Category Archives: Hotels

The Future of SmartPhones

YouTube-Mobile-600-iStock

A recent post on Venture Beat discussed the future of mobile technology, but the conversation was not centered around the phones themselves, but on adaptive operating systems. You may have already seen examples of these adaptive OS’s with your own smartphone. Have you been directed to Facebook when you were trying to access Twitter? Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google are using our usage data to transform our experiences with the “best friends” we carry in our pockets.

Adaptive Mobile Technology in the Travel Industry

In our “Death of the Cookie” blog post, we discussed how most mobile devices are “un-cookieable”, making tracking from platform-to-platform a difficult concept to achieve. However, mobile applications are typically coded to give hoteliers and property managers a better feel for what type tasks travelers are using a specific app for.

Phones themselves are not likely to change in the near future. The next option would be to revert back to smaller-sized phones, but most users prefer a larger screen for multiple uses. This is why apps and the OS make all the difference in the world. These are the parts of the smartphone landscape that will see the most gains in the future.

Potential Future Opportunities in Mobile Marketing

As operating systems become more adaptive, it may benefit brands to focus more on direct mobile advertising. Currently, advertisers are investing large sums of money to put their ads within mobile applications. Could the next step be marketing directly through OS itself? Cutting out the application “middle men” would allow marketing guru’s to reach out directly to the consumer.

To read the entire Venture Beat article, click here.

Smart Hotels are No Longer an Idea of the Future

iBeacon

Smart phones appear to be on the forefront as far as the future of the hospitality industry goes, but are hoteliers ready to take the next step forward? In 1999, Disney released a television show called “Smart House”. This show was centered around a teenager winning a fully automated dream house in a competition. Now, iBeacon is attempting to make the “Smart Hotel Room” a very real possibility.

Hotels are always looking to give guests the feeling and comfort of being at home. One way to achieve this is by replicating the feeling of being at home. Smart homes are the future and hotels should embrace change and be at the forefront of this technological innovation.

The Concept of the Smart Hotel

The concept of the smart hotel is to automate everything you want to forget about, allowing you to have more time to enjoy the great aspects of traveling. Here are a few of the things the hotel app, in addition to the iBeacon technology, will take care of:

  • Find your room - Having trouble navigating the winding halls of an expansive luxury hotel? Beacons are great for determining your position in large hotels, helping to guide you to your room.
  • Room Service - Check out the menu for the evening and order a movie all from the comfort of your bed.
  • Messaging - Communicate quickly and efficiently with the front desk in a WhatsApp-like messaging style.
  • Lights - This system will help save energy by automatically turning on and off room lights when you enter or leave your room.
  • Check In - If I have said it once, I have said it 1,000 times: people want to avoid a check-in wait at all costs. Your information is entered when you book the room and you are provided with your electric room key because of the beacon at the entrance.
  • Room Cleaning - When a guest has checked out of their room, the beacons can notify the cleaners ensuring they never have to knock on a door again.
  • In-Room Entertainment - Playing your own music straight from your phone and watching your favorite series on the television is just the beginning.

There are more perks to using the iBeacon system, but all of them lend to the idea of making the travel experience easier and more convenient. Smart housing has been a concept of the future for quite some time, but now it is becoming mainstream. The next step will be to determine whether this technology is cost-efficient for hoteliers to incorporate into their revenue strategy.

Priceline Looks to Enhance Mobile Offerings

pricelinemobile

OTA’s and mobile technology are two themes you see a lot on the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog, and a recent interview with the company’s chief marketing officer regarding Priceline entering the on-property services market may be a signal of things to come throughout the travel industry.

Priceline’s goal is to play a larger roles throughout the travel experience, such as enabling hotel check-ins or on-site purchases, and views mobile as essential to realizing these goals.

The idea of mobile check-ins is not a new theory in the travel industry, but most of this discussion focused on individual brands like Starwood, Marriott and Loews leading the way with new mobile innovations.

