The Marriott in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, offers a familiar scene to anyone who’s ever set foot in one of the chain’s properties. Guests are often in town for business and can be found at the lobby cafe grabbing a quick coffee before morning meetings or a glass of wine after work at the bar.
But look closer and you’ll see details that stand out. Here and there on walls and tables are “beta buttons” and on iPads, “beta boards”—both instant-feedback apparatuses that allow customers to weigh in on every aspect of their stay. If your digital check-in experience was pleasant and efficient, for instance, you can click the thumbs-up button. If it was slow and frustrating, give it a thumbs down. These tools are the key to Marriott’s innovation lab, which allows the company to test out new ideas as it gears up for the next generation of consumers—millennials and gen Z—who will soon make up the bulk of the hotels’ customers.
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