Upward mobility: catering to the digital elite

Two American icons of the marketplace McKinsey and Company  and IBM have put out thought papers on the digital world.  The former underscores the relatively small dividends in digital technology that are being reaped given that "cost savings and changes beyond the interface with customers" remain largely unaddressed while the latter's paper spells out how "mobile capabilities are disrupting traditional business models, providing businesses with new sources of data and insight and driving top- and bottom-line results."

McKinsey paper notes that a "too-narrow focus on distribution channels means organizations are getting only a small share of the full value that digital transformation can provide. That narrow focus may also be leaving organizations vulnerable to new entrants and agile incumbents that can translate operational improvements across the full value chain (for hospitality read intermediaries facilitating "peer-to-peer" stays disingenously named "sharing"), combined with innovative operating models, into better, cheaper, more customized products, faster service, and an improved customer experience. For organizations that can step back and apply their digital investments in such a holistic way, the prize is significant."

The consulting firm also notes that "not all industries face the same opportunities or the same threats. Hotels and airlines, for instance, are greatly exposed to the disruptive potential of digital, with our research showing that over the next five years their share of sales via digital channels will rise to 50 percent in mature markets."

IBM's report  notes how "mobile is quickly emerging as a transformational game changer in business that will drive new levels of innovation and interactions;" pointing out how  “it is far too limiting to define mobility simply as a device or a channel for transactions. The organizations that come out ahead will be the ones that prioritize mobile and redefine its use to drive a new set of business expectations and user experiences.”

Apropos the foregoing Entrepreneur magazine provides an array of arresting statistics on the business traveler: a consumer who is well along the road to being part of the "digital elite" by embracing and even spurring new development in this fecund field.  Elites are those with two digital devices, a population that has leapt by 600% in the last two years with 78% of them making travel arrangements online. Confirming that trend is the fact that 63% of travel suppliers have seen an increase in mobile bookings.

While the tremendous growth in mobile usage has (expectedly) spawned fraud with retailers alone reporting over $3.5billion in losses in 2012 it remains without doubt the standard of the future. As IBM's paper points out "this (mobile) will get to the point where it is a fundamental way we do business."

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.