Mobile's Momentum in 2013 will Magnify its Growing Reach for Hotels

Mobile is Booked for a Lengthy Stay

By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | January 27, 2013

It seems that every year since the launch of the first iPhone back in 2007 marketers, technologists, futurists and erstwhile prognosticators have been calling the year that follows, "The Year of Mobile," or variations thereof. While the mantra may have worn thin, the meaning behind those words is no less relevant as we head into 2013.

Thanks to technology's breakneck advances, every year from here on out – at least until we bump up against the limits of Moore's Law - could conceivably be called "The Year of Mobile." With three-quarters of the world's population now within access of a mobile phone and US smartphone and tablet adoption rates at 56% and 31% respectively, it's clear mobile devices' on-the-go critical mass has been reached. Already 36 million Americans research travel plans via mobile devices and nearly 16 million actually book their trips on handheld devices. Consumers are also using the same technology to search for merchandise, compare prices and purchase electronics, apparel and even groceries either remotely or in-store. And with each year that passes, advances in speed, processing power, web access, video imaging and social media will bring about additional user behavior changes that weren't possible – or even imaginable – before.

Hotels and the hospitality industry are no different from the travel and retail examples above. While they may have been criticized for joining the mobile party a bit late thanks to internal inertia, recession-minded belt tightening and of course, fierce brand pride that prevented some measure of collaboration and sharing of mobile app services, the great mobile hotel catch-up is well under way. Up to 86% of guests already expect free Wi-Fi and increasing numbers of them demand mobile checkout and mobile room service/in-room dining and the ability to enjoy this digital functionality off-site as well as on. Thus, many of the trends that emerged throughout 2011 and 2012 will continue and expand in 2013.

To that end, here are some of my thoughts, predictions, and prognostications - no crystal ball required!

Checked In to NFC, the Mobile Wallet Buzz and the Wi-Fi Lobby

Starting to think NFC stands for Not For Certain? Think again. Google Wallet may continue to struggle, but that doesn't mean others aren't quickly learning from Google's missteps. Juniper Research already predicts that increased payments through retailing will see NFC revenue grow to $180 billion by 2017 and that 1 in 4 mobile users in the US and Western Europe will use the technology. If NFC is coming to retail, you can be sure its next stop will be the hotel.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.