A front-desk widget offers maximum functionality at a minimal cost
By Tal Nathanel
If your hotel is planning to add software to your 2018 budget that will enable guests to check in, view their folio, and check out with just a click via your website, mobile web or hotel app, you’re not alone. Being able to “wow” your guests with the latest mobile tools is key to attracting and retaining today’s travelers; it can also be very expensive. Before allocating thousands of dollars to develop an app or hire someone to do it for you, there are three little words you need to get familiar with first: Front Desk Widget.
Yes, “widget.” A widget is a component of an interface that enables a user to perform a function or access a service. It’s an add on to the hotel’s website, mobile web or app, and it’s designed to easily give guests a modernized, frictionless experience from check in to check out without sinking thousands of dollars into new software.
Before explaining the benefits of a widget and how it drives revenues and guest satisfaction, here are a few statistics to consider. According to eMarketer. com, digital booking is on the rise and expected to approach $190 billion by the end of 2017, with nearly 40% coming from mobile devices (mostly smartphones).
- This year, more than eight in 10 Internet users will use a mobile phone to access the web regularly. As smartphone adoption slows, so will mobile phone Internet usage—by 2021, penetration will reach 86.5%.
- Nearly 15% of Internet users, or 40.7 million individuals, will have used only a mobile device to go online in 2017, an increase of 11.2%. The number of mobile-only Internet users will continue to rise as more people abandon Internet usage via desktop/laptop.
- Over three-quarters of Internet users accessed the Internet via both a mobile device and PC in 2017, adding roughly 9 million new users throughout the forecast period. With more people using just their mobile device for online access, the multidevice Internet user share will start to shrink by 2020.
What this means for hotels is that as guests become more and more mobile-device dependent, they will expect to be able to use their smartphones and tablets to connect with you and the services offered by your hotel along each phase of the guest life cycle. If your hotel is not positioned to communicate direct-to-guests via mobile device, chances are high that you will lose out on securing a large part of the traveling public.
Here are a few other stats to think about. According to Hospitality Technology's 2017 Customer Engagement Technology Study, 73% of hoteliers are planning to add a customer experience management platform in 2018 because 55% of guests said they want to be able to check-in via their mobile devices (although only 30% of hotels offer that today) and 57% said they want to check out via mobile device (but only 24% of hotels are currently supporting that functionality).
Knowing this shift is coming, hoteliers need to be adapting their mobile apps and websites to be more convenient, functional, and service friendly to empower guests and offload work traditionally performed by hotel staff to save on overhead. But again, this can be costly. This is where the “widget” concept comes in.
A widget offers some of the same functionality of a full-blown reservations app, but at a lot less cost because the widget works with the hotel’s existing platforms. By simply adding one line of code to the hotel’s website, mobile web and app, the widget is activated and ready to drive new revenues and higher satisfaction rates.
Here are a few benefits of a mobile widget:
- A widget is built mobile first.
- It’s fully responsive to devices and platforms.
- It’s fully customizable
- Gives staff full control over content and design to match your hotel’s existing branding
- It’s frictionless for IT staff; the PMS interface and the UX/UI interface is not implemented or managed by the hotel.
Here’s how it works: Guests access the Front Desk Widget on the hotel’s website, mobile web or app by entering the confirmation number and last name (like they do with the airlines). Before they arrive, guests use the Widget to choose rooms, request upgrades, and receive room status alerts. Upon arrival, guests can bypass the front desk and go straight to their rooms. Onsite, guests use the Widget to view their folios (data is pulled in real time from the PMS). Upon departure, guests check out via the Widget, using their laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Unlike the months it takes to develop an app and the high cost of integration, a widget can be up-and-running in less than 30 days, and it’s available at a low monthly cost and no set-up fee. Hoteliers can sit back, relax, and watch the interactive guest experience unfold.