By Nicki Dehler, VP of Product Management, StayNTouch, A Shiji Group Brand
One of the top priorities for hoteliers, according to a recent travel trends report, is a renewed focus on the “battle for the Phono-sapien.” This term was first coined by The Economist to describe the next stage of human evolution, to a mobile-first consumer who looks at their phone every 12 minutes and checks it within five minutes of waking up. In fact, according to a survey by Hotels.com, 81% of travelers say their top travel accessory is their smartphone, which is more than those who said they’d like to bring a camera or even a loved one.
Around the globe, people are glued to their iPhones and Androids, and frequently use them for communication, work, creativity, entertainment, and countless other activities. Travelers have a growing appetite to book, engage and make purchases over mobile, and continue to download hotel and travel apps. They expect hotels of all sizes, from small independent properties to global chains, to be on whichever platforms they frequent, and they crave a seamless and optimized experience across every one of those platforms. However, as our industry continues to shift in a more mobile-centric direction, it’s important to ask — what kind of mobile experience do guests really want? Moreover, if they genuinely have a growing appetite for mobile, will they pay more for access to mobile conveniences?
The Mobile Experience Guests Want
Recently, a Taxi2Airport conducted a study that surveyed over one thousand US consumers, to quantify their appetite for mobile within the travel experience, and pinpoint precisely what mobile offerings they value most. The study hoped to identify what processes (e.g. check-in/out, room services) travelers would prefer to conduct over a mobile phone rather than through conventional means — and the findings are rather interesting. Let’s take a look:
- 58% want to use a mobile device to book a hotel restaurant reservation as opposed to doing it in-person (YouGov);
- 51% of travelers expect to communicate via messenger of text with travel brands and 33% expect to via social media (Hospitality.net);
- 74% of guests appreciate hotels/resorts that customize messaging and offers (Zebra Technologies);
- 88% of guests want a mobile app which allows for a personalized experience (Oracle Research);
- 77% would like to request room service and other hotel facilities through the use of their mobile device (Oracle);
- 83% of guests want hotel service promotions (including restaurant, spa, etc.) on their mobile devices (SmithMicro);
- Hotels see an 18% increase in room service orders when made via mobile and guests typically spend 20% more when ordering via mobile (Business Insider);
- 52% of millennials want to manage loyalty on their mobile devices (Oracle).
With these findings in mind, hoteliers would be wise to consider the many ways in which they can leverage mobile connectivity with their guests. Guests want online booking and check-in, certainly, but it doesn’t end there. Instead, they’re interested in a more in-depth and interactive mobile journey. Would an in-app property map or digital ‘tour guide’ represent an appealing mobile add-on for today’s guests? Even further, hoteliers can better promote their F&B and ancillary programs through the use of mobile offers and communications by harnessing the power of push notifications within a dedicated app.
Hoteliers, ask yourself — is your property tapping into this demand with dedicated mobile technology? Or are you only scratching the surface with a legacy system that was designed long before the mobile era?
Mobilize First, Then Monetize
The Taxi2Airport study also explored which mobile options travellers were willing to pay more for, including:
- 74% of travelers would happily pay more for the option of flexible check-in/check-out times
- 58% don’t mind forking out a premium for paperless check-in (i.e., self-check-in kiosk)
- To achieve good-quality sleep, 57% of guests would pay extra for a better bed and/or pillow (i.e., memory foam pillows)
- 47% would pay an added charge to access a 24-hour digital concierge, so their needs can be attended to around the clock
This is great news for forward-thinking hoteliers: Not only do guests want to use their phones for check-in/out, but they’re willing to pay a premium for the added convenience, personalization and control.
Mobilize Staff to Meet Guest Needs
A cloud-based mobile PMS empowers hotel staff to better connect with their guests. When hoteliers no longer have to fixate on monotonous, administrative tasks, they can better focus on their role as customer service providers. In this sense, a “high tech” mobile PMS can actually enhance the traditional “high touch” model of guest service, providing enhanced convenience and guest satisfaction.
In fact, this past year YouGov polled 1,219 adults about their hotel stays. Results indicated that most hotel guests (62%) are not frustrated by a lack of fitness center, spa or a trendy bar as much as by the presence of unfriendly staff. More than a third of guests polled (38%) indicated that a source of frustration was the front desk taking too long to complete requests, while almost a third (31%) were irritated by delays in service. With findings like these, it is paramount to leverage mobile technology to alleviate common pain-points and empower staff to offer better, more engaged and responsive service.
The Bottom Line
With the right mobile-centric tools in place, finding success in the “Phono-Sapien” era is easier than you think. Utilizing a browser-based app or a native app built specifically with the mobile experience in mind, hoteliers can ensure the mobile experience is as seamless as the desktop experience. The user experience should be intuitive and easy to navigate for both staff and travelers, while the technology should be able to scale over time and offer a more personalized experience for each guest. As a hotelier, remember that in the world of hospitality — the guest experience is king. If the management platform you have in place doesn’t currently help your property to offer unparalleled experiences and convenience across all touch-points, it might be time for an upgrade.
In a hyper-competitive market, where guests drive industry expectations, it’s paramount to stay ahead of technological trends. Mobility can not only help hoteliers respond to guest demands, but also drive upsell revenue, streamline operations and personalize the guest experience.