8 things hotel customers will use smartphones for in 2018
"We need to have a good mobility strategy"
If you haven't heard this from your marketing or technology departments (or a consultant) already in the past few years, you will certainly hear it in 2018. Anything afterwards may be way too late, based on what we can see in the hospitality industry today. But then again, what does a "good" mobility strategy really mean?
Think With Google – the research wing of the search giant – reports that 40% of all travel website visits in the United States happen through mobile. The smartphone in the hands of your customer is therefore your best friend as well as theirs. Here are eight things your customer will do, or want to do, with a mobile device:
1. Find your brand
Smartphone searches for travel have increased by as much as 30% from 2016 to 2017, according to the Think With Google report. At the same time, OTAs have taken over a significant portion of the market share from direct booking channels, as mentioned in this blog. This means that brands cannot depend entirely on loyalists; they also need to focus on discoverability.
2. Reject you for a competitor
The TWG report confirms that a majority of customers use a search engine to plan their travel, rather than keying in the URL and visiting the brand website directly. The share of direct booking channels (over OTAs) dropped from 54% in 2012 to 49% in 2016; accounting for the expansion of the market itself, this is a more significant drop than it may appear from those numbers. Brand-agnostic customers are therefore open to trying out new hotels which suit their requirements in terms of price, facilities, etc. Your competitor can outsell you with a better mobility strategy.
3. Make a booking
As much as 31% of leisure travellers and 53% of business travellers have used their smartphone to make bookings. It is therefore necessary for hotels to have a mobile-friendly "responsive" design for direct booking websites.
4. Check in and enter
Electronic key cards were themselves innovative, but a simple mobile app (perhaps blockchain enabled) can make them obsolete and serve even better as digital room keys. Digital identity management will make check in procedures much less cumbersome and even eliminate them for all practical purposes.
5. Fine tune their experience
The same mobile app can be the master remote control for everything from the television to the air conditioning in the room, as well as enable one click ordering of room service and other amenities. Enabling a customer to mark DND and other status messages through the app also provides scalability and seasonal messaging options for the hotel.
6. Expand their purchase (find more things to do)
Hotels which deliver location-specific content and customized offerings through their app also stand to augment their revenue streams through ancillary purchases. A customer booking local tours, culinary experiences and even show tickets through the hotel app translates into a massive data collection coup, not to mention a bigger share of wallet!
7. Express their opinions
Instantaneous feedback on micro-moments in the customer experience enables the hotel to improve their service. A social-model platform such as the one detailed in this blog also filters out spur of the moment outbursts by customers and protects brand reputation. On the other hand, positive opinions can be directed to more prominent or publicly visible channels for brand enhancement.
8. Pay their bills
The future of mobile payments in hospitality is such that no one will be talking about it in five years, predicts industry resource Ignite Hospitality. Shorter lead times for bookings indicates faster decision making processes, and this calls for more convenient channels for making payments. Mobile payments are aligned with this behavior of the customer.
Running a hotel business today begins with a thorough understanding of your customers' preferences, and one may say it probably ends with being able to predict those preferences well ahead of time. Short of a candid interrogation or a very intrusive investigation into a customer's life, your best bet is a combination of behavioural data collection (with utmost respect to privacy) and providing the customer with ample platforms to express preferences through their choices. Having the right app for the customer could spell the difference!
Sherilyn Rogers is Head of Account Management, for the Hospitality business unit of IBS Software. She has 26 years of experience across the industry spectrum, including Marketing and Distribution with specific emphasis on Electronic Distribution and Sales Operations. Prior to IBS, Sheri was the Managing Director of Client Solutions and Services for Best Western Hotels & Resorts and has also held several other strategic distribution and sales positions at key hospitality brands in the United States.