How Mobile Access Implementation Changed the Hotel Industry

By Alastair Cush Head of Global Lodging Business Development, Kaba | January 22, 2017

A growing number of properties are implementing mobile access guest room locking systems and the apps that support them. Many chain standards mandate mobile access and independents are joining the trend. What few operators understand is that mobile access implementation has changed not only every aspect of hotel door locks but also many other areas of hospitality operations. More people are actively involved in the decision making process for hotel locks than before. Mobile access has integrated the lock process with numerous property and chain departments from sales to guest loyalty and brand marketing. The original purpose of improving guest door locks was exclusively loss prevention and security. Today, mobile access expands the door lock role to include ‘enhancing the guest experience,’ hotel marketing, and loyalty program participation. Prior to mobile access, lock companies had relationships with hotel engineers, property management system (PMS) providers, hotel security departments, and construction teams. Now, with hospitality mobile access technology a reality, door lock companies have expanded their relationships to include brand marketing and innovation executives, IT managers, and app development companies. This paper describes how mobile access has changed nearly every aspect of what used to be a simple process of providing a secure guest room door lock.

Mobile access represents the biggest change in hotel technology today. Why? Because it transforms a basic property item, a guest door lock, into a complex multi-discipline technology integration process that combines property and chain technical expertise with a high degree of 3rd-party vendor cooperation. The transition affects nearly all segments of the hospitality industry because every major chain is installing or mandating mobile access systems.

In the past, a hotel room doors simply had to be secure and provide reliable access for guests. Now, mobile access door locks play an important role in chain marketing, loyalty programs, and the overall guest experience. Before a guest is able to open a room with their smartphone, a great deal of work is done behind the scenes to integrate multiple systems and processes.

Door Locks: New Stakeholders. New Vendor Relationships.

For many years door lock companies have been hardware providers. They built, installed and supported mechanical door lock equipment. But today’s lock companies are integrated solutions providers. Mobile access has changed the basic reasons for door locks and the role they play in operations and marketing. The changes extend to a larger family of stakeholders required for door lock selection and installation, and the necessity for a completely new set of tech vendor relationships for implementation and support.

Expanded Role for Door Locks

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.