How Hotels Can Get More Out of Mobile



Josephine le Brun   

Hotels aren’t just in the business of selling rooms, they’re in the business of selling experiences. Certainly today, when business travel has all but halted, hotel guests are more likely than not looking for a mini-vacation — a small break away from home. And fewer travelers translates to steeper competition; hotels simply can’t afford to lose prospects or pass up opportunities to build loyalty.  

So how can hotels offer lodgers the very best experience throughout the entire customer journey? I would argue that mobile is the key. 

Differentiating with a mobile experience

Before wowing guests with a 1-to-1 experience you need to earn their patronage, and mobile has become absolutely integral to that process. According to Statista, mobile devices excluding tablets actually account for 51.98% of web page views worldwide for the hospitality industry. 

We could already see this trend clearly developing back in 2017, when it was shown that 79% of travelers completed a booking after doing research on their smartphone, up from 70% in 2016. 

But perhaps more interesting than online booking percentages is what happens after a booking. One study of 2,000 Americans showed that Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day while on vacation, with some checking their phone more than 300 times a day. And another study shows that as much as 98% of travelers now carry their smartphone with them throughout their entire journey. 

The need to integrate mobile into the customer journey isn’t new. In fact, 92% of travel brands say that having a mobile strategy is critical or very important to the future success of their organization, so I probably don’t need to convince you that you should be doing something with mobile. 

What I’m more interested in is sharing with you some new ways to activate the mobile channel throughout your customer journey as a key differentiator. 

Using mobile to attract and engage with travelers

Particularly as mobile data has increased in recent years, hotels have many opportunities to deliver a more personalized customer experience. During the research phase, for instance, you could target your prospects with personalized content on their preferred platforms (social media, email, 3rd party websites, etc.) based on their first-party data, to help them find the most relevant destinations faster, based on what you already know about them. 

Once they’ve booked and arrived at your hotel, you can take it a step further. You already know so much about your customer, why not automate some helpful, hyper-relevant notifications? If it’s a family, they might like to know about activities for children; if your guest is on a business trip, they might be interested in your room service options. 

These are the basics, though. You can do so much more: 

  • Understand, anticipate and automate services based on your customer’s data: 
    • Offer to customize the room temperature to their preferences
    • Let them choose the best time for cleaning; electronically indicate preferences for towel and sheet replacements for longer stays 
    • Simplify special requests like ironing boards or toothbrushes 
  • Communicate live with your customers
    • When is breakfast? 
    • When is checkout?
    • Can I sign up for late checkout? I need a little more time…
    • I need to make a dinner reservation
  • Speak to your customer in their language 
  • Offer mobile check-in and check-out for people who want to skip lines
  • Send push notifications with special offers during your guest’s stay

And after their visit, you can stay in touch and motivate them to visit you again soon. The hospitality industry is a service industry at its core, and by embracing new technologies, you can level up that service to create seamless, personalized experiences. 

Business impact of mobile channel for hotels

Besides creating a better experience for your customers, offering them the autonomy they crave via the mobile channel will have a significant impact on your business ROI. You’re looking at:

  • Real-time customer self-service (24/7) 
  • Saving time and effort organizing room cleaning
  • Energy savings (avoid heating or cooling rooms unnecessarily based on guest preferences) 
  • Automated mobile check-in & check-out — saving time and energy at reception
  • Improved kitchen planning based on mobile reservations, and even orders placed in advance of dining hours

Of course, I’m not suggesting you replace human interaction completely. It’s important to be sensitive to guests' needs and to offer a human experience. Hotel staff will remain essential for tasks around quality control, atmosphere and complaints handling, for example. It’s never been about replacing people, but rather about supplementing the customer experience with digital channels where it makes sense. 

Indeed, in one survey by Deloitte, they found that respondents were 29% more likely to promote a hotel when the team was friendly and attentive. 25% were more likely to promote a hotel that proactively communicated with them, and 20% were more likely to promote when the team offered personalized experiences. Rather than cutting out human interaction, activating mobile is really about giving guests the flexibility and freedom to choose their preferred flavor of interaction from touchpoint to touchpoint. 

The hotel experience moving forward, during and post-COVID-19

Of course, at the time of writing this article, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re operating in strange times when offering stellar service while reducing human contact as much as possible has actually become a real necessity. From that perspective, I’d like to close with some thoughts that highlight the use of mobile and its practicality. 

There’s no doubt that this pandemic will have a long and lasting impact on the travel and hospitality industry, and it is my strong belief that this makes mobile investment for hotels not just a competitive necessity, absolutely vital for creating and maintaining 1-to-1 communication with your guests in a time when you must keep physical distance. Not to mention it will help you build ties with younger generations that are more sensitive to real-time communication tailored to their needs and expectations. 

In the wider context, unifying mobile interaction data throughout planning, onsite stay and after their stay will allow hotels to adopt a more data-driven approach to engaging with customer throughout the entire lifecycle in a personal way. From offering bespoke packages to personalized room configurations, this data-driven, customer-first mentality will give you a competitive edge and help you earn lasting loyalty.