There is a changing perception among hoteliers. The industry has realized that consumers are placing equal value on whether they can grab a latte to go in the lobby vs. whether the hotel offers the ability to order room service via an iPad (rather than the old-fashioned way of calling room service on the phone). The hotel guest experience has changed. Vacations are no longer a time to disconnect from technology. For many consumers, vacations are a time when these digital connections run the way we travel and enhance the experience. Whether for check-in, dining, and even opening up a suite door— there is now an app for that.
Developing the Digital Guest Experience
Forward-thinking hoteliers must now consider the “digital guest experience” as part of their customer engagement and capital investment strategies. Apps such as keyless entry and digital check-in are only the beginning. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what wearable technology and augmented reality apps will allow travelers to do. The digital guest experience is already moving towards the mainstream as an integral part of the hospitality industry. Early adopting hoteliers who are beginning to leverage the full spectrum of available assets, including reviews, social media, mobile devices and wearables are seeing improvements in customer satisfaction and retention, and increased revenue.
"Early adopters of IoT technology in the travel and hospitality market will be able to truly provide “all the comforts of home"
There are dozens of solutions available that expedite a hospitality provider’s ability to address each of the new opportunities. Hoteliers are considering a vastly expanded world of apps, devices and backend systems that are the building blocks, that when integrated, create this digital guest experience while introducing new complexities into an already complex hospitality software landscape. Along this path, CIOs and product management leaders find themselves walking a fine line balancing:
• Desired functionality that guests will find engaging and actually use. This is likely to vary widely given the different types of guests that hotels cater to and what services the hotel offers. Frequently, these needs might be different based on whether the guest is traveling for leisure or business.
• Flexibility of the platform to “play nicely” with existing software platforms already deployed in hotels– hospitality management systems (housekeeping, maintenance & engineering, etc.), food & beverage systems, invoicing/accounting systems, TV/video-on-demand/internet systems, etc.
• Maturity and relevant experience of providers of “all-in-one” digital guest experience platforms (consumer-facing app, enabling middleware & customization/integration services).
• Mission critical scalability and security when deploying capabilities like allowing guests to use their smartphone to unlock their doors.
• ROI–finding the right combination of services for a given property that will help offset the costs of these infrastructure investments.
While it can be difficult to quantify the increased revenue because of various apps and technologies, experienced vendors (“all-in-one” vendors) should be able to craft an ROI analysis based on the successes of their previous installations and what they recommend as an ideal solution based on a needs analysis of the hotel.
The IoT Will Disrupt Travel
The Internet of Things is taking the world by storm, and the interconnectedness of devices, systems, services and products will dramatically alter the travel and hospitality space.
Gartner predicts that there will be 26 billion IoT connected devices by 2020. The adoption of IoT technologies is going to see dozens of devices that are put into each hotel room enabled with IoT capabilities. Key hotel mechanical systems like air conditioning, elevators, heaters, thermostats, water chillers, sprinkler systems and more will eventually offer IoT enabled models.
As customers become more accustomed to their “connected home,” powered by companies like Apple, Samsung and Nest, their expectations are likely to carry over to the places they stay. The good news is that there will be endless opportunities for hoteliers to delight customers and endless possibilities of what well-equipped companies will be able to do with all the "big data" generated from various IoT devices. Over time, hoteliers will be able to provide their customers with individualized experiences, from automatically setting the lights to a guest’s desired brightness (before they even enter the room) through adjusting the firmness of a mattress to assure guests a good night’s sleep. For those hoteliers who craft and execute a well-conceived strategy, guest satisfaction will rise and the all-important customer loyalty KPI’s will be strengthened. Over the long term, the benefits derived from leveraging IoT technology in hotels will provide a robust ROI via both increased revenue and decreased costs.
Sooner rather than later, early adopters of IoT technology in the travel and hospitality market will be able to truly provide “all the comforts of home”.
Whether travel and hospitality providers are ready for it or not, mobile apps, wearable technology and the IoT will shape the future of guest experience. The most important steps hoteliers can take today is exploring what’s out there, and conversing with vendors to paint a picture of what is possible.