An Essential Guide to Hotel Mobile Media & Messaging Uses

By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | July 29, 2018

At a time when every member of your staff and all your guests over about the age of five use mobile phones, it is surprising how slow many hotels have been to adopt mobile tools to serve customers better and improve the bottom line. We are at a turning point, where hotels that don't get on board with what mobile has to offer will see their business slip away. Mobile technologies can help hotels offer customers what they want, when, where and how they want it. Mobile technology can also improve hotel efficiency and lower operating costs. But it is important to set the right priorities when investing in mobile. Most important: for every investment, ask yourself "how will this make my customer's life better?"

Customer experience is the main way hotels can stand out at a time when it is easy for new competitors to crop up (can you say AirBnb?) and trivial for customers to find lower prices. How can you make your guest experience different and memorable? That's something few hotels are managing right now: almost 70% of customers see "little to no noticeable difference" among hotel chains, according to IBM's Institute for Business Value. Since we are still in early days for mobile adoption by the hotel industry, there is a tremendous opportunity right now for those who seize this moment to set themselves above the crowd. 

Forty-three percent of travelers use mobile to look for – and increasingly to book --  accommodations, according to PhocusWire, so having a good presence in your prospects' mobile world can help you get found and chosen. To enter their mobile world means using a combination of mobile optimized websites, making it fast and easy to get questions answered via mobile, and streamlining the booking process so that people don't feel that it's too much hassle to complete the transaction on their phones.

Of course you also have to get them to find you in the first place, so mobile advertising and active participation in social media, especially visual media like Instagram, are also key.

Increasingly social platforms like Facebook are being used mainly for their messaging capabilities, so just having a Facebook page isn't enough. Prospective customers want to be able to have their questions answered on messaging apps and through SMS. This is especially true of millennials and their younger siblings, who now make up the biggest purchasing sector of most markets. These digital natives hate using telephones for phone calls; if you don't answer them in their preferred messaging tool they'll go elsewhere.

Recognizing this, Marriott Rewards, for example, has built its own extension for Facebook Messenger, Slack and WeChat. It makes it easy for people to use those messaging tools to search for hotel rooms, ask the hotel questions, connect with a concierge, and find fun things to do during their stay.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.