If you haven’t had time to get through the 355 slides in Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report, don’t fear. The annual Trends Report is referred to by TechCrunch as the “state of the union for the technology industry” but the the insights have implications for every industry, not least hospitality. Here are the top three things from Meeker’s report that hoteliers and venue managers should know.

1. People now spend 5.6 hours per day on digital media, 3.1 hours of which are on their mobile phones.

While global internet usage grew by 4% over the past year, the most notable change was the uptick in the amount of time users spend online – particularly on mobile. As of 2016, the average American spends 3.1 hours per day accessing the internet on their phone, a 290% increase from 0.8 hours per day just five years ago.

In light of this trend, hotels and venues must ask themselves if their network infrastructure can handle the increased bandwidth – and increased user expectations. As more of your customers try to access Wi-Fi at your business, the connectivity needs to be not only available (and preferably free), but also fast enough to support all types of media that your customers expect to stream flawlessly – and don’t forget a mobile-optimized sign-on experience, of course. We discuss this in depth in our recent ebook, Technologies Shaping Today’s Guest Experience.

2. User-generated content is the future of advertising

The use of User Generated Content (UGC) by brands is only just getting started. And, according to Mary Meeker, it’s more relevant for brands than ever.

Presenting her slides at the Code Conference in California, Mary says “The future of ads is images.” She goes on to describe how forward-thinking brands are finding ways to make “collaborative ad creation (Social + UGC)” work for them, citing that the re-distribution (re-sharing) of user-generated content can generate 6.9x higher engagement than brand-generated content on Facebook.

     “Effective UGC can generate 6.9x higher engagement than brand generated content on Facebook.”                                                                                                       

Data shows that re-sharing user-generated content from your customers drives massive increases in engagement on the digital platforms where you share them – some brands are using UGC for as much as 50%+ of their digital and social content. Meeker adds that engaging with (and re-sharing content from) influencers can take engagement to the next level and increase a brand’s social following – even if it’s not someone quite as famous as Will Smith.

3. Consumers expect brands to improve customer service and accountability through social media

If there’s one thing that hospitality brands can take away from this year’s Internet Trends Report, it’s that the trend towards social media-led customer service can no longer be ignored.  Mary Meeker explicitly highlights the opportunity for brands to leverage social media to improve customer service, revealing that the top 3 things consumers want organizations to improve in customer service are:

  1. Easier access to online support channels (60%)
  2. Faster agent response times (53%)
  3. Consistent customer experience across channels (29%)     
“82% of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad experience.”                                                                     

The penalty for not offering this level of support to your customers is harsher than ever. Meeker cites that 82% of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad experience, and showcases an Instagram-based interaction between an unhappy customer and a brand as an example of how companies can win back the trust of their customers after a bad experience, within this new paradigm. For a hotel, if your guest has a bad experience, not only will they not come back – but they will also tell their friends.

It is understandable to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data in Mary’s presentation. But the three key things that hotels and venues need to be thinking about are Wi-Fi, UGC, and managing customer experience on social. Digital disruption is a reality in the hospitality industry today. The players who pay attention to their customers’ changing behaviors and are most adept at transforming their strategies accordingly will be the ones who come out on top.