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Loyalty, Data and the Internet of Things: Marriott’s Formidable Future

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By: Richard Pachter |

Posted on February 23, 2018

By using customer data to drive media and partnerships, Marriott’s brands can supercharge the power of loyalty, And with the Internet of Things, it can go even higher.

By Richard Pachter

Data-driven marketing is nothing new. Your affinity for romantic comedies spark Netflix recommendations; a search for a new putter makes golf-related ads materialize in your browser — you know the drill. It’s rudimentary, perhaps, but these two examples of collected user data driving specific marketing are so common, we rarely give them a second thought.

Data collection on users is so ubiquitous, the notion of “privacy” is nearly obsolete. You can and will be tracked and served up products, advertising and other content based on your web-surfing choices.

But there are more things to do with that data, as well as information collected about your other tendencies, preferences and information shared online — knowingly or otherwise.  Hospitality giant Marriot has some interesting plans for turning their collection of customer intelligence into something smart and profitable: content.

Why content? Simply, it’s what attracts eyeballs and can often the best way to get a message across. It’s also a potent marketing tool on its own.  Marc Battaglia, Marriott’s executive director of global creative and content marketing declared,

“Owning our own content is paramount.”

In 2017, the company merged data from its Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood Preferred Guest rewards and loyalty programs. The result is a 100-million-person aggregation of personal data from its chain apps, social media platforms, company sites and other media, including in-room TV choices. That’s a pretty formidable resource.

“We’re thinking like a media network and have the eyeballs of a major media network,” Battaglia said.

Paid social media and Marriott’s affiliate program are two of its fastest-growing marketing channels, according to Andy Kauffman, the hospitality giant’s newly crowned SVP of global marketing.  It opens up a world of possibilities in terms of affiliate relationships, short-term partnerships and one-off collaborations.

For instance, working with performance venues and ticketed events have been effective promotions, Battaglia said. “Creative production and data-driven marketing “really need to exist together hand-in-glove to be their most effective.”

The company has also gone all-in for “the internet of things,” connecting devices, media players, appliances and more. “Think about a hotel room,” said James Stansberry, senior vice president and general manager of Samsung Electronics’s Internet of Things division, ARTIK.

“There are dozens of different products in there from many different manufacturers — curtain shades, thermostats, TVs, light switches, etc. How do you connect all of those devices together easily and be able to trigger an action easily?”

“What Marriott is trying to do is leverage guest profiles,” said Ken Freeman, senior vice president of demand generation at Legrand, an electrical and data communications product manufacturer. “The idea is if I’m a Marriott Rewards member, and my profile has my attributes and dislikes/likes, it can be set up to do things based on me and my type of trip, more personally. I might be on a business trip today, but for the weekend I might be spending time with my wife on vacation,” he said.

Having your hotel room set up to reflect your preferences and affinities before you check in can become an extremely powerful loyalty factor. By combining that with their savvy use of media, the results could be formidable.

Richard Pachter is Editor at Large for The Wise Marketer.