French hotel chain Accor plans to spend $280 million through 2018 to improve its digital presence as part of a five-year digital strategy. The company has bought French app-maker Wipolo and plans to improve customer access via mobile devices and revamp its online booking websites and employee platforms.
The "Leading Digital Hospitality" plan is Accor's global response to digital challenges, in a market defined by the accelerated pace of technological change and the fast evolution of customer usage.
The plan was designed with three targets in mind - customers, employees and partners. Its objectives are to rethink and incorporate digital technology throughout the customer journey, improve the services offered to investor partners and consolidate the Group's distribution market share. Its two pillars are IT infrastructure and data management. The plan will be rolled out through eight programs, with initial deliverables to be effective as early as 2015.
The plan includes four customer-focused programs that aim to improve the knowledge of customers, the welcome they are given and the services provided. They will enable Accor to increase its customer database and develop further loyalty.
- "Mobile First" takes into account customers' migration to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, by rolling out a single mobile application incorporating all of Accor's services before, during and after hotel stays.
- "Customer Centric" will develop and make optimum use of databases to ensure personalized follow-up and services, and will centralize feedback on a single platform known as the "Voice of the Guests."
- "Seamless Journey" will ensure convenience for customers at every stage of their experience, with electronic payment solutions, one-click booking, online check-in and the Le Club Accorhotels virtual card.
- "MICE & BtoB" will develop innovative digital solutions for businesses, such as online booking of seminar facilities, and will increasingly incorporate BtoB services in the global booking website, accorhotels.com.
The plan also includes programs for the group's employees and partners:
- "Employee Friendly" aims to simplify welcome tasks using tablets and smartphones, develop online training solutions, and encourage experience sharing via "AccorLive," the in-house social network.
- "Owner & Franchise Centric" aims to make Accor the most efficient and transparent partner, notably by offering comprehensive dynamic pricing and revenue management solutions, a dedicated portal to access personalized information and services and an optimized billing process, starting in 2015.
The group's digital transformation also involves making IT tools and systems even more robust and agile. To achieve this objective, the following programs will be implemented in 2015:
- "Infrastructure Transformation" will focus on optimizing systems to speed up the roll-out of new services and keep pace with rising transaction volumes.
- "Business Intelligence & Analytics" will ensure that operational decisions are increasingly based on analyses of the large volumes of data collected, particularly in hotels.
The digital plan relies on existing robust tools, some of which have been significantly improved since the beginning of 2014, and which keep evolving:
- TARS, The Accor Reservation System, is a powerful distribution tool, which today centralizes 59 percent of the group's bookings and over five million inquiries per day.
- accorhotels.com is the Group's multi-brand booking portal, which manages an average of 45,000 reservations per day. It is already available in 32 local versions and 16 languages (18 planned by 2015) and now offers a new trip planning service (My Trip Planner) that enables customers to prepare their stays in 70 destinations around the world.
- Le Club Accorhotels is the Group's multi-brand loyalty program, which added over three million new members in 2014 and increased its generosity. It is the only hotel loyalty program in the world that allows customers to redeem points with no time or availability restrictions.
Based on these tools, several important initiatives have already been launched over the last months at each stage of the customer journey, including:
- Increased personalization of e-mail campaigns through SMART, an exclusive self-learning recommendation tool that will generate over 14,000 email campaigns in 16 languages in 2014.
- The worldwide roll-out of "Welcome by Le Club Accorhotels,” a digital solution that revisits hospitality and aims to make customers' stays easier through smartphone exchanges. It will be up and running in 1,000 group hotels by the end of 2014.
- A complete makeover of the photo and video images available online, with more than 2,500 new shoots currently in progress.
Accor will invest approximately $284 million between 2014 and 2018 to bring all of these initiatives to fruition. Capital expenditure will account for 55 percent of the total and operating expenditure for the remaining 45 percent.
In all, 60 percent of the amount invested will be aimed at consolidating the Group's current performance by improving middle and back-office solutions. The remaining 40 percent will be used to expand market share and optimize distribution unit costs.