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People today expect to be connected always and everywhere; sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a world before smartphones and Wi-Fi. In the time since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous in hotels, apartments, and public spaces, it has fueled the evolution of connectivity in a lot of ways. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs start at the bottom, and you can’t get to the next level without a strong foundation. 

By now, everyone is aware that hotel giant Marriott International announced on Friday a massive data breach that goes back more than four years and may have affected up to 500 million customers worldwide. 

After two years of preparation, the FlyZoo Hotel — a futuristic property that uses interactive technologies to do everything from greet guests to deliver room service — is ready for business. 

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room. But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment. The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip. 

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, plays a significant role to boost hotel website traffic and online bookings. Recently, many big announcements were made in the digital industry, for example when Facebook introduced a new video format for marketers, or when Google announced a board core algorithm. If you are a new hotelier and want to stay ahead in the industry, then you should know what’s going on in the hotel digital marketing industry. 
 



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Is the Age of the Hotel App Over?

10/28/2016

A few short years ago, mobile apps were being heralded as the next big communication tool in the hotel industry. But in a presentation at this year's HITEC, it was argued that the hotel app might be coming to an end.

It seems a dramatic assessment considering all the potential mobile apps promised, and yet it turns out that hotel apps just aren’t delivering meaningful value.


The Trouble with Apps
In reality, most apps that are downloaded end up being abandoned or not used at all. And despite the fact iOS and Android have over 3.1 million apps available for download, a recent study showed that customers spend 80 percent of their time using just three of them – Facebook, Google and the text messaging app.

Apps are also expensive to build and maintain, putting them out of reach for a great deal of independent hotels.

And then there is the issue of awareness. When a guest checks into a hotel, they may have no idea that the property they’re staying at even has an app – and it’s unlikely most people would go out of their way to check.

But as apps are being written off, a new opportunity is arising. In the hotel industry, it seems the future of guest communication lies in messaging. Around the world, messaging has become the dominant way people communicate with friends and family. Whether it’s chatting over SMS, or keeping in touch through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, messaging has become ingrained in everyday life.

For hotels, it makes sense to engage with guests via a platform they use frequently, rather than trying to persuade them to download an app they may never have heard of. The one-to-one nature of messaging also provides a platform to build more personal relationships.

And of course, messaging also opens up the ability to offer far more responsive and effective customer service. If a guest needs a light fixed in their room, wants fresh towels or wishes to book a table at the hotel restaurant, they can easily make that request using their own phone – anywhere, anytime.


Growing Popularity
In 2015, Starwood Hotels started using WhatsApp to communicate with guests. Then later that same year, Hyatt became one of the first brands to use Facebook Messenger as a customer service platform.

More recently, a significant number of brands have started communicating with customers via text, and companies such as Glowing.io are helping hotels streamline their operation by interacting with guests across various messaging platforms.

Slowly but very surely, hotels are starting to embrace messaging and chat apps with greater confidence and as they do, it seems this form of engagement will start to become more commonplace across the industry.


The Challenges of Messaging
While the benefits are numerous, introducing messaging into the guest experience also comes with a few challenges.

Just like making customers aware of a mobile app, hotels similarly need to let customers know they can use messaging to engage with the hotel. This can be achieved relatively easily: a welcome message at check in or a room-ready notification could initiate that first conversation and prompt further interaction.

As the HITEC presentation pointed out, hotel staff will also need to deal with an increased expectation from customers that requests will be responded to quickly. This will naturally involve putting in place effective systems for managing this extra flow of interaction.  This is where companies such as Glowing.io come in. While there are certain educational and operational challenges to be considered, it’s clear that messaging represents an altogether more efficient, consistent and cost-effective way to communicate with guests. In addition, language translation also benefits international guests allowing them to communicate back and forth with the hotel in their preferred language.


Huge Potential
As mobile apps are being written off, messaging looks set to shape the future of how hotels communicate with customers. In fact it’s predicted that within just 2-3 years, talking to hotels using SMS and chat apps will no longer be seen as the exception but the norm.

The potential for hotels is huge.

With global ubiquity and ease of use, messaging provides a ready-made platform to offer enhanced levels of customer service. It also provides the opportunity to forge a stronger relationship with guests – professional in tone, but more personable in nature.

If hotels can harness its true potential, there’s every reason to believe messaging could truly revolutionize the guest experience in the years to come.
 
 
About The Author
Brendon Granger
Director
Technology4Hotels


With a great passion for all things hotels, but in particular technology and a desire to help others, his role as director at Technology4Hotels allows him to do both.

Brendon has worked with hundreds of hotels to help them with their in-room technology. In the last few years he has helped them to increase guest satisfaction, strengthen guest loyalty and encourage repeat bookings as well as win awards such as the best business hotel, best city hotel, best upscale hotel and best luxury hotel in Australasia.

Always going the extra mile, Brendon began his hospitality career over 25 years ago working in five-star hotels whilst completing his bachelor of business in hotel management. He has held various management positions within five-star hotels, worked as a consultant in both hotel feasibility and technology and has an extensive background in hotel technology.

 
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