Hostelworld on digital transformation: ‘Beware of the coffee machine terrorists’

Hostelworld’s CMO Ottokar Rosenberger warns any brand embarking on a digital transformation it must make sure everyone is on the journey with them and beware those that nod along in meetings but moan in private.

Brands embarking on a digital transformation must make sure that all members of the team are on the journey with them and beware of “coffee machine terrorists” who nod along in meetings but moan in private. That is the advice of Hostelworld CMO Ottokar Rosenberger.

Speaking at Oystercatchers’ Evolve 2017 event last night (13 July), he said that having internal buy-in for any big changes is key. That includes having a “clear mandate from the top down” and keeping the CEO and stakeholders updated, as well as making sure the team understands the changes and why they are taking place.

“Beware of the ‘coffee machine terrorists – members of your team who will agree and nod their head in a meeting and then bitch and moan in the kitchen. You need to make sure you are taking those members of the team with you,” he explained.

“Digital transformation is a very personal journey, especially for the team. You need to have everyone on board.”

Rosenberger said that Hostelworld is pushing a focus on the customer experience as part of its digital transformation, driving that forward with a focus on “data and passion”. At the brand, that included updating its app with new features such as a ‘hostel notice board’ that lets users communicate with the hostel they will be staying at ahead of time and find out what events are coming up.

Hostelworld also added a translation feature to its app in May. It was used more than a million times in the first month it was released.

Digital transformation is a very personal journey, especially for the team. You need to have everyone on board.

Ottokar Rosenberger, Hostelworld

The focus on the app links to the age of the typical Hostelworld consumer, a group who are used to being able book things with ease from their phone. Some 90% are aged under 35 and 60% are solo travellers who are on the road a long time. Rosenberger said more than 50% of the brand’s bookings are on mobile phones because of this.

Service over personalisation

Other brands who spoke about their experience of digital transformation included British Airways and Santander. The former said that in order to choose an agency to work with to update the company it arranged a Dragons’ Den style pitch, where 200 BA employees watched as agencies pitched how they could “make the world better” with BA.

“If you want to think digitally, you need everyone to think digitally. Customers want a relevant service, it’s not about personalisation,” Jack Smith, head of digital at British Airways, explained.

Similarly, Santander’s head of social media, digital and marketing transformation, Andy Freeman, said it is about brands being much more digitally confident and looking at the experiences customers can get from other brands.

“If I can order a book from Amazon and get it straight away, why should I have to wait 10 days for a bank card?” Freeman questioned.

Freeman said that in order to transform, the company had to switch its mindset to focus on understanding the wants, needs and behaviour of customers and really listen to them.



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