This is the year to put technology up front and centre of your business’ agenda. Why? Few, if any brands can afford to laze around in technological despondency while competitors make a land grab for their customers tempting them with an array of digital delights. If you operate a hotel, restaurant, casino, stadium or other Hospitality outfit and want to remain current, efficient and stand a chance against your tech-savvy competitors, then prepare yourself for a digital awakening. Here are 5 trends you should know about:

1. Go Smart or Go Home.
eadbee57-a898-4a99-a6b3-ea00594670e3Smartphones aren’t a new trend but their astonishing rate of adoption and aggressive reach into almost every aspect of our lives means you need a mobile strategy. And you need one fast.

From mobile order and pay, social sharing and loyalty to entertainment, marketing campaigns and personalised communications, smartphones are the key to a Pandora’s Box full of revenue generating, efficiency boosting, customer experience transforming capabilities.

Take Aloft Hotel in London for example. They’ve taken mobile to a whole new level when it launched the world’s first Emoji room service a couple of months ago. By texting their room number and the right combinations of emojis to staff, guests can order ‘The Hangover’ for example which includes water, a bacon roll and a banana.

2. The next step for Beacons.
The last 2 years have been the time for testing beacon technology and accurate proximity marketing. This year, beacons are set to come into their own as brands across industries assess the success of their pilot programs and move to wider roll-out. Heavy hitters such as Macy’s, Starwood hotels, American Airlines and Major League Baseball have embraced the beacon offering location-based promotions, modernising room keys, improving communications with travelers and providing stadium seat upgrades to fans.

Talking to Luxury Daily, Jim Meckley, chief marketing officer of Mobiquity Networks, explain, “Beacons will find their place in the sophisticated marketer’s mix in 2016, and will be combined with relevant mobile app publisher networks, point of sale databases, and loyalty programs. This will enable the scale and intelligence necessary to allow beacon technology to serve as the key trigger point for location-based campaigns.”

3. Getting personal.
Operators will be getting up close and personal to harvest as much data from their guests this year. By knowing which stores or venues your customers frequent, what they like to buy and when, how they like to pay and what offers and promotions get them excited, you can analyse this data to power some seriously smart, highly personalised marketing campaigns.

There are many ways to get this data, whether it’s capturing personal preferences through mobile, registration and sign-up forms, ordering through an account or just plain old asking, the point is, without it your marketing campaigns are flying blind.

As hotels, casinos, restaurants and other operators try and differentiate their customers’ journeys within a highly competitive market, the sector innovators are turning up the heat on data capture and analysis to make sure they’re not only meeting but completely exceeding their customers’ expectations from the beginning to the end of their journey and regardless of channel (mobile, tablet, in person or online).

Starbucks actively engages their customers on a more personal level to make them feel more connected to the company. For example, they offer loyalty program members a free drink or treat on their birthday and send personalised custom offers via email or mobile based on captured data and past preferences.

4. Every Cloud has a silver lining.
Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) is something Hospitality just can’t avoid. And you shouldn’t want to. As an alternative to on-premise servers, the SaaS model allows hotels, restaurants, casinos and stadiums to access software applications delivered via the internet by subscribing to a licensed cloud environment. The great news here is that you don’t need to buy the software, you rent it. This means lower costs, no bulky on site equipment and you benefit from automatic software updates.

Iain Mackay, Technical Director at Intuitus explains how cloud technology can enhance the value of your organization: “By investing in cloud the total cost of ownership for your technology environment will reduce, as well as your reliance on technical IT staff. Cloud gives you the flexibility to scale your IT infrastructure up and down as your organisation grows or contracts. You can vary your computing capacity in much the same way as you vary your electricity consumption – by reducing capacity when you don’t need it and increasing it when you do.”

By taking your IT offsite and embracing the benefits of cloud computing, you can support growing trends such as mobile self-service as well as foster consistency and repeatability throughout the enterprise – everything from pricing, menus, reporting and regulatory compliance can be centralised and managed more efficiently by a move to cloud.

5. Suits you Sir.

Prince Charles tries on Google Glass in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The Prince of Wales was in Winnipeg as part a four-day trip to Canada with his wife, Camilla. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

Prince Charles tries on Google Glass in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The Prince of Wales was in Winnipeg as part a four-day trip to Canada with his wife, Camilla. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

Only a year or two ago, wearable technology seemed like a ridiculous concept to the ordinary man or woman on the street. What fool would walk around in public with Google Glasses on, a CIA-style earpiece nestled in their ear or a phone projected onto their arm? More than you think in fact.

Although we may be some way off the Minority Report becoming reality, the adoption of wearable technology 1.0 has actually exceeded expectations. PWC predicts by 2018, sales of wearables could topple 130M units with fitness bands and smartwatches being the most popular purchase.

The potential for wearables in Hospitality is vast. From augmented reality wayfinding in stadiums and sprawling resorts to smartwatches ordering or transacting with digital menu boards in restaurants and hotels, it may seem like a leap into the future but stranger things have happened:

If you do anything this year, don’t underestimate the power of technology when it comes to boosting business, improving the efficiency of your operations and encouraging the type of loyalty that, until now, you’ve only been dreaming of. By crafting your mobile strategy, considering the benefits of the cloud and taking a more personal approach to your marketing, you can be sure to hit 2016 running giving yourself that all important lead in the tech race against your competitors.