Two years ago we wrote about mobile technology independent lodging operators should be seriously considering at that time and since then, mobile has become even more ingrained in the hospitality industry. So we thought it was about time to revisit and expand upon our original post as mobile technology continues to influence the way consumers plan, book and experience travel and, in turn, evolve the way travel experiences are marketed and delivered.
Here are our mobile musts for independent hoteliers in the year ahead.
Mobile-Friendly Website and Bookings
We feel a bit like a broken record including this one on the list as it really goes without saying, but it’s surprising how many properties are still without a mobile-friendly website and booking engine.
Sixty percent of all travel-related searches begin from mobile devices, but 76 percent of consumers won’t even bother using a website from their phone if it isn’t mobile-friendly. And close to half of travelers who book travel online will do so using a mobile device. It simply hurts to think about how much business a property without a mobile-friendly website could be losing.
With cloud hospitality software so readily accessible to independent properties of all types these days, there really is no excuse not to mobilize your property management system (PMS). Freeing hotel staff from the front desk and office, a mobile-optimized PMS offers very practical advantages, allowing authorized personnel to access guest, reservation and reporting data on the go for greatly improved efficiency, guest service and competitiveness.
Well and truly in the mobile era, we humans consistently turn to our mobile devices as the preferred method of communication and accessing information. When it comes to building customer relationships, it’s always been vital for businesses to be accessible to customers through the platforms their customers use and prefer, and today that means mobile.
Email – With 66 percent of all email in the US now opened on mobile devices it’s more important than ever to make sure your guest email communications, from reservation confirmations to marketing campaigns, are mobile optimized.
Social Media – There are now 1.86 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide, of which 1.74 billion access Facebook monthly on mobile. Clearly, to engage a significant chunk of your (mobile) audience, social media is the place to be.
If your social media strategy needs some guidance, read our recent post, 7 Smart Social Media Practices for Hotels in 2017.
Mobile Messaging – Enthusiasm for texting-based chat with hotels is growing among consumers, with more than 90 percent of one study’s respondents from the US and UK saying it would be either “very” or “somewhat” useful. Whether in the form of SMS text messaging, messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or within hotel apps themselves, mobile messaging makes a lot of sense for independent hotels as a customer service platform.
Today’s guests don’t go anywhere without their mobile devices. While traveling, they expect to be able to browse the Internet, access their favourite apps and stream their favorite shows from their smartphone or tablet, just like they do at home.
To meet the modern guest’s expectations, independent properties must ensure that on-property and in-room technology is up to scratch. Numerous surveys have shown that Wi-Fi is the most important hotel amenity to guests, with many business travelers considering free Wi-Fi a deciding factor when choosing where to stay. Make sure your bandwidth is robust enough to handle the needs of your guests. Nothing is more frustrating than a slow or unreliable connection!
Other mobile-friendly amenities include plenty of wall sockets, smart TVs or casting devices, and charging stations.
Mobile technology in hospitality is unlocking a new level of service personalization. Hotel apps, mobile communications (email, social media and messaging) and mobile booking engines are providing new avenues through which to gather rich guest data such as guest preferences, requests, accepted offers and on-site purchases that can be used to personalize the guest experience and build loyalty.
Don’t let this valuable opportunity to get to know your guests slip through the cracks. Make sure relevant guest data coming through mobile channels is recorded in guest profiles in your PMS or CRM (either manually or, better yet, through direct integration) for personalizing service and future offers.
While big brands are beginning to implement cutting edge technology like mobile keys, chatbots, and mobile-controlled room lighting and temperature, travelers don’t yet expect that level of technology from independent properties from which a more human connection is still expected and appreciated. However, it is essential for independent hotels to deliver the level of technology and amenities that their guests expect and can gain real value from. Going forward, mobile will continue to play an increasingly important role in travel. With the above mobile musts in place for 2017, your property is firmly on the right track.