HOTEL EXECUTIVE MAGAZINE: What Does Data Say About Customer Experience?

This article originally appeared in  Hotel Executive Magazine  on June 23, 2019

This article originally appeared in Hotel Executive Magazine on June 23, 2019

According to a new dataset that measures consumer behavior, focusing on customer experiences is worthwhile and important in the hotel sector, but it is not the answer for every consumer. After analyzing how people make decisions across 100,000 surveys from North America, we discovered that there are ten Archetypes, or mega-segments, that appear in the data. One of them, which we have named The Adventure Club, is all about hunting for experiences.

The Adventure Club represents 11% of the population of Canada and the United States, which is a nice juicy market of 36 million people, but there is an even more important reason that the hotel industry should be paying close attention to these folks.

According to the 100,000 surveys in the dataset (a dataset that mimics the demographic profile of the real-world population of Canada and the United States) these 36 million people are similar to each other to a remarkable degree. In fact, they agree with each other on 380 Values, wants, needs and expectations as much as 89% of the time, making them the MOST similar to each other of all the ten Archetypes defined in this study.

In plain English, this dataset has identified a segment of the population that is very much motivated by experiences, we know an awful lot about them, and they will respond to brand and marketing cues in a remarkably similar way. They share, at the risk of sounding flippant, almost a hive-mind when it comes to how they make decisions about everything, including where to stay. Get it right, and all things being equal, you will have a potential market size of 36 million people who want to stay at your properties.

This 100,000 survey dataset is called Valuegraphics. We all understand that demographics describe who is in a target audience based on characteristics like gender, income, education, age and so on.. And psychographics, of course, are like a glance in the behavioral rear-view mirror that illuminates how your target audience has behaved around your product up until now. But Valuegraphics are different. Valuegraphics data will tell you how a target audience will behave in the future. With Valuegraphics you can plan your brand and marketing strategies to trigger the values of the audience you would like to motivate, because what we value determines what we do.

Context on the Dataset

Valuegraphics is the first database custom-built to detect what a target audience really wants, and what messages will motivate them most. In North America, a random stratified statistically representative sample of 100,000 surveys measure 380 metrics comprised of 40 core values and 340 other wants, needs and expectations that contextualize those values. The data is +/- 3.5% accurate with a 95% level of confidence. Statistically relevant samples have been collected for China, Europe, and Asia/Pacific. Once accurate benchmark data has been collected for the rest of the world, as soon as 2020, Valuegraphics will be the first global database that can show us how our values compare to other people in other places all over the world.

If we can make philosophical conversations about values into empirical data for a specific audience, we can influence that audience with as much as 8X more accuracy than by using current demographically-based profiling methods. Why? Because what we value determines what we do. If you know what your audience values, you can be far more influential than you've ever been before.

Hotels and other businesses of all shapes and sizes struggle every day to motivate multiple audiences to do the things they'd like them to do. It might be a marketing message designed to boost sales or launch a brand. It might be a PR message about corporate social responsibility. It might be an internal audience facing disruptive technologies, or grappling with innovations they've not faced before. Regardless of the task at hand, knowing the values of the audience you are trying to engage with will give leadership with any portfolio of responsibilities the insights they need to cut to the chase. Decisions about what to plan, do, build, prioritize, discard, keep, and say can now be made with values-based intelligence, instead of opinion and gut-feel. Science replaces guesswork.

Hotels and the Adventure Club

The Adventure Club will not be the only Valuegraphics Archetype that stays in hotels, but it will be an important one. As they are a segment defined by their love of new experiences, and since hotels are an experiential product, it seems like a logical archetype for us to think about more carefully in this article. Here's what we know.

Who doesn't love a good adventure? As it turns out, when you ask people directly, only 11 percent of the population would say they do. This makes the adventurous among us more of a rarity than one might expect.

The alternate name for this archetype is The Restless because they are always looking for what could be new, better, and more exciting. The Adventure Club members would rather not eat in the same restaurant twice and would be unlikely to go to the same place on a vacation more than once either unless something about that restaurant or vacation spot offered the promise of something new on repeat visits. There is another archetype (perhaps the source material for another article at a later date) that likes everything to remain the same, and familiar, but for the 36 million North American Adventure clubbers...anything that remains the same over and over again is the proverbial kiss of death.

Now, this doesn't mean that you need to redecorate and refit your properties every few months like Auntie Mame in the 1958 film classic starring Rosalind Russell, but it does mean you need to give some thought to how to keep the experience-hungry population intrigued by what is on offer.

