No longer do we need the hotel doorman (aka bellman or porter) to assist in opening doors for today’s guests. With the emerging advances in technology, guests now have the ability to define and customize their entire hotel experience destiny – including opening doors with mobile keys. Yes, there are still times where a hotel may deliver that one to one experience by showering guests with overflowing service on a personal level. But, the winds of change are at hurricane strength, and through the implementation of technology, hoteliers can now empower their guests to choose the unique levels of service (or self-service) they prefer.
Over the past few years, Phocuswright has done a number of research papers that try to unravel the traveler engagement landscape. At the top of the list is mobile. Utilization of a mobile device, primarily a smartphone, has made it possible for new and innovative solutions to be developed that enhance the guest experience as well as decrease the cost of hotel operations. In a report titled “The U.S. Mobile Traveler in 2017,” it was determined that the largest group of mobile travelers are millennials, comprising nearly half of those queried. Of the total responses, 51% wanted to use their smartphone to check-in to their room. The report also stated that mobile travelers, those who a proficient in using their smartphones to research, book and maximize their trip, are likely to spend more. Items that are purchased on a smartphone vary. However, 67% shopped for hotel rooms on the smartphone. This means that there is still a great deal of opportunity to be had when looking at selling travelers even more products or services before, during and after their stay.
Not only do “mobile travelers” want to check-in and out of their hotel room using their smartphone, but they also want their device to be the room key itself. The demand has proven itself, and mobile digital keys have become a game changer for some of the world’s leading hotel brands. Hilton, back in late 2014, launched its Digital Key technology which offered loyalty members the option to bypass the front desk and head directly to their room, opening the door using their smartphone. As of August, last year Hilton’s Digital Key was available in over 2000 hotels and they expect to have at least 3000 hotels up and running within 2018.
How many times has a guest waited to check in to a hotel and have their plastic key card encoded only to have to return to the front desk because of key card malfunctions? The answer? Too many times! Just peruse a few TripAdvisor comments to see how troubling this situation can be and how detrimental it is to the guest’s initial perception of the hotel.
The power of smartphones to enhance the guest experience is just scratching the surface of what the true impact of mobility can become within the travel ecosystem. Mobile check-in, mobile checkout, and mobile to open doors is just the start. The expanding capabilities of mobile devices also enable new types of interactive marketing. Merchandising will have an impact on the mobile engagement model that hotels will implement. Hotels will be able to send relevant messaging based on proximity, preferences, and behaviours, driving engagement and revenue.
The future of mobile guest captivation is looking incredibly bright. Guests today are texting, talking, communicating, buying, searching, watching videos, and taking photographs all on their mobile devices. The use of smartphones will continue to grow, and in the highly competitive travel marketplace, it is crucial to be unique and offer differentiative products or services.