Often times, once the initial booking of the hotel room through the OTA has been completed, these companies have played no further role in the travel experience.  As Brett Keller, CMO of Priceline put it, “We are primarily a transaction service.  We want to help you find and book that hotel as quickly as possible, but we have expanded beyond that a little bit.”

How is Priceline Expanding?

Newly-enhanced app features will now allow Priceline travelers the opportunity to explore the area to which they are traveling, in a map-based environment, to quickly find and explore where they can fly and purchase products at a discounted price.

Going forward, Priceline would like to have a hand in day-to-day tasks when a travelers arrives at their destination with features like checking in at a hotel, making purchases at the property, unlocking room doors and even unlocking rental car doors.  This may seem futuristic, but these types of things are offered on a limited basis right now.

Why This Matters to You

Although this is a great opportunity for OTA’s to play a more impactful role on the travel industry, it could have a negative impact on these services at your property.

Expediting the check-in process continues to be an important improvement for any type of lodging, whether you are running a brand-name hotel, or a small boutique hotel.  Travelers are happy to get away from long lines and waiting just to get a key to your room.

On-property services and purchases, however, are a priority revenue stream for hoteliers, and losing this money to OTA’s could create a more fragmented industry.  Property managers/owners may have to consider price changes in order to keep their services attractive to travelers.

Ultimately, travelers are looking for the best value with the most convenience.  Creating an easy-to-use marketplace these bundled packages and services can be found serves the traveler on a very personal level, but could lead to problems down the road between hoteliers and OTA’s.

To read the entire interview with Brett Keller, click here.

Making Your Search Results User Friendly

studentuniverse

A recent Econsultancy blog post examined search results on travel sites, and how user friendly some of these particular models are.  Although this particular study observed the flying segment of the travel industry, the same conclusions can be drawn for travel sites of all kinds.  Let’s take a look at some of the findings.

What are people looking for from travel search results pages?

The easy answer to this question is many different things, but more specifically travelers are looking for the best combination of price, timing and convenience.

There was a time when your only choice was to look at a full year calendar to see when a property had availability.  Now you can enter your dates of travel into a booking search engine, select the number of travelers accompanying you and you are off.

Within a brand.com website, travelers will typically see all of the room options available during the given time frame, but something hoteliers should also take into consideration is adding a price range limit as well.  Although you should always be eager to show off your premium rooms with top amenities, these options are just not in some traveler’s budget range.  Here are some of features of an effective search results page:

  • Ability to sort results – Users Should be able to order results according to their own preferences.  This may be price, duration of stay or even amenities included in a given accommodation.
  • Presentation of Results – The default display option should allow users to make sense of the information presented easily.  Users should also have options to alter the display to suit their needs.  For example, some travelers prefer to see a full calendar of availability as opposed to a list view.
  • Filtering of results – Users need a good range of options to refine their results.
  • Speed – Results should load quickly, and adding and removing of filters should also be a smooth and expedited process.
  • Clarity of pricing – This is not always easy for third party aggregator sites, but it can be very frustrating for a traveler to see what looks to be a good price, only to find lots of extras added by the time you reach checkout.
  • Quick link to change original search – Searches may produce a small number of results, or the user may not be satisfied, so make it easy for them to amend their search with a clear link.

To read the full analysis of the airline industry’s travel search results, click here.

UK Travelers Use Smartphones for Research

PHone

The mobile phone is proving to be indispensable in the United Kingdom when organizing a holiday, but there is still room for improvement when it comes to mobile bookings.

According a recent survey of 1,550 UK smartphone owners conducted by the marketing group Weve, nearly nine in 10 used their phones to research and plan their vacations.  Among this group, the most common uses were for searching for hotels (47%), flights (45%), comparing prices (44%), searching for holidays (44%) and checking in for flights (34%).

Despite the value the mobile phone has in organizing trips, the bulk of transactions were made on a desktop or laptop computer, and half of those who did not book on a mobile device said this was due to sites not being optimized for mobile use.

