Meliá faces the digital challenge
Meliá Hotels International is carrying out a major project to adapt to a new environment and business models in the travel industry.
Launched in 2014 Meliá, the Meliá Digital project is a comprehensive transformation on a global and regional level, and sees the Spanish-based hotel company continue to lead the industry in online development, having been the first European hotel chain to offer online bookings in 1997.
The digital project has been developed with Accenture Interactive, a leader in consulting, technology and digital transformation, and has seen the hotel company named Best Digital Transformation Enterprise at the European Mindset Digital Awards 2016, which recognise the most innovative projects in the fields of customer experience, ICT management, and new digital business models.
To share its experience and the vision of a leading pioneer in digital development in Spain, Jose Maria Dalmau, Meliá’s senior vice president of Sales, took part in a major meeting hosted by the Economic Circle of Catalonia, giving a presentation on business transformation in the digital era.
Dalmau analysed the influence of the digital paradigm on different sectors, highlighting how utilities and industry suffer a lesser degree of influence of digital technology in their business models, while technology companies, media and financial services, among others, have a high penetration and major dependence on digital. He explained that the hotel business combines a hybrid experience between physical and digital.
From the point of view of e-commerce, the travel industry and fashion are the most affected by digital phenomena, and in 2015 travel reached a turning point when online sales were greater than offline or traditional sales for the first time in history. However, for the Meliá executive, companies that aim to compete in the new digital world need to go much further. For a long time companies have focused on digital development primarily as a powerful sales tool or a new marketing model, but we now know that the digital transformation has to involve organisational structures, processes, people, and culture.
Dalmau emphasised that a digital organisation requires a different management style that promotes innovation, a flexible mentality to adapt day-to-day activities, a collaborative environment, and also a new way of managing people, empowering them, motivating them by recognising ‘digital behaviour’ and the digitalisation of processes and functions of talent management, training and human resources. An environment in which managers embrace disruption as part of their corporate DNA, and uncertainty management as a key factor in their strategy.
Dalmau explained how in recent years Meliá Hotels International – a group that includes the RCI-affiliated timeshare arm Club Meliá – has taken decisive steps in this direction, promoting a cultural transformation that affects processes, organisational structure, relationship with hotel owners and investors, involving the company’s entire value proposition. The most notable and immediate gains have been in the relationship with customers, as the new relationship model is designed as a genuine ‘customer journey’, ranging from the pre-trip experience, to the hotel stay itself, and the post-trip experience. The key to its success is the personalisation of the customer experience in a consistent way throughout the journey, through the use of technology and advanced analytical models to enhance customer knowledge, product recommendation and personalisation, conversion and customer loyalty.
The digital transformation process is gaining momentum, as seen in results for 2015, with 96% higher sales through mobile devices than in 2014, 28% higher direct sales through melia.com, an increase of 36% in sales to travel agents through MeliáPro, and 30% greater revenue from Meliá Rewards loyalty programme members, after adding a million new members to the programme in 2015.
Meliá Digital is also getting more and more hotels integrated into digital channels and sophisticated digital marketing actions, with greater personalisation of campaigns based on predictive models and customer knowledge that have helped increase conversion rates by 30% and generate a 45% increase in Call Centre sales in major markets.
Dalmau said the messages from companies on digitalisation have to change, eliminating any fear and enhancing the opportunities offered by the new model.
“To become truly ‘digital’, companies have to change our perspective, taking advantage of new opportunities offered by the digital model to organise our work in a more efficient and flexible way,” he said.
“The change will also bring new attitudes, new roles, and specialist profiles that will benefit the organisation through their skills, their capacity for innovation, and their culture.”