Smartflats was founded in 2012 by Tarik Hennen and Alex Szmaj who had the idea of building a new type of hotel chain. The project was first presented at the Microsoft Innovation Center Boostcamp and won the prize for the Brussels-Capital Region. Using intelligent technologies, Smartflats can offer over 60 apartments, combining comfort and style for short-term rentals with premium hotel level customer service.
Since then, the Smartflats vision has turned into reality:
• prime locations
• spacious accommodation (up to 150 m2)
• reception and concierge service available 24/7 by telephone and email
• flexible self check-in and check-out using a coded door system
• intelligent customer management using CRM software
Smartflats rents out stylishly furnished and decorated apartments for short-to-medium lets in Brussels, Liège and Antwerp.
Today, Smartflats' figures are:
• 45,000+ nights
• 300+ customers per month
• 58 apartments
• 3 cities: Brussels, Antwerp and Liège
• Prime locations (Arts-Loi - Sablon - Grand-Place - Louise | Meir | Pont d'île)
• 15+ employees
By the end of 2016, this will rise to:
• 85,000+ nights
• 3,500+ customers per month
• 80+ apartments
• 5 cities: Brussels, Liège, Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven
How have we achieved this?
By using intelligent technologies!
We've done away with the standard reception facilities in traditional hotels. Smartflats' customers check themselves in and access their apartments via an access code system.
No on-site reception, but a mobile reception on call 24/7 by email or telephone.
Intelligent management of our customers using CRM and intelligent management of our apartments via the Snugr system.
The tourist market in Belgium, especially in Brussels, Antwerp and Liège, is growing. (PWC Hotel Forecast 2014)
Tourist accommodation market in Brussels 2010-2020:
Brussels is aiming to double the number of overnight stays to reach 10 million in 2020. (PWC Hotel Forecast 2014)
Tourist accommodation market in Liege 2015-2020:
Liège is aiming to reach a million overnight stays by 2025, by implementing a strategic plan for improving tourist development. (Guillaume Kerckhofs, Director of Tourism for Liège, quoted in "La Cité ardente comble peu à peu son déficit hôtelier", Vinciane Pinte, 3 February 2015, lesoir.be)
Changing the habits of travellers in favour of alternative hotel accommodation (Airbnb, Homeaway, etc.):
Customers have become more demanding due to the amount of choice available and their familiarity with digital technologies.
Travellers want mobility, flexibility and direct access to information, coupled with the guarantee of secure online payment.
This type of consumer bases their judgement of hotels and their alternatives on feedback from previous customers and views expressed on social networks.
This new type of customer offers certain opportunities to:
• Develop a marketing strategy aimed at the digital age
• Recognize and serve customers with a "Digital Native" profile
• Make efficient use of social networks
• Use digital resources to create loyalty and take the personalization of a stay just that step further
• Take advantage of Big Data.
(PWC Hotel Forecast 2014)
Smartflats provide the opportunity to stay at premium locations at competitive prices, with hotel-level service but with more comfort and space.
Firstly, Smartflats has a close relationship with leading property owners, which enables us to offer triple A locations and top quality apartments.
Secondly, Smartflats uses a series of technological tools that help us to run the business more efficiently. Using this technology, we are able to provide our customers with:
• a mobile reception on call 24/7 by telephone and email (TalkDesk & Desk);
• flexibility on check-in and check-out with a code system for accessing the apartments (Kaba e-code);
• faster processing of customer queries and top-quality customer service (TalkDesk & Desk);
• automatic reservation and payment via a secure online payment system (Elina PMS & Stripe).
As a young and innovative start-up, marketing is part of our DNA.
Developed by a three-strong team, this strategy comprises:
• developing our presence on social networks (blogs, content creation, content sharing, creating a community);
• first-class partnerships (Opera Royal de Wallonie, Théâtre de Liège, TEDx, Wasabi, Belga Film, etc.);
• developing new services for customers (LeaveTheBags, Maison Massin breakfasts, Taxi2Share, etc.);
• Smartflats' participation in various prestigious events (Microsoft Innovation BoostCamp, TIC Conference 2015 (Lisbon), RISE Web Summit 2015 (Hong-Kong), Web Summit Dublin 2014, Belgian Economic Mission in San Francisco, SalesForce Congress in Paris, TEDxLiège, etc.)
While Smartflats concentrated on its growth, commercial development and customer satisfaction, it pursued a passive sales strategy. Smartflats principally used the following sales channels:
• Direct sales via the website www.smartflats.be, by telephone and email;
• Indirect sales via Online Travel Agencies (Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, Holiday Lettings) with commission ranging from 5 to 15%.
Smartflats now has a staff of over 15 and so we can now pursue an active commercial strategy:
• Commercial strategy focused on cultural activities: film production, concerts, opera, theatre, etc.;
• Commercial strategy focused on businesses: exclusive agreements with companies, joint offer with Smartwork.
The commercial strategy is also based on building loyalty:
Customer loyalty is a central plank of the Smartflats marketing strategy. Smartflats places particular importance on the quality of service provided to customers. By implementing a customer-management process and providing in-service training for staff, Smartflats is able to offer customers a high quality of service and so build loyalty.
International customer base:
Smartflats has a wide-ranging clientèle from 87 countries. As with most hotels, Smartflats attracts an international clientèle led by local customers: France, Netherlands, Spain, UK.
In the short term, Smartflats is not planning to go international. Smartflats will initially have a presence only in the main cities of Belgium, with all the logistics involved in the remote management of accommodation.
In the longer term, Smartflats will use the experience gained in off-site management of its accommodation in the main Belgian cities in order to set up an internationalization strategy.