How Is Mobile Technology Changing the Hotel Industry?
30th July 2020
Coronavirus and The Mobile Revolution
In the last few years, digital transformation and the use of mobile apps to deliver on-demand guest services have been widely discussed in the hospitality industry but adoption of mobile-first solutions has been generally slow.
While it has been clear for years that we now live in a mobile-first world, where we all use our mobile devices to do whatever we need whenever we need it, hoteliers have been mostly concerned that offering mobile services would have taken something away from offering a great experience. This concern didn’t really change even when research into hotel guest expectations showed that travellers would welcome mobile solutions that would ultimately give them more choice and control over their experience.
COVID-19 has not only entirely changed this perception but it has accelerated the digital transformation process that had already started and exponentially increased the type of services that hoteliers now want to offer via mobile apps – from mobile check-in to digital key, F&B ordering, payment, personalisation and more. To welcome back guests hoteliers have put a lot of work and effort in implementing new social distancing and safety measures. Mobile apps have played a key role in helping hoteliers reduce touchpoints and giving guests a safe tool to request services and easily access all the information they need in one single place.
After the Coronavirus outbreak, big hotel chains, that have been offering their mobile apps for years, quickly realised that mobile services were the only way to safely bounce back. In May, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said in an interview with Skift that "comeback depends on how quickly contactless tech features roll out" and it appeared clear at the point that the mobile revolution had started. In June, CitizenM - which over the years has gained a reputation for being very tech-friendly, offering kiosks at check-in and in-room tablets to control TV, curtains and lighting – launched its own brand new mobile app, clearly prioritising a contactless guest experience.
At Criton, we felt we had to support hoteliers recover and we ran a special offer to enable them to create their mobile apps and digitise all their guest services. The response has been overwhelming. In three months, we partnered with 200+ luxury properties and we’re working tirelessly to help them launch their own guest app to safely reopen.
Hospitality in a Contactless World
In the new contactless world we live in, hoteliers had to rethink the guest experience and change procedures to offer a seamless experience. The first step has been to remove all possible touchpoints in common areas. Menus, brochures, in-room guestbooks which were reused and touched frequently have become something to eliminate and hotel apps offer an easy solution to digitise all the guest information.
Many hoteliers have adopted an app to replace all printed materials and offer a one-stop-shop solution with Wi-Fi information, links to book facilities and services on-site, forms to request early check-in or late check-out, maps to easily find local attractions and much more. Often I have heard people asking ‘why an app when I have a website?’ and the answer is very simple: the website is for gaining new business while an app offers a perfect mobile experience during stay.
The most interesting aspect of mobile apps is also that, integrating with other guest-facing technology platforms, they can easily become an interactive and essential tool to enhance the guest experience. For example, many of our clients have added a food ordering system that guests now have to use to order and pay for F&B whether they are at the restaurant or in their room. Other hoteliers have added to their app a loyalty system to increase repeat business or a guest messaging platform to enable guests to message concierge with any request anytime and from anywhere. The ease of use and flexibility that the mobile platform offers have shown to increase guest satisfaction and engagement.
Contactless Arrival: Mobile Check-in and Digital Door Key
Five years ago, the Hilton hotel group started to trial mobile check-in and digital key. The trial was certainly successful as today the keyless mobile entry technology is available through the Hilton app in more than 1,700 hotels in the US and Canada, with more than 11 million uses (source).
Mobile apps, which are now accessible to independent hotels, can enable a seamless pre-arrival and arrival experience for guests. Through integration with the hotel’s property management system, check-in can be done pre-arrival on the app to avoid face-to-face interaction or queues at the front desk. By connecting the app with door lock systems such as Assa Abloy and Salto Systems, a hotel app provides guests also with keyless room entry, so that customers can enter the hotel and go straight to their room.
This makes guests’ arrival easy and stress free, enhancing their experience from the offset. From the hotel’s point of view, a hotel app frees up front-of-house teams who can then concentrate on providing hospitality and guest service, instead of performing repetitive admin tasks. It also provides enhanced data and analytics on how guests are engaging with the hotel.
Overall, mobile apps allow independent properties to achieve the same customer-facing technology prowess that big branded hotels provide, without expensive in-room technologies.
Mobile Guest Engagement and Communication
The way hotels engage with their guests is changing and will continue to do so over the coming years. Location-based push notifications are an increasingly popular way to communicate with guests, offering a direct channel with a more personalised touch, especially as they can be triggered by a customer’s location and sent straight to the recipient’s phone. Push notifications are also read 800% more than emails, proving a very high level of engagement around a particular promoted message.
To support social distancing and giving guests more choice on how to communicate with hotel staff, many hoteliers are also adding a guest messaging platform to their app. Guests can then communicate directly with staff using their preferred channel of communication, whether this is SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger a number of other platforms, with all messages landing in one single inbox that can easily be managed and tracked by hotel staff. This makes it easy for hoteliers to deal with enquiries coming from many different channels, while enabling guests to choose the communication channel they feel most comfortable with.
In-app messages can be used to request a late check-out or room clean. They can act as a digital concierge to book a taxi or table at a local restaurant as well as in-hotel services, such as spa and restaurant bookings and in-room food and beverage orders. Messages can be forwarded immediately to the team or staff member who is best able to help and they provide a great means of upselling services and facilities by direct engagement with the customer’s immediate needs.
Mobile Apps to Increase Revenue
As well as enabling better engagement, push notifications, which hotels can use to target specific guests with last-minute offers, and in-app messaging are also effective at increasing upsell. They are much more effective at catching their attention and engaging with them during their stay, because they can target guests through their preferred communication channels.
To respect social distancing restrictions and keep guests safe and comfortable, many hoteliers have added an F&B ordering and pay platform to their app, as previously mentioned, which also generates additional revenue from orders that can be taken from the restaurant or from the hotel room.
By adding a direct link to the booking system within the app, hoteliers have encouraged guests to re-book through this direct channel, saving on OTA commissions. By linking the hotel’s booking platform to the app, an average 100-bedroom hotel with a £300 ADR could generate £73,000 per annum through OTA savings and an increase of in-stay spend.
Mobile app technologies are changing the game in hospitality by enhancing guest communication, increasing revenue, easing traditional broken points of the guest experience like check-in.
However, this doesn’t mean that simply having an app is a magic solution. Hotels need to make careful choices about how they implement new mobile technology in order to provide a solution that works not only for the present but long into the future.
When developing a mobile app, hoteliers should consider:
- Its integration and connectivity, i.e. can the app easily integrate with other systems or it works as a closed box?
- Its usability, i.e. is it easy for guests to use?
- Its implementation and support, i.e. is it constantly bring developed and improved?
If the technology meets these requirements, then the choice to go ahead with implementation is a simple one – it has to be done. There must a good reason why all the top hotel chains have a mobile app – they are the future of hotel guest engagement and indispensable to future-proof a business for the new digitally-friendly generation of travellers.
How Criton can help you
Criton is an award-winning technology provider which enables hotels and serviced apartment operators to take the guest experience to the next level with a sophisticated mobile app. Criton helps hotels to streamline the entire guest journey and maximise in-stay revenue. Get in touch today to find out how we can help your business.