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Leveraging Technology to Enhance Guest Experience

By Kathy Tan Mayor, SVP & CMO, Carnival Cruise Line

Kathy Tan Mayor, SVP & CMO, Carnival Cruise Line

Technology gives us marketers degrees of freedom to not only do things better, but also do better things. In pursuit of elevated customer paths to purchase guest experiences, it’s a very exciting time to be a marketer, especially in the experience business of cruise vacations, to ask questions like: What if? Why not? Below are eight areas that advancements in technology allow us to explore and experiment with.

New Expectations: Customers expect to always be connected. With our service offering being at sea, having an internet offering at par with land-based travel alternatives is table stakes. We see that the amount of brand social mentions is highest during the cruise vs. before or after the cruise. So, an internet offering at par with land-based travel alternatives helps get the word out that the cruise experience is a wonderful vacation experience.

"Connecting people on their terms to be their truest self with others, while allowing them to completely disconnect as well, puts the choice of how to have fun in guests’ hands"

New Story-telling: Brands seek to tell and own their brand narrative. Technology has advanced how brands can tell these stories and how customers prefer to consume these stories. For a service offering that cannot be easily sampled as consumer packaged goods, this opens up more and better opportunities to tell the story about the cruise experience and the brand in more immersive and interactive ways. Vertical videos, 360 videos, live videos and Virtual Reality provide new canvases with which to immerse cruise rookies into what a Carnival cruise experience is actually like and to do so from the lens not only of the brand but also from people like them.

New Brand-consumer Interfaces: The interaction between humans and machines has involved everything from keyboards to the mouse to the touch screen and now to conversational commerce, whether via chatbots or voice. Conversational commerce introduces the opportunity to simplify the discovery, comparison shopping and “selecting-what-is-right-for-me” processes. Websites are designed for a self-service model which presents a learning curve for a product category that involves high consideration and infrequent purchases. Conversational commerce allows for guided, personalized search of a complicated product category, simplifying and shortening the decision-making process. Also, for a product category that often involves group decision-making, group chat allows for information sharing, polling and coordination, streamlining the multi-person process.

New Data-based Personalization: As more interactions transpire digitally, more data is collected and available to understand consumers’ preferences, motivations and intent with which to better personalize communications to them. Technology allows for such disparate data gathered from across channels to be stitched together into a profile with which to map out individual customer journeys and trigger interventions at an individual level. Technology also allows for the repetition of this individualized process across all customers to achieve personalization at scale.

New Guest Services: Brands seek to surprise and delight. Data collected from various points of the customer journey or from various transactions across time allows for a seamless experience where data is not re-collected at each point. Analytics on this data empowers brands to anticipate needs, make personalized recommendations, and execute surprises that leave customers with the elevated feeling of being known and valued. The aforementioned conversation commerce also enables always-on guest services without waiting for phone queues and persistent dialogue where guests can pick up the conversation wherever they left off.

New Guest Experiences: Technology also evolves guest experiences that might be offered. While a cruise will still be great fun as is, a digital overlay will allow for more information, more social interaction and more group activity. Augmented Reality also promises a new way of interacting with others and the physical space that enhances the relaxation, exploration, and excitement anticipated on a vacation. These can be ticketed attractions much like what is available at theme parks, or can be included experiences that make exploring the ship a competitive, community-based experience. As we design and build new ships, the key will be future-proofing them to accommodate the rapid evolution of what technology allows and what consumers expect and enjoy.

New Guest-guest Interactions: Humans are social beings. Technology enables us to find and connect with those who share our interests and passions. As we look to connect guests with friends old and new while on cruise vacations, technology enables people to express who they are and what they enjoy, and connect with those who are like them looking to enjoy the same things digitally or facilitate meet-ups in the physical space at scale. Connecting people on their terms to be their truest self with others, while allowing them to completely disconnect as well, puts the choice of how to have fun in guests’ hands.

While the right path in each of the above 8 areas is not always clear, technology allows for agile testing and learning. The team that succeeds will have the right talent with equal parts skill and curiosity, the right consumer-oriented and agile approach, and the right organizational support to fail forward. Regardless, the consumers win because brand experiences and cruise vacations will be more connected, more immersive, and more personalized.

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