Forget personalization. This is the era of predicting what you want before your brain even figures out the answer. AccorHotels’ new biometric program just might know you better than you know yourself.
When I visited the official Fairmont website this week to search for a room for my upcoming trip to Austin, I did something I wouldn’t normally dream of doing: I gave the website access to the camera on my computer. I’m normally sensitive to handing over my personal information to businesses. While every company wants to know my email address, my phone number, my favorite drink, and a range of other details about my life to better tailor sales efforts to my needs, I tend to think I can figure out what I want for myself. So what in the world spurred me to click “Connect My Camera” and allow AccorHotels to use my webcam to measure my heart rate?
The motivation was the hotelier’s new Seeker Project, a digital tool that uses a prospective traveler’s impulses and their heart rate to offer a custom psychograph and personalized list of recommendations for where to go next. “AccorHotels believes that true loyalty goes beyond excellent service,” Siobhan Mitchell, director, loyalty marketing, AccorHotels North & Central America, said when the Seeker Project was unveiled in July. “It is about intuition and the anticipation of a guest’s needs. A deeper understanding of what a guest desires helps us deliver a more tailored, impactful luxury and loyalty experience. This was the inspiration for Seeker. What if we could go further than ever before to understand and know our guests even better than they know themselves?”
Strange and kind of creepy? Perhaps. It feels slightly uncomfortable to think that a brand’s ability to leverage biometric technology could give it the ability to outpace my brain. However, hotels are all working to race ahead in the personalization because they know that creating a one-size-fits-you type of experience paves the way to their ultimate goal: profits.
“Personalization can result in the development of specialized services — delivered according to current preferences — for which guests will be willing to pay a premium,” IBM’s “Hotel 2020: The Personalization Paradox” report states. “Over the past several decades, the hotel industry has become increasingly commoditized, with consumers seeing little difference between the offerings of one major hotel chain versus another. To break through this perceived sameness, hotel providers must implement solutions that provide unique insight into guest preferences and apply this knowledge to deliver increasingly differentiated and delightful services.”
Seeker certainly checks the “differentiated” box. My typical search for hotels involves comparing prices at properties that I already know in cities that I’m already considering visiting. There’s nothing really that fun about it. I click. I search. I hope to find a good deal. AccorHotels turns booking travel into a fun quest with an experience that takes a cue from the Harvard Bias Test. As images of bright lights in big cities, rustic mountain settings, beaches with families, and a range of other environments and people appeared on the screen at a fairly rapid rate, I divided the photographs between “yes” and “no” categories. The instructions are simple: The faster you answer, the more valuable the response is in determining your inner desires.
“Hopefully, Seeker will provide better and more surprising destination suggestions to guests — ones they may not have considered themselves,” Mike Manh, senior creative director at the creative agency behind the project, The Mill, said.” We hope to answer a deeper need for them and create the getaways they’ve always really wanted but may not have considered.”
Seeker’s evaluation turned out to feel correct. It confirmed that Austin — the city I was already aiming to visit — belonged on my wishlist of places to go, but it also did exactly what Manh hoped. Azerbaijan and the Democratic Republic of Congo — two places I’ve never dreamed of visiting — were my other two top recommendations. “You feel most at home in the serenity of the outdoors,” Seeker told me. “A romantic getaway is what your heart wants.”
Thanks, Seeker. My wife will be pleased.
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