Smartphones dominate our attention throughout the day. They have come to change the very nature of how we interact with the world around us, including the way we do business.
In terms of travel and hospitality, mobile phones have drastically changed their operation, which is also to the benefit of the user. And with increasing expectations for mobile interactivity, consumers have become more demanding about the types of services at hand.
Here are some statistics to help you understand the extent to which mobile phones have penetrated the industry:
TripAdvisor is the travel industry's most popular mobile app, with more than 230 million downloads and 150 million monthly active users.
Mobile travel bookings grew 1700% between 2011 and 2015, moving from 1 to 18 percent of online revenue.
40% of travel sales came from mobile devices in 2017, which is expected to reach 50 percent by 2021.
88 percent of leisure travelers will switch to another app or website if yours doesn't meet their needs
More than 50 percent of travelers don't have a specific destination when planning a trip, and 60% will look for their next trip from a mobile device
1 to 3 board vouchers will be delivered by mobile by 2019.
66% of users prefer restaurants with a pay scheme, and 78% will use a mobile app if they are offered discounts.
The bottom line is that mobile is here to stay. In fact, it will only take on greater importance in the daily life of the user, so fine-tuning your hospitality venture to make most mobile devices is imperative.
The hospitality industry is investing heavily in online marketing (about $ 6 billion in 2016 to give you an idea) and is using it to engage customers and drive conversions. However, online engagement using paid advertising only quickly loses its appeal.
More and more companies are rethinking their strategy and trying to incorporate the mobile experience at every stage of the journey – from research to sharing travel reviews and hotel stays.
The role of mobile phones in the exploration phase
Previously, your travel studies did not necessarily involve surfing the web. You will call a travel agent after a short online search and trust him to give you a discount on the whole package.
Travelers nowadays pride themselves on their "research skills" and their ability to curate a great experience while combining the best deals for themselves. And much of their research is being transmitted to social networking sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and consumer viewing platforms like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.
This means you need to encourage your existing customers to share their journey online. Registrations, reviews, photo sharing, the use of personalized hashtags, and blogging are popular strategies for inviting comments.
But don't leave all this to the guests. Hotels also need to actively participate in the creation and distribution of high quality content. Focus on value-oriented things that make your potential customers think "These guys seem to know what they're talking about when it comes to traveling, so I'll check them out!"And be sure to optimize your reading content for smartphones, as the search for computers is so old-fashioned. Also partner with experts, specialists and influencers to enrich your content and give it credibility.
Now that you are creating valuable content, make sure it is searchable on Google. Have a solid SEO strategy so that you perform in the best search results. In addition, grab a Google business listing for your hotel and maintain NAP (name, address and phone number) consistency across platforms like Yelp, Yahoo, Foursquare and TripAdvisor.
Virtual concierge is even better. Guests have access to this service on their mobile phone, allowing them to see the amenities of your hotel, check out local attractions, or even view upgrades. You must use the power of video to your advantage to give them online tours as well.
From booking to arrival
There is always a difference in time between the time when guests make their reservation and the time they arrive at your hotel. This period is rarely used by business, but with some thought you can connect with your guest and offer value-added services.
Communicate with your guests on their cell phones, but in a way that is not considered spam. Give them helpful information about the area, get them acquainted with sightseeing opportunities and keep them informed about the happenings around the hotel. And if they like something, let them reserve their seats using their smartphones.
You can even remove the sign-up line and other procedures using the mobile app. Guests can choose their rooms, choose extras and check out the hassle-free accommodation to give them more control over their stay. Not only will this release your staff for other aspects of the business, but you will also earn brownie points for being proactive.
Hotel lobby and stay
People would ignore your lobby because there was nothing to attract their interest except for settled seating and ominous silence. You can change this and use this space to really interact with your guests using mobile phones.
SoftBank's humanoid Pepper robot is one of those innovations that really caught my eye. This robot is a great way to guide customers to use the range of mobile services you may have on-the-go while paving the way for affiliate services and programs.
Pepper can be programmed to talk to customers, answer questions and give directions – its functionality is like Amazon's Alexa. With Pepper, however, there is a customer robot that can dance, view, play music, light up, blush, and even make great selfies with passersby.
Pepper can even capture email addresses and phone numbers and can be programmed to send messages to customers with links to your mobile app, loyalty programs, and more before and after they post their stay at the hotel. With Pepper, you can capture the data you need to create a truly personalized experience for your guests, which is on a reason for most hotels that now view mobile favorably.
Finally, your application
You may have wondered when we would get to this, since we covered almost everything else. We won't try to convince you why you need an app, but know that having a mobile site is not enough. The applications themselves increase your customer engagement to the next level, and given the competition in the industry, you should make the most of your mobile advantage.
The ideal application should have the following characteristics:
Ergonomic design, intuitive user interface
Careful selection of key features
Platform compatibility (iOS, Android, etc.)
Convenient booking options
News – Local and industrial related
Image Gallery / Virtual Tour
Integration of loyalty program
Flight info, weather updates, dynamics
Social sharing prompt
As technology becomes more personalized and mobile, your commitment to hospitality should not fall behind. Although these suggestions are extensive, consider implementing several (if not all) of them to see what kind of incentive you receive in your engagement – personal experience is the best teacher.
All said and done, mobile engagement really allows you to communicate with your guests in a personalized and proactive way, which works wonders for your brand image. In addition, it also allows you to rise above the competitive pool, which to me sounds like a profitable win!