Setting the Stage for the Technology-Infused Hotel Experience

By Randa Tukan Senior Vice Principal & Director of Interiors, HOK | January 28, 2018

Many hotels and hotel brands are creating smartphone apps to help guests manage their experiences while on the property. Yet according to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index study, the use of mobile technology is not growing as quickly as expected. The percentage of guests using mobile apps to place online reservations rose by only 11 percent from 2014 (14 percent) to 2017 (25 percent). Only 19 percent of all guests downloaded the hotel brand's mobile app, and 70 percent of these people were reward members.

Does this slow rate of adoption signify a lack of brand loyalty? Or does it reflect the limited amount of app storage space available on mobile devices? After all, travel-related apps are competing for valuable space on our smartphones. Travelers are using all the apps required to continue conducting their business as usual while they are away in addition to those needed for their transportation, entertainment and financial services.. To stand out in this crowd, hotels need to create apps with features that are undeniably essential for enhancing the guest experience. This is no small feat, as apps, can easily become deemed irrelevant and risk deletion.

There is some debate in the hospitality industry around whether the front desk staff and concierge role could actually be replaced by apps. Many insist that hospitality intrinsically remains a service industry, and that maintaining the human connection will always be key to creating positive and meaningful guest experiences.

To make this determination about the future of mobile technology, we first must consider the entire spectrum of the guest experience. This experience can be divided into two specific categories: needs and wants.

The Needs

"Needs" are the more tactical requirements of the guest experience. These include actions like checking in, checking out, adjusting room temperature, wake-up calls, view, type of room, requesting a different pillow or gaining advance knowledge about local food options. Guests often try to emulate their daily in-home conveniences at the hotel.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.