Mobile Devices and Their True Impact on the Hotel Industry
by Binu Mathew, CEO of IDS Next
Bangalore, October 24, 2019: The next time you leave your home, take a look around you. As you scan your surroundings, I want you to look for a common theme; what do most passerby’s have in common?
Today, we exist within a revolution. The mobile revolution, to be precise. That common theme I just asked you about? It is almost definitively, the use of mobile technology. Wherever we go, and whoever we are with, the use of a mobile device is a near-unrivaled commonality. This year, mobile phone user penetration worldwide is expected to reach 63.4 percent. In January of this year, there were 3.986 billion unique active mobile internet users, and consumers reportedly spend more than 5 hours a day on their smartphones.
Unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry finds itself within the crux of this mobile revolution — a movement that shows no sign of slowing down.
Going Mobile While Abroad
Think back to the last time you took a trip. Would you have felt comfortable going on that trip without your smartphone in hand? Did you check-in via your mobile device? Did you use your phone to document your travels, and frequently upload highlights to social media or to send to friends and loved ones? If you found yourself frequently plugging back into your smartphone or, at the very least, relying on the convenience of that technology to some degree, you aren’t alone. A recent study of 2,000 Americans found that Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day while on vacation, with some checking their phone more than 300 times each day.
However, beyond the continued, habitual use of mobile devices, while traveling for business or leisure, we arrive at the ultimate question: what is the real impact of mobile technology on the hotel industry? What key take-aways do hoteliers need to know to optimize their offering for a newly mobile-centric landscape?
Harness the Power of Mobile
Each year, global tourism becomes more innovative, utilizing the power of smartphones and tablets to provide current and prospective travelers with enhanced flexibility, accessibility, and convenience across every stage of travel. Accessing information is easier than ever before, as the internet and social media platforms join forces to create aesthetically-driven databases of hotel and destination information, guest reviews, local experiences, and so much more. With this in mind, it’s essential to recognize that smartphones play an integral role in every stage of the guest journey. From pre-planning to planning and booking, to on-property and post-stay, guests will look to their smartphones for enhanced convenience, 24/7 service, and uninterrupted connectivity. In fact, according to a study by TripAdvisor, nearly 42% of global travelers use their smartphones to plan their trips.
What does this mean for hoteliers, you might wonder? Well, simply stated, it’s time the industry at large prioritizes the creation of experiences that are specifically designed for mobile channels, across the entirety of the guest experience. It’s not enough to have a website that is great on a desktop display, but mediocre on a guests’ mobile device. Gone are the days of subpar mobile solutions. Rather, those hotels which forge the path to continued mobile-centric innovation, are sure to win the praise and loyalty of guests for years to come. To this effect, studies show that hotels that incorporate mobile apps and functionality into a hotel stay have higher guest satisfaction, and are more likely to increase their number of direct bookings when they focus on mobile.
What Mobile-Centric Service Means
By 2020, the number of smartphone users is projected to reach 2.87 billion. In November 2018, Statisa measured that mobile devices accounted for 48.2% of website traffic worldwide (excluding tablets). Even further, mobile devices accounted for 90% of digital minutes. So, if mobile is the name of the game, so to speak, what does it mean to be mobile-friendly? How can hotels ensure they are offering an exceptional mobile guest journey?
It’s important to understand that the wide-spread push for mobile technology is mostly routed in the desire for convenience. The use of a mobile device or self-service technology grants the consumer or, in this case, the guest, enhanced autonomy over their experience. Once manual proceedings and cumbersome processes can be seamlessly conceptualized into an app or kiosk to accelerate those touch-points, which are time-sensitive in nature.
While every hotel may find a different way to deliver a mobile experience to guests (via apps, kiosks, mobile concierge, etc.), there should be one central theme in mind: mobile technology is not to be treated as a replacement to traditional service. Instead, it provides the opportunity to redefine and enhance guest service by combining traditional service parameters with digital touch-points to create a more personalized, seamless, and accessible experience for guests. Mobile represents an integral tool to be leveraged by staff, in equal measure with the more traditional, human touch of high-touch service.
Mobile centric means thinking mobile, not just for the guest, for the staff too. That ensures multiple touchpoints and enhanced efficiency. A completely mobile-first housekeeping solution will change the effectiveness of guest service.
Going Beyond Convenience
The use of mobile technology improves guest service, allows travelers to skip front desk lines, choose the communication channel of their choice, and connect with the hotel continuously through a digital forum. However, beyond the continued provision of enhanced convenience, it’s essential to recognize that the utilization of mobile provides hoteliers with a wealth of data that, when applied intelligently, can transform the guest experience.
With every digital interaction, hoteliers can potentially learn more about each guest, crafting a more comprehensive guest ‘profile’ than ever before. Understanding the ‘why’ that inspires certain travel behaviors ranging from general preferences to type of travel, purchase history and more, allows hoteliers to curate more personalized and relevant offers. Informed offers not only represents a revenue opportunity, but positively impacts the guest experience and, in many cases, inspires long-term loyalty. Fortunately, most mobile-first PMS and CRM platforms are built with this functionality in mind, ensuring the intelligent and intuitive application of data for a more effective, memorable guest experience.
It’s not just our future that’s ‘going mobile,’ it’s our present reality. Across industries, around the world, businesses are rapidly adapting to the emergence of new consumer expectations, which are influenced by the mobile evolution. Guests today demand a mobile experience that follows them throughout their entire journey, effectively transforming every touch-point along the way with enhanced convenience, service, and personalization. So the question becomes, do you have the technology in place to capitalize on the trend? Or are you at risk of being left behind?