Similar results were found in polling by TNS Infrafest and Google, which found that smartphones were used the most during the middle of planning trips.  Nearly seven in 10 UK smartphone users said they researched via smartphone in the middle of the trip planning process, but only 17% of respondents used one of these devices to make a final purchase.

All of this data also aligns with a recent PhoCusWright study we discussed in a previous blog post that found U.S. travelers that projected mobile bookings will double over each of the next two years.  This study found that travelers were too often frustrated by issues like:

-Limited offerings by major travel industry players

-Limited capabilities of the mobile devices themselves.

A Matter of Functionality

Ultimately, mobile technology will go as far as its functionality will allow it to go in the future.  As major OTAs and hospitality industry players continue to commit large amounts of money to improving their digital tools, the ability to research and book trips on mobile devices will continue to improve.  However, these companies must be careful to not rush the process and put inferior tools out on the market.  This is far more likely to turn travelers off to planning on these ever important mobile devices.  

How Travelers View a Hotel’s Digital Experience

travel_cover_640x360

We have discussed the role technology plays in the hospitality at length on the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog, but the digital customer experience agency MCD Partners has taken this examination a step further.  They surveyed 1,000 American travelers about their views on the average hotel digital experience.

In particular, the agency breaks down digital experiences across three demographics:  Family, Leisure and Business travelers.

MCD presents four findings in their white paper, which is available to download here.  We will be discussing each finding in detail over the course of the next few days and let you know how you can incorporate these findings into your digital campaign.

Finding Number One:  Quality is King

For 70% of travelers surveyed, a hotel’s website and app influenced their decision to book a stay. Travelers often feel that a hotel’s digital offerings reflect what the experience will be like at the hotel itself.

Travelers were asked, “How much of an impact does the quality of the hotel’s website, app or other digital tools have on your decision to stay?”  These were the results:

Screen-Shot-2014-03-05-at-11.44.14-AM

As you can see, quality digital tools play a moderate to strong role in the decision making process, regardless of demographic.  Family travelers in particular indicate that digital tools affect their hotel choice. One such traveler said, “If they take the time to have a great website, it tells me they will take the time to make sure I have a great travel experience.”

How This Applies to Your Website

You do not have to break your marketing budget trying to create a state-of-the-art website that is more confusing than effective.  At the same time, you do not want a website to look like it was constructed in the 1990’s.

Here are three things to keep in mind with your brand.com website, apps and other digital tools:

1) Functionality is the key – Make sure your website is easily navigable and that travelers can get to your booking platform with the least number of clicks possible.  Make sure your images look professional, or that you have a nice blend of guest submissions with your professional photos.

2) Mobile responsiveness across all devices  - Your standard website may not appear the same way on a mobile device as it does on a standard desktop or laptop computer.  Make sure your site is coded to be responsive to fit a wide variety of screens including tablets and smartphones.  That way travelers on-the-go will be able to use your site wherever they are.

3) Mobile apps are great…BUT – They are useless if the app does not work.  Many companies release their applications without beta testing them, leading to mixed results.  If you have to make a decision between releasing your app early, or ensuring it is the best tool possible, delay the release and get the bugs out.

How Social Media Affects Revenue Management

Social-Media-Money

Well-informed hotel revenue managers have always used a variety of factors to determine pricing for available rooms.  These factors include the competitive landscape, market trends as well as long-term business plans.  However, a new factor that must be considered is the role social media plays in making more informed pricing decisions.

In the hospitality industry, cultivating and nurturing your online reputation is critical for success.  This is something we talked about in a previous blog post titled “The Importance of Online Reputation Management”. 

What once may have been viewed as a minor factor in pricing decisions has quickly become an increasingly important indicator for revenue managers.  The global trend of reputation management has prompted several studies over the past couple of years exploring the link between online consumer behaviors and pricing decisions.