We see this throughout the industry already with hyper-local F&B menus that change with the seasons, and local artisans taking up residence in the lobby to interact with guests. But ask yourself what else you can do to keep the Adventure Club segment engaged. Even if they are traveling for work, not pleasure, they will want to be surprised at the surprises you have waiting for them.

What if your CRM system flagged the interests of your repeat guests? Let's say Mr. Smith who is in town for work mentions to the concierge or the front desk attendant that he would like to know where the local art gallery is. If staff are thinking Valuegraphically they will recognize this as an important piece of customer data. They'd not only help Mr. Smith find the galleries he is interested in, but take the time to add "art galleries" to his customer profile. On his next visit, at the time of first inquiry about making the booking, the operator might be able to tell Mr. Smith about what artists are on display at the galleries near the hotel, and if that's not possible (Hello, Central Reservations?) then at the very least, should Mr. Smith arrive for a second stay, a printout about art shows from a simple google search could be waiting for him at check-in. If you are a small town hotel, a rural property, or a resort location, just substitute "art galleries" with "surf conditions' "historic landmark tours" or whatever else might be of interest.

The point is, keep things fresh and new and exciting, and Mr. Smith will keep coming back. 100,000 surveys have taught us that this group of people have an insatiable curiosity, and want to always be learning new things. Help them out. They will thank you with their loyalty.

We also know that this segment of the population, the Adventure Club, is heavily influenced by belonging. They like to be part of something bigger than themselves. They won't be all that impressed with a loyalty program that is simply about collecting points. But membership in a club program that gives them access to experiences they wouldn't otherwise have? That will work wonders.

Above all, however, and closely tied to their love of experiences, is the importance these guests place on personal growth. It is the most important thing in their life. They want to be better tomorrow than they were today, in all things, in all ways, as much and as often as possible.

This core value of personal growth can manifest itself throughout the hotel industry in so many ways...whether traveling for work or pleasure, hotels have the ability to influence an audience segment who are longing for an opportunity to learn something new, do something different, think new thoughts, and experience new things. They are all "sleeping over at your house" and you can win and keep their loyalty for as long as you can keep delivering on these three values, in large and small ways 24/7/365:

  • Core Values

  • Personal Growth

  • Experiences

  • Belonging


What's more, hotels are uniquely situated to take advantage of this more-or-less captive audience because of the presence of staff, and the realities of the physical property itself. You control the space and the people who will interact with these guests in a way that the vast majority of Airbnb operations will never be able to do. You can, quite simply, do things they can't do.

To end this article on this single Valuegraphics Archetype, here are some specific data points. Brainstorm with your team about how these facts, from this enormous dataset that has never existed before, might influence the way you reach out and look after this very appealing segment of the North American Population. 

Adventure Club Characteristics 

These things we know for certain

  • They have lived in as many as ten different places and as many as three different countries.

  • Their possessions are far less important than their experiences.

  • They would like to be financially secure but are not willing to make sacrifices.

  • They are more likely than average to be single.

  • They tend to be uninterested in politics.

These things are very likely to be true for the majority of the members of this archetype:

  • They are foodies and enjoy new food experiences.

  • They regularly spend time at a gym or in fitness classes.

  • They will spend at least three nights per week out being social.

  • They are unlikely to be religious, but they enjoy visiting places with religious significance.

  • They are unlikely to be concerned about their quality of life: experiences are more VIP

 Real quotes from Adventure Club survey respondents:

  • "I strive to be a better me every day, and that makes me a better me every day."

  • "We are shaped by who we spend time with."

  • "I enjoy pushing my limits and seeing where they really are."

  • "I don't assume my current way of living is the way I should be living."

  • "Do what you've always done, and you'll get what you've always got? No thanks!"

  • "Every barrier is another chance to grow."

David Allison researches, speaks and writes on breakthrough audience engagement. He spent his career thinking about how to engage audiences for clients around the world in a variety of sectors. Mr. Allison manages a boutique global advisory practice that eliminates the guesswork from strategic planning with statistically accurate third-party verification of who your target audience is, and how they will behave. His book about Valuegraphics, WE ARE ALL THE SAME AGE NOW, was published in 2018 and topped the global marketing and consumer behavior best-seller lists within 24 hours of its release. Douglas Coupland says "Mr. Allison can see the patterns in the noise and tell us what the real signal is." Dorian Carroll, the VP of Mobile Shopping for Amazon says "Mr. Allison knows how to understand, reach and motivate target audiences more effectively and efficiently." Inc Magazine named his book one of the top ten Leadership Books of the year. Mr. Allison can be contacted at 604-786-0152 or david@valuegraphics.com Please visit http://www.valuegraphics.com for more information.Extended Biography