Can Technology Improve Your Hotels Direct Bookings?

NB: This is an article by Rachel McCloy, Digital Marketing Specialist with Net Affinity

Digital marketing is still a relatively new field, but it has been around long enough to leave a legacy of its own. A successful digital marketing strategy is now a key part of any hotel’s plan to grow their direct bookings.

According to Norm Johnston, Mindshare’s Global Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, smart technology – especially the wearable kind – is on the rise. The “third wave” of digital marketing, as he calls it, is about to become just as important as more traditional methods.

How did we get here? The birth of digital marketing came about with the introduction of the desktop computer and invention of the internet. Following this, there came the second wave: the mobile age, which we have been living in for the past few years. The mobile age has given us the freedom to access information when and where we need.

We are now entering the third wave: smart, wearable technology. This means everything from Apple watches and Google glass to Fitbit trackers and bracelets that monitor your pulse.

Smart, wearable technology and mobile technology can combine beautifully. What does this mean for the hotel industry, and how can it be used to drive your direct bookings?

Let’s take a look at what wearable technology in addition to mobile can do for you.

4 Ways to Integrate Smart Technology into Your Hotel

Recently, there has been a huge increase in the sale and use of smart technology, with the mainstream introduction of products like those mentioned above. This has become possible due to innovations which have lowered costs of production.

For a look at what smart, wearable technology is doing outside of hospitality, take a look at the automotive industry. Nissan are working on a series of wearable technology pieces which will enhance the driver experience and alert them to potential hazards on their route. For example, if your pulse is getting higher, it will encourage you to slow down. This device can even act as your car key by using your unique heart beat as an unlocking method. That’s pretty wild by most of our standards – and it’s just the start for smart devices.

The car company isn’t the only one with a few tricks up their sleeve. Bringing this kind of technology into people’s daily lives will have a serious impact on the hotel industry too. Here’s 4 ways how.

Here are a few of the most interesting ways smart technology is being used within the hotel industry:

  1. Mobile Key Card This type of smart technology is perfect for hotels. Through iOS and Android apps, mobile phones will allow the user to unlock their room using their mobile device. The use of ‘mobile check-in’ is being rolled out by Hilton Hotels throughout the world to allow the user to skip the queues at reception, making the process as streamlined as possible.
  1. Beacons Operating with Bluetooth technology, low-energy beacons can be used to send push notifications to guests’ phones as they pass through certain areas of the hotel. For example, as they pass the restaurant, a push notification can be sent with the opening times and links to the menus. This smart technology is a timely way to tell guests what you have on offer, exactly when they might be trying to decide whether to venture out into the unknown or to stay in and dine at the hotel. It’s a perfect example of the second and third waves of digital marketing overlapping, with great results.
  1. Virtual Reality wearable technology virtual reality
    Marriott hotels began testing this concept in 2015 to show their guests ‘traveller experiences’ in areas off the beaten track, like Chile, Rwanda and Beijing. How does it work?

Guests at a Marriot in New York or London simply ring reception and request the ‘VRoom Service,’ at which point a virtual reality headset with 3 experiences loaded onto it will be sent up. These traveller experiences are being called ‘VR Postcards,’ to get their guests engaged. Guests are meant to feel as though they are really travelling to these far-flung locations.

Marriot hopes these will begin conversations throughout their network about their experiences with the hotel, although the videos themselves are fairly devoid of marketing – surely a positive for guests.

  1. Activity Rate Tracking The Weston hotel group have partnered with FitStar by Fitbit to bring a series of adaptive, video- based exercise experiences to their hotels. They have made this move in response to the increasing demand for wellness while travelling.fitbit fitness technology
    These include personalised fitness sessions designed for small spaces, scenic routes in the local area, and a holistic health and fitness regime. All of this will take users’ abilities and goals into account, along with their personal exercise preferences.

Ultimately, the key to integrating smart tech in your hotel is to add a value exchange.

Any interactions with customers using wearable technology should add a benefit to the customer. For example, if they have had a night with very little sleep, your technology can pick up on this and offer a free coffee to the guest.

The Disney Magic Band Experience

disney magic band smart technology

Here’s one of our favourite ways to integrate smart wearable technology with mobile. Disney has created one of the best user experiences throughout their hotels, restaurants, rides and parks through the use of mobile and wearable technology.

They’ve also done it while cutting down on the use of paper admission tickets, hotel keys, FastPasses and even credit cards. They have created the Magic Band, a chipped bracelet that combines with a mobile app to let users manage everything in two devices.

Using Disney’s rubber, waterproof Magic Bands to allow the guests to:

  • Securely access their hotel room
  • Enter the theme and water parks
  • Check in on rides using the FastPass routes
  • Get alerts when lines are shortest
  • Gather their photos from the rides
  • Pay for food and merchandise

There is also the element of magic: the band allows you to unlock personalised surprises throughout the visit. Through this system, Disney can gather personalized customer data from the very beginning of the booking process. Guests set up a MyMagic+ profile, and can decide how much personal information to add.

Disney can communicate with guests throughout the period leading up to their stay, with huge opportunities to upsell and engage the user before they arrive.

With their Magic Bands and associated MyMagic+ profile, Disney are creating a synchronous experience between the offline and online experience.

Why does it matter?

That synchronous experience, ultimately, is the goal for the third wave of digital marketing. Technology should not be a barrier to communication or something distracting us from daily life. Instead, the thought behind all these products argues, it should augment reality, make things easier, and connect people with the world around them. If you use it properly, that can include connecting them with your hotel.

How Does Smart Technology Work for My Hotel?

Wondering how to incorporate all of this tech into your hotel’s marketing strategy? Below, we’ve outlined a few ways that you can engage and enhance your guests’ experiences, without breaking the budget.

Here are your easy ways to use third wave technology to engage guests:

Let Guests Participate – Allow the guests to take the pictures and create the images that you display on your welcome screen in the hotel.

A long-term way to achieve this is to allow them to upload the images themselves through a mobile portal and display them for all to see. Seeing their own images on your website will create engagement, and is a powerful way to create a feeling of connection and loyalty.

Automated Housekeeping Requests – Instead of ringing reception or coming downstairs every time there’s a problem, consider allowing your guests to use something like Avaya’s hospitality app, GuestAssist. It’s frequently used by major chains, and it lets a guest order room service, request a wake-up call, gain access to often-requested items like toothbrushes and towels, and even send an instant message to hotel staff.

Custom Fitness Plans – Create customizable guest fitness plans and send these via push notification to guests who are in the vicinity of the gym. For example, you could have the guest answer a few questions about their age, exercise preferences and other factors, then take them to a plan that will feel designed for them.

This will encourage them to use your equipment in a more holistic, focused way. Guests will be able to actively work towards a goal instead of idling away an hour and a half on the treadmill’s lowest speed.

By engaging with your direct bookers in smart ways, you will create a marketing channel made of the users sharing their experiences with their networks. You’ll create brand awareness and conversations based around your brand. You may not be Disney, but that’s no reason not to make a beautiful experience for your guests with new technology.

Here are the key takeaways for implementing third-wave technology:

  1. Allow for the use of push notifications throughout your hotel
  2. Consider implementing a fitness activity option
  3. Integrate smart technology with mobile technology
  4. Give the guest a user experience that they want to share with their network

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