Kelly McGuire of SAS, went so far as to uncover a strong relationship between user-generated content (ratings and reviews) and the quality of value perceptions of hotel room purchases.  Her research ranks positive or negative review valence as having the most significant impact on purchase decisions, followed by price and then aggregate rating.

What Does This Mean For You?

Social media should be used as a two-way communication forum.  When guests post a positive or negative comment on Facebook or Twitter, your social media department should respond as soon as possible.  This lets the individual traveler know that their comments are appreciated and lets the rest of your social media following know that you care about the needs of all guests.

When you are proactive and appropriately reactive with your social media channels, your online reputation will improve.  This can be a great way to build loyalty with a new generation of travelers, the Millennials, and can in turn change the way you manage your revenue strategies.

Reviews sites should be seen in the same light.  When you receive a negative review on one of the major OTAs or meta-search engines, whether it is about the rooms, food or service, a quick and well thought out response is the best way to ease a customer’s troubles.  Make sure you remedy this issue soon so that additional guests do not leave the same feedback on these review sites.

10 Do’s and Don’ts When Using Crowdsourcing

FULL_blog-visualcontent

Social media has become a vital channel for hoteliers to use when highlighting all of the unique aspects of your property.  Taking that idea a step further, some properties are now using crowdsourcing to create a visual-rich website experience with the help of these channels.

For those of you who are digging through the depths of your vocabulary attempting to put a definition to the word crowdsourcing, it means accomplishing a task with the help of a crowd of people on the internet.  Collectively working together and putting their ideas together online with hundreds or thousands of other people allows for an optimized result.

You have worked hard to cultivate a steady following across a variety of social media channels, and now it is time for that effort to pay off.  Use your online community to obtain endless amounts of unique and inspiring guest photos and videos by encouraging guests to tag your property in their social media posts, especially on Instagram.

Before you start posting pictures from each and every one of your social media followers to your brand.com website, here are a few helpful “Do’s and Don’ts” that will keep your visual content fresh and attractive to potential travelers.

Five Things You Should Do For a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign

-Keep photos fresh and up-to-date by curating crowd-sourced images on a regular basis in addition to your professional content.  Choosing photos from a traveler’s trip three years ago likely will not help you tell a current visual story.

-Use crowdsourcing to monitor how customers view your hotel, and what they find interesting enough to share online.  It is important to find out what travelers find unique and important about your property.  What you find important and what customers find important may be two very separate things.

-Check the social media site’s terms of use and consult a lawyer before publishing your guest’s photos on your website in order to avoid any risk of copyright liability.  Just because these photos were taken at your property does not mean you own them.  Make sure you have rights to publish them on your site.

-Select the best and most compelling guest photos to host on your website to ensure a consistent story and message.  Take a look at one of our previous blog post that talked about the importance of quality images on your site.

-Encourage guests to post the photos on social media using a predetermined hashtag to make finding and selecting photos as easy as possible, and not to mention publicly available.  Hashtag campaigns are a great way to grow your social media following across a variety of channels.

Five Don’ts to Keep in Mind with Your Crowdsourcing Campaign

-Do not completely let go of your professional photography.  Travel shoppers do enjoy seeing amateur pictures from their peers, friends and family, but there still must be a mix of authentic and professional photos.

-Do not ignore the free feedback that guest photos are providing your hotel.  Use this feedback to make changes and leverage these social media channels as a two-way communication avenue.

-Do not confuse travel shoppers by using absolutely every photo that gets posted about your hotel.  There is such a thing as overloading potential buyers with information, and crowd-sourced images should be used proportionally with professional images.

-Do not use photos from a guest’s personal copyrighted website.  Make sure you have permission to use every photo that goes on your website.

-Do not leave guests without a reason to take photos of your property during their stay.  Be creative with designing visually compelling amenities and decorations in your hotel.  This encourages guests to take a photo and share it online.

Keep these 10 “Do’s and Don’ts” in mind, and you will easily be able to utilize crowdsourcing as a way to incorporate new images onto your brand.com website.