The Rise of Generation C and Small Meetings

A New Buyer Persona

By Charles de Gaspe Beaubien President & CEO, Groupize Solutions | September 11, 2016

According to Google Research, Generation C is a powerful new force in consumer culture. It's a category of people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It's not an age group; it's an attitude and mindset. Brands that take the time to understand Generation C and better engage with them will find a willing and influential audience.

For this new group of consumers, the internet no longer sits behind a screen – it's a way of life - engaging with technology whenever they want. Gen C wants access to goods and services from all their devices in the fewest possible clicks. Archaic hotel mindsets will ensure some properties will never even be considered by today's buyer.

In the past several years, there has been a distinct shift toward smaller meetings - yet this is one area in which technology has not kept up with the times or the expectations of the buyers.

According to Skift's "Megatrends of 2015," the events and conferences industry is going through a "creative renaissance" with the "the rise of new technologies affecting every stage of the event planning process." While Skift references South by Southwest (SXSW) and TED/TEDx-massive conferences seemingly intent upon reshaping the landscape-why are we not giving the same attention to small meetings?

As an aggregate, small groups and meetings represent a significant market opportunity. In the US alone, two-thirds of all meetings have 50 participants or fewer representing a $124 billion industry. This breakdown of the market by number of attendees illustrates a striking realignment that has occurred in the corporate meetings landscape. Day meetings alone are a $10B industry, with one meeting easily generating $5-6K for a hotel. Many of the largest meetings have become medium size; medium-size meetings have moved toward smaller; and, in many cases, small meetings are now staying on-site or going 'virtual'. It is this small meeting segment that presents the biggest opportunity for the hotels and the greatest challenges to the planners.

The traditional booking and management processes for smaller groups and meetings is hampered by numerous manual steps. Small, simple meetings where options have become commoditized are more appropriate for automation than are larger groups with needs beyond a meeting room, break-out room, simple catering and limited audio-visual requirements. A common challenge in small meetings is the cost and complexity involved in managing the reservation process. With these groups, significant time savings can be achieved by the planner but out of date hotel processes do not facilitate the savings of time or money.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.