How Are Mobile Payments Affecting The Hospitality Industry?
Despite the importance of your hotel’s location, price and facilities, succeeding in the hospitality industry is often a matter of giving customers a convenient experience that is superior to those offered by your competitors. Thanks to innovations like mobile payments, it’s now operationally feasible, and financially accessible for hotels of all sizes to incorporate the convenience-based technologies that establish such a competitive edge. Here’s a look at how mobile payments in particular are affecting the hospitality industry, and why.
Guests expect a hotel to be as connected as they are. According to a hotel technology poll conducted by SmartBrief and The Wall Street Journal, more than half of travelers surveyed bring least two different technology devices when they’re away from home. As such, hotel guests expect to be able to use their technology at your hotel, whether to conduct business, access entertainment, check in, eat and drink, or transact with staff. At the Hyatt Union Square in New York City, for example, guests are greeted with three check-in options, including a traditional desk, self-serve kiosk and an iPad. About 40 percent of guests that check in reportedly use the iPad. In SmartBrief’s survey, 91 percent of guests surveyed said they had either tried a similar mobile check-in option at a hotel, or would try it, if available.
The popularity of such self-serve tools is just one example of an emerging trend that SmartBrief predicts will continue in the hospitality industry. As guests become increasingly accustomed to communicating via mobile devices, they prefer interaction-free transactions in their hotel stay, whether to contact the valet, request service from housekeeping or pay on their mobile device.
Consumers use mobile to find, book and pay for reservations. According to the data aggregator Statistic Brain, 65 percent of same-day travel arrangements are made from a smartphone. Based on the results of Hospitality Technology magazine’s Customer Engagement Technology Study (CET), the industry at large has taken notice of such evolutions in guest preferences: By 2015, 85 percent of restaurants and 91 percent of the hotels surveyed said they will have a mobile website. Nearly 40 percent of the hotels surveyed said they plan to offer their guests a mobile payment option by 2015.
Loyalty programs and mobile payments go hand in hand. One of the key benefits mobile payments offer hotels is seamless integration with rewards programs that help to establish customer loyalty, and establish a point of differentiation. In 2013, Omni Hotels integrated its loyalty program with popular mobile wallet systems like Google Wallet and Apple Passbook. It incentivized customers to try the mobile wallets with targeted discounts like spa services and restaurant offers that were delivered to their mobile devices, based on past behavior. The program reportedly resulted in “very positive feedback” from its customers.
Mobile payments eliminate unnecessary delays. The travel experience is full of unexpected circumstances and delays, but hotels can ensure they help customers avoid such hassles with mobile payment options that eliminate the need to wait to check in, pay for additional services or check out. Guests at Starwood hotel now have the ability to pay for their room using the mobile wallet Apple Pay, and receive a “push” notification delivered to their mobile device when the room is ready for check-in. The brand is also testing the option for customers to use their mobile device to act as a contactless room key in select markets.
Print materials are becoming extinct. Printed materials, including hard-copy receipts, signage and menus present an operational cost hotels can eliminate with digital replacements. In fact, SmartBrief’s poll revealed that to stay current with their guests expectations, hotels must incorporate digital media, like interactive lobby maps, room service menus and contactless check-in and check-out processes to stay competitive with the “new normal” of their guests’ digital lives.
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Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm that assists hospitality businesses, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 15 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.
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