Experts at the 2017 Americas Lodging Investment Summit said hoteliers must make sure they’re keeping up with how guests are interacting with their smartphones and determine how to get the most of those behaviors.
LOS ANGELES—We all live in a mobile-centric world, and that’s a reality hoteliers must grapple with on a day-to-day basis, sources said.
A group of experts speaking during the “Mobile Technology—Fast Paced & Constantly Changing, What’s Up Next?” panel at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, said consumers today have been conditioned to expect extremely personalized experiences, thanks to their smart devices.
“It goes down to even how we arrange the icons on our devices,” said Bill Ramsey, senior director of mobile and emerging channels at Choice Hotels International. “The appetite of guests and customers today is more about ‘How do I fit you into my life?’ as opposed to ‘How do I change my life to fit into what you want?’”
Here are some of the top takeaways on the state of mobile.
Mobile is not emerging, it’s omnipresent
Much of the technology-related discussion at ALIS this year revolved around technology on the forefront of widespread adoption like on-property robotics and virtual reality, but the metrics behind mobile usage prove that it is far beyond that point.
Moderator Ali Abidi, principal at PwC, mentioned there are now more connected devices in the world than people, and there are currently four devices per person, with that number expected to grow to seven by 2027.
“We reach over 1 billion people per day,” said Christine Warner, U.S. head of industry and travel for Facebook. “And 20% of their time is spent on mobile devices.”
Warner also noted that “71% of internet activity now originates on mobile devices.”
There is a sea of data available to be used
Warner noted the increase in mobile usage on platforms such as Facebook leads to an incredible amount of information being collected. And that information can be segmented and used to the ends of hotel companies.
She said hoteliers could combine their company’s proprietary data with available information from Facebook to search out people who match the general profile of their most loyal guests and try to recruit more of their best customers.
“You can leverage that first-party data on our platform,” Warner said. “It allows you to segment audiences to find people who may have stayed a few times but you want to get to the next level, or you could segment to find lapsed customers to send specific offers to bring them back to the brand.”
Ramsey noted one of the biggest challenges the industry—and all business—faces is the lack of a single platform to unify all that data simply.
“This is something that transcends hospitality,” he said.
There’s a line between ‘helpful and creepy’
Collecting a lot of information on guests can lead to compelling, personalized experiences, but it can also lead to guests feeling like you’ve been a bit invasive if this power is used in the wrong way or if you’re particularly heavy-handed with it.
“We’re always toeing the line between helpful and creepy,” Ramsey said.
He said the solution to this is to provide a clear value proposition to guests.
“You need to keep that trust, and to do that you need to talk (to guests) about what you’re doing and the value (guests will) receive,” he said.
He said it also needs to be clear to guests that the company is motivated to keep their information private and protected.
“Every actor in the system has a really strong incentive to keep information private … The business model falls apart if that’s not respected,” Ramsey said.
Think of your end-goal when building apps
A lot of hotel companies have mobile apps, but it isn’t as clear if all of those companies knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish with those apps on the outset of development.
Warner said hoteliers need to ask themselves some tough questions when venturing into apps.
“What are hotel brands using their apps for?” she asked. “Is it driving bookings? Does it allow for a better experience? How many times are people (using it)? Who is the intended audience? You have to think about the utility and how often people are visiting it. You must insure utility to get people to come back.”
Alexander Shashou, president and co-founder of ALICE, said in his experience there are other ways to accomplish mobile interactions, especially within certain segments of the industry.
“Apps with city-center hotels don’t work (because of the frequency of use),” he said. “But if you have a phone number guests can text, (it) gets the same result, which is engagement.”
Mobile can bring staff closer to guests
Shashou said his company has seen great results by meeting guests where they’re at and by using mobile devices to communicate with guests via text or other forms of messaging. He said it’s key to give guests consistent points of contact so the medium is serving to bring guests and staff members closer together rather than farther apart.
“If marketing is using Facebook, but it isn’t transferred to the front desk, then it’s living in different places,” he said. “If every touch point was a new relationship then (that guest relationship) is not being built over time.”
Ramsey compared this to his time in retail: “The job doesn’t end when you sell a TV.”