Hotel guests are no longer content with a mobile app experience that only offers basic research and room booking – they are increasingly interacting with their phones throughout the travel process and are now seeking end-to-end services. Over four in 10 luxury hotel guests use their phones to access travel-related information during a trip, and digitally savvy hotel brands are empowering them with a suite of tools for seamless mobile check-in, in-destination booking services, and customer service during travel. Brands that have delayed these investments must quickly get up to speed to stay relevant in today’s mobile-first world.
While user-friendly mobile sites and/or brand apps have become more common among luxury hotel brands over the past year,features and functionality still lag that of other consumer-facing industries. According to L2’s2015 Digital IQ Index: Luxury Hotels report, 84 percent of Index brands have a mobile-optimized site (up from 59 percent last year), and 45 percent offer a brand app (up from 33 percent). Yet only a minority allow mobile check-in (12 percent of Index apps and seven percent of Index mobile sites) or enable guests to order room service and other amenities (15 percent of apps and five percent of mobile sites). Brands with optimized sites have made some strides — 32 percent now embed a geolocal map, up from just seven percent in 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage of brands enabling in-destination activity reservations jumped 20 points to 44 percent.
Marriott International – No. 1 in L2’s 2015 Luxury Hotel Index – recently recorded its one millionth mobile check-in. Marriott launched the service at select hotels nearly two years ago and has since rolled it out to its entire portfolio. Not to be outdone, fellow Genius brand (and tied for No.1 in the L2 Index) Hilton offers mobile check-in/check-out with the Hilton HHonors loyalty program app. A first for the industry, the app also allows HHonors members to select their room via a digital floor plan, as well as use the app to purchase an upgrade or request various amenities to be delivered to their room before arrival.
Keyless room entry through mobile is another innovative feature brands can offer to improve the guest experience. Last November, W Hotels became the first hotel brand to offer keyless entry with SPG Keyless through the SPG App. The app displays the guest’s room number and allows the guest to unlock the room by simply holding up the phone to a scanner on the door. Hilton has committed to equipping a majority of its rooms with keyless entry by the end of 2016.
The Apple Watch may be the next battleground for hotel brands seeking to distinguish themselves through digital excellence. Starwood’s Apple Watch app features keyless entry, a list of local transportation options upon arrival at the airport, and even allows the guest to pre-order a drink at the hotel bar.
As peer-to-peer services like Airbnb seek to disrupt the traditional hotel landscape, it becomes imperative for hotels to leverage mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, wearables) as the connective tissue throughout the user’s travel experience. Offering a full-service mobile experience – from booking travel to mobile check-in, check-out and beyond – can serve to differentiate hotel brands as consumer expectations of travel services continue to rise.