Hilton on how to deliver purposeful innovation and digital good will

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When new developments are happening at lightening speed, a global brand like Hilton needs to be ahead of curve. Joshua Sloser, VP Digital Product Innovation at Hilton shares some tips

Joshua Sloser gets a kick out of the rapidly evolving pace of technology, but cannot deny sometimes he is kept awake at night. In the fast-growing mobile environment, this is a particular challenge and sometimes you need to dream about new innovations in order to keep up.

After all, you may have mastered and invested in a certain strategy centered on a particular platform, and then the platform may change, or the medium becomes unavailable. “It can be difficult to constantly switch strategies and find success with the rapid pace of change,” admits Sloser.

Still what Hilton doesn’t do is temporarily patch a guest’s digital desires with commonplace technology. “That may seem like a small distinction, but it helps keep our strategy more stable in a very dynamic technology environment,” he says.

Another challenge is that technology evolves differently in different regions. “This means we constantly have new networks in new regions to engage new customers – and with that, we are regularly seeking purposeful innovations to strengthen our marketing, mobile and social initiatives.”

‘Purposeful innovation’ is a buzz phrase coined by Hilton which Sloser believes sums up a recent industry first to allow digital room selection. Learning from the airlines, Hilton guests now have the ability to select their own room from a floor plan or list during the digital check-in process. By the end of 2014, guests will be able to use the room selection functionality when checking in to over 4,100 of properties globally. In order to achieve this innovation quickly and at scale required a complete overhaul of Hilton’s IT infrastructure. This means that new developments can happen faster too.

Driving loyalty

The cornerstone of the group’s marketing strategy, says Sloser, is to ensure that Hilton Worldwide guests enjoy a connected, purposeful and streamlined brand experience on their preferred digital platforms. Why? Because they believe that enriching the guest experience, regardless of digital channel, drives loyalty, which in turn encourages repeat stays.

If this sounds like marketing puff, Sloser is quick to point out that a key part of this is measuring success – which is absolutely essential to optimising customer engagement. “We measure to understand if we are providing our guests with a great experience, regardless of the digital platform on which they choose to engage us,” he says. “And we take great pride in listening to our customers.”

Sloser argues that half the battle is clearly defining what you are trying to accomplish for your customers at the start of an initiative, and determining how that result can best be measured. Some initiatives have very clear and immediate KPI’s, such as conversion, return on ad spend and incremental revenue from a paid search campaign. Others, for instance, brand awareness, rely on less frequent and less precise measurements.

Top takeaways

  • Define what you are hoping to achieve at the start of an initiative and then measure for success
  • Apply digital good will; self-promotion should not be the be all and end all
  • Inspire or enrich the experience sharing great visual content
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin on social media
  • Never make a recommendation that you wouldn’t give to a friend or family member

Social moves

When it comes to social media, you may think that as such a huge brand Hilton would have a huge social presence. But Sloser says its better to offer a superior experience on a few channels than an average experience across the numerous social channels available. For example, Hilton Worldwide is currently active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram, and some of our brands are also active on YouTube, LinkedIn and Weibo. “But we don’t spread ourselves too thin,” he says.  

The goal is not simply to garner fans on social media platforms, but to create a rich and engaged brand community. “We do this by connecting with our fans through posting alluring content and interacting with them to enhance their travel experiences,” he says.  

For example, through @HiltonSuggests – a Twitter community comprised of roughly 100 Hilton Worldwide employees in more than 70 cities globally – local ambassadors proactively offer their genuine recommendations to local hot-spots, answering questions from ‘where’s the best pizza in NYC’ to ‘what can I do in London in 8 hours’. Ambassadors never make a recommendation they wouldn’t give to a friend or family member, and the result, says Sloser, is a loyal and enaged community.

According to Sloser, fans and followers appreciate that Hilton is providing market knowledge in a way that benefits them, even if they aren’t staying at a Hilton property. “It amounts to an act of digital goodwill, and that act is customised to the person we are engaging,” he says.

More broadly, the group leverages its presence on both our Twitter and Instagram to share visual content that is not necessarily self-promotional but thought to inspire or enrich the follower’s experience.

Joshua Sloser, VP Digital Product Innovation will be speaking at this week’s Travel Distribution Summit, North America which takes place this week in New York. Time is running out. Book your place now. 

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