Use Technology to Boost Direct Bookings

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Digital marketing has been around long enough now to mean that all businesses should have a strategy in place. If you don’t, then we strongly suggest that you create one right away. Your digital marketing strategy should be a key component in your plan to grow direct bookings at your hotel.

Norm Johnston, global chief strategy and digital officer for Mindshare, says that smart technology – especially the wearable kind – is on the rise. The “third wave” of digital marketing, as he calls it, is about to become just as important as more traditional methods.

In case you’re wondering, the first wave hit us with the introduction of the desktop computer, while the second wave swept in mobile. The third wave is now upon us in the form of smart, wearable technology. We’re seeing more wearables enter the market now, with consumers lapping up everything from Apple watches and Google glass to Fitbit trackers and bracelets that monitor your pulse.

There’s been a surge in sales for these types of products recently, as increasing innovations are lowering production costs. Different industries are embracing smart technology in different ways and the hotel industry is no exception. We’ve all been using key cards for some time, but Hilton have now taken this a step further. Through iOS and Android apps, users can now unlock their rooms using their mobile device. The use of ‘mobile check-in’ is being rolled out by Hilton Hotels throughout the world to allow the user to skip the queues at reception, making the process as streamlined as possible.

Another great use of technology for hotels is the use of beacons. Through bluetooth, low-energy beacons can be used to send push notifications to guests’ phones as they move through certain areas of the hotel. For example, as they pass the restaurant, a push notification can be sent with the opening times and links to the menus. This type of smart technology is a brilliant way to tell guests what you have on offer in real time, which could even be exactly when they might be trying to decide whether to venture out into the unknown or to stay in and dine at the hotel.

Innovation is key when it comes to integrating technology with your own marketing strategies. The Weston Hotel Group has done just this, by jumping on an increasing demand for wellness that’s sweeping the nation. The hotel chain has partnered with FitStar by Fitbit to bring a series of adaptive, video-based exercise experiences to their hotels. These include personalised fitness sessions designed for small spaces, scenic routes in the local area, and a holistic health and fitness regime. This takes users’ abilities and goals into account, along with their personal exercise preferences.

A company that has integrated smart, wearable technology with mobile in the most prominent way is Disney. It has created the Magic Band, a chipped bracelet that combines with a mobile app to let users manage everything using just two devices. The rubber, waterproof band allows guests to securely access their hotel room, enter the theme and water parks and check in on rides using the FastPass routes. In addition, they will get alerts when lines are shortest, be able to access their photos from the rides and pay for food and merchandise. Disney also uses the Magic Band to gather customer data by offering guests personalised surprises throughout their visit. Guests set up a MyMagic+ profile, and can decide how much personal information to add. In this way, the company are creating a synchronous experience between the offline and online experience.

Now, obviously your hotel doesn’t have quite so many different experiences as a theme park – but there are still many ways that you can engage and enhance your guests’ experiences, without breaking the budget. The key is to let guests participate in some way. You could give them the option to upload their own photos, for example. If these are then displayed on your website, not only will the photographer feel a sense of achievement, but other potential guests will know that what they’re seeing is a real view of your hotel, not just something that’s been enhanced by a professional.

You can also streamline requests from guests using a mobile app. Avaya’s hospitality app, GuestAssist, is frequently used by major chains. It lets a guest order room service, request a wake-up call, gain access to often-requested items like toothbrushes and towels and even send an instant message to hotel staff. There are a whole host of ways that you can use smart technology to enhance your hotel experience for guests. The key is to be innovative but not to make it too complex. If it’s difficult to use or often has technological issues then it won’t be successful. Think about an area that you want to enhance and how you can do it – then go from there. See what your competitors are doing too for extra ideas, because if it works for them then it will likely work for you too.