The hospitality industry is as old as the hills – but has it kept pace with new technologies and big data?
Berlin-based SnapShot understands that hotels are dealing with a huge amount of data but need the right tools to make sense of it all. The company started with the goal of solving a simple problem in the hotel sector.
“We recognized that the amount of time that was spent on data collection rather than data analysis was the first big pain,” explained David Turnbull, SnapShot cofounder and COO.
This led to the development of SnapShot Analytics, also dubbed “the hoteliers’ dashboard.”
It’s a free software tool that gives hotel managers a — wait for it — snapshot of how their hotels are running, with data such as pricing and benchmarking, as well as stats pulled from TripAdvisor, Google Analytics, and social media.
The platform was launched in early 2016 and has accumulated 1,200 hotels so far. SnapShot’s three current markets are the UK and Ireland, DACH, and the Benelux countries. It’s gathering momentum as the hospitality industry, in recent years, has started waking up to the importance of analytics.
“I think it would be disrespectful to say that hospitality as an industry has lagged behind,” said Turnbull. “As an industry, we collect a phenomenal amount of data about performance, about our customers, and about their behavior. In fact, you could argue that there’s probably no industry that has the opportunity to collect more information about customers.”
However, hoteliers tend to focus on day-to-day tasks like check-ins and check-outs or keeping the restaurant stocked, rather than poring over the customer data they have amassed.
“There’s just been less impetus, compared to other industry sectors, to commit focus on the importance of data analytics. SnapShot’s approach is to make life very simple and to educate people on the pain that they’re often not aware of” Turnbull said.
Hospitality is an industry that struggled through the post-2008 downturn but is starting to make inclines again. A 2015 report from PwC showed that many major European cities were seeing growth in their hotels business, though nothing close to pre-recession levels. Hotel tech companies like SnapShot are hoping to capitalize on hotels’ need to be smarter — but how can it monetize a free software product?
Since securing €25 million in funding (about $27.7 million) last summer from China’s Beijing Shiji Information Technology, the company has re-focused to work exclusively on its free analytics services before exploring ways to monetize. It decided to put its paid service, a performance management tool, on hold and build up a larger base of hotels using its free products.
“Now that that’s in place, later this year we’ll be relaunching our paid products and services, and these are effectively performance-management tools that perfectly integrate with the Snapshot Analytics environment.”
In addition, the company is moving to expand its free services into North America and Asia Pacific by Q4 and to capitalize on those markets with paid products in the future.
“The strategy to monetize is getting hotels to recognize the quick opportunities and the quick pains that can be resolved by a free tool like SnapShot Analytics but naturally lead them in a situation where if they want more, they can really complement this dashboard with some very intuitive additions from paid applications,” said Turnbull.
SnapShot is registered in Austria, operates out of Germany, but also launched a development center in Brno, Czech Republic to offset its development expenses.
“The cost of development is very expensive in Europe, and resources are very scarce,” said Turnbull about the decision to branch out and find new talent in a new country. Graduate talent in Brno sealed the deal for SnapShot.
“That for us was a big attraction because there was a well-established network of developers, agencies, and a good startup culture. Proximity to Austria and Germany was very attractive, as well as fantastic language skills in terms of English and German.”
SnapShot is also investing in education for the future, convincing those in the industry that they need to think more about data analytics. There’s a lot of education needed for hoteliers to “implement, not just talk about, big data solutions,” said David. This isn’t a totally altruistic endeavour, of course. SnapShot and its rivals want more hoteliers to be data-minded so that they’ll use their products.
To that end, SnapShot has collaborated with universities, business schools, and massive open online course (MOOC) providers like the ESSEC business school in Paris and Coursera to build online boot camps. Last May, SnapShot partnered with The University of Surrey in the UK to deliver a two-day course on hotel revenue management.
“Our work with the University of Surrey follows a very similar aim, and we’ve been working with them very closely in the area of executive education,” explained Turnbull.
“The pains that the industry faces can only be truly resolved if we can create a better layer of education and understanding about how to improve small data, data management, data collection, and data storage so the next generation are prepared to do real data analysis with real big data solutions.”
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