives access to activities are all examples of this trend.

“Virtual reality opens up new levels for hotels and restaurants to engage with consumers, particularly in the booking phase,” says Ralph. “The Conrad Hotel in the Maldives, for example, allows guests to personalise their visit in a VR app by picking a room with a view above or below the Indian Ocean.”

The common areas should also provide proper audio adapted to work well in that environment, whether it’s a bar, restaurant, lobby, spa or garden. AV can also offer a good mix between advertising and information like an interactive map to discover a city, for example. In the guestroom, AV can also provide faster guest services and increase revenue. Crestron, for example, can deliver a user interface through touch panels to let the customer order room service, book a table in the restaurant, or access other amenities.

“In the near future if you join a meeting in the hotel, you can preset temperature for your meeting room prior to arrival, pre-select in-room services, select and control the AV you will use during the meeting, and have a private network for your device,” says Malsot. “5G will then also make online content streaming and live interactions more streamlined during large interactive speaker sessions.”

While the emphasis of AV in hospitality projects is often focused on entertainment and information, the tech has another very important use: security.

“When digital screens are placed in a large and complex property, if they are interconnected, they can be used as an emergency alert system,” Fernández says. “This type of connectivity is especially important in properties and resorts that have multiple buildings, swimming pools and service buildings. Digital displays, managed from a central system, can reveal vital details about where guests should go in the event of emergency, what they should do, and so on.”

Restaurants fightback
Because of the massive impact of home deliveries, restaurants must reinvent the customer experience even more to give consumers a good reason to go out for dinner. Beyond the particularly powerful Instagram effect, which now has a table reservation functionality through Quandoo, restaurants have a menu of technological tools to tempt and sate the diner’s appetite for a memorable experience.

Building the experience
Nothing if not memorable, RoboCafé which opened in Dubai last August is entirely run by three robots. Chatbot voice recognition or voice control is becoming a staple of American drive-throughs. Video screens are routinely used to significantly increase convenience for consumers. Menus have been projected on to tables or viewable in augment reality phone apps. The OTG chain offers iPad menus and mobile app ordering for a speedy service throughout airports in the US.

The rise of digital menu boards is not confined to QSR. The Pan-Asian restaurant Mama Fu uses 42-inch screens to display its beautifully illustrated menu to customers. The screens can be altered in realtime, allowing the restaurant to instantly show new offers. By night the screens double as art installations as they display HD photography of different Asian landscapes.

“If audio and visual tools are used in the right way, it can transport customer experiences in the hospitality industry to be far more than simply serving food or giving travellers a bed to sleep in,” suggests Ralph. “It can help brands come to life and build unforgettable experiences that ultimately result in a much stronger sense of brand loyalty.”

Tokyo restaurant Tree by Naked Yoyogi Park enhances the experience by a projection of images that introduce guests to stories connected with each plate. While diners enjoy their meal, they wear adapted headphones as a narrator brings the dishes to life in a more dynamic and personal way. The creative projections have been curated in partnership with Japanese artist Ryotaro Muramatsu.

Source: By Adrian Pennington –