Conversation with Antoine Dubois, SVP Marketing Global Strategy, AccorHotels

According to the iProspect 2018 Global Client Survey60% of marketers think the use of Artificial Intelligence in marketing will give rise to more consumer trust thanks to more relevant and personal experiences.  
Convenience, Artificial Intelligence and war for talents: Antoine Dubois, SVP Marketing Global Strategy at AccorHotels, shares his views with Rohan Philips, Global Chief Product Officer, iProspect.  
The digital economy has permitted huge improvements in terms of convenience for consumers. Do you think convenience is now the most important driving force at play when people shop?  

In the war for acquisition, convenience is critical to win. Consumers have never had as much information at their disposal as today. Before booking their accommodation, they can look at more than a hundred pictures of each hotel from AccorHotels, online travel agencies or hotel guests. They can read consumer reviews from various sources such as Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor or the hoteliers themselves. They can use different platforms to compare prices for the same room. In that regard, convenience is key for guests to digest all this information and make their final choice, in terms of hotel and booking channel.  

That said, the digital economy needs to deliver more for building trust. Although digital convenience can secure the first purchase, trust really takes shape after the experience in the hotel. Therefore, digital needs to play a bigger part on customer retention and loyalty. In the hospitality industry, we talk a lot about personalisation, rewards, and being seamless... digital platforms need to help us showcase to our loyal customers that we use their data to act in their best interest. That’s how we create trust between our group, our brands and our customer.  

You have mentioned personalisation. How does AccorHotels deliver convenience at the individual level?  

So far, we have focused on delivering a great physical personalised experience, powered by digital. We have a digital tool, AC/DC, connected to our client database, that hotels can access when a registered customer is booking a night. Although a personalised email may be relevant from a ROI perspective and support the beginning of the relationship, we need to go deeper. This can take the form of a personalised welcome at the reception, the delivery of the preferred newspaper in the room in the morning, or a surprise birthday celebration. This is where digital needs to play its biggest role in our industry, helping teams deliver the best personalised and emotional service, so that customers remember their experience, talk about it and trust our organisation 

“Convenience is indispensable, but we need to go further.” 
How would you describe the place of technology in AccorHotels experience?  

Technology needs to act in the background of the experience to help us and help the guest. When too much technology is visible, guests can feel uncomfortable and be reluctant to share information about themselves.  

Privacy is fundamental in our business. Anyone staying in a hotel expects some private moments: in the bedroom, in the bathroom, when they sleep or call their family, etc. We have launched some experimentations to understand how people react regarding privacy matters. We have brought in devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, and we noticed people are not comfortable with the idea of being listened to in the bedroom. As a host, we need to find the right balance and the good ways to allow guests to connect with these devices without feeling uncomfortable.  

However, we also observed that when users are offered some personalisation prior to entering their rooms, for instance, when booking a night on a mobile device, it doesn’t appear to be an issue. So, for us, it is really about identifying when we can and cannot personalise the experience to respect consumers’ privacy expectations.  

To expand on the role of technology, I truly believe that when you go to a hotel, you want things you have at home in an augmented way, and I believe Artificial Intelligence can help augment the experience. AI has been part of our business backend for a long time through yield management. We know it can also play a big part in delivering little attentions, which matter a lot in our industry, by helping us truly anticipate the needs of our 700,000 guests worldwide each day.  

Regarding technology, is there any particular challenge you face?  

I would say the war for talents. Making the most of AI requires the best talents, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we cannot attract the best data scientists in the world to a hospitality business, when they can go to companies fully dedicated to technology like Microsoft, Google or Amazon. Thus, we focus on data planning profiles who are able to fully understand the data platform we own, so that we can then select the best partners to leverage the right data.  

Watch the full session for unique insights into how brands are using new storytelling methods and channels to evolve their conversation with consumers and how marketers are looking to integrate improved Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for a greater impact on their business. 


This article is excerpted from Future Focus 2019: Searching for Trust. Download Future Focus 2019 for key insights and success stories on navigating truth and authenticity in 2019.