How to adopt a mobile-first hospitality experience

Guests today are looking for convenience, a personalized experience and elevated service. Through a mobile-first approach, hoteliers can use technology to address all of these expectations while optimizing staff operations. A mobile-first approach can save a hotel money, time and labor.

Delivering a fully mobile guest experience requires a complex and interconnected ecosystem of solutions working together. For example, mobile check-in requires a series of integrated solutions to work properly: a cloud property-management system with a mobile check-in option, a digital-payment gateway, a keyless entry system and a mobile guest-messaging platform. That is just for a single touchpoint—hotels will need to think about all points.

For example, hotels need to provide a mobile-optimized booking engine, targeted mobile offers for room upgrades and amenities, a mobile point-of-sale system for in-stay dining, a unified commerce payment system that can seamlessly accept digital wallets and a mobile reputation management system for post-stay surveys and reviews, said Stayntouch Chief Product Officer Dan Hogan.

As a hotelier, before you move forward with a mobile-first experience, you need to be aware of the various digital guest experiences features available as well as the type of mobile experience you want to provide guests.

“Three key components to keep in mind [are] integration capabilities, API possibilities and the partner you select,” said Intelity CEO Robert Stevenson.

When transitioning to a mobile-first hospitality experience, it is important that hoteliers ensure the user experience is seamless for both guest and staff. As a result, hotels should first consider how processes should be optimized, rather than simply bringing their existing process directly into a mobile environment, said Tanya Pratt, VP of Opera cloud strategy at Oracle Hospitality.

“I recommend hotels start their optimization and focusing on current pain points and actions that create the most friction and work to remove them one by one in a test environment before going live,” she said. “A mobile experience will look different that one optimized for desktop and hotels should consider and prioritize the different expectations and needs of mobile users, then design and build a new product accordingly.” 

The challenges with shifting to mobile environment

A mobile-first environment is only as good as the systems that support it. While some legacy property-management systems can integrate with mobile solutions, newer, more flexible solutions are able to optimize mobile solutions and offer a higher level of personalization to the guest.

“Upgrading legacy systems can be an investment, but today there are several options built specifically for hotels that have the ability to maximize operational efficiency, automate manual tasks to improve the job experience and help retain staff, and shorten speed of service to optimize the staff on hand, capture more orders, and keep guests spending their money on property,” said Pitsikalis.

Adoption of a mobile ecosystem is often a large challenge from both the guest side and the staff side. “Often times staff hesitation comes from the ‘big brother’ mentality,” Quore founder and CEO Scott Schaedle said. “Hoteliers need to help change that mental model—using the phone and apps actually improves efficiency and make the user’s day better.”

James Bishop, VP of ecosystem and strategic partnerships at SiteMinder, believes other big challenges involved with shifting to a mobile-first hospitality experience are budget constraints and operational readiness. “It’s a significant investment to go fully mobile and it requires a complete shift in the way hoteliers and their entire teamwork, as well as how they design every touchpoint in the guest experience,” Bishop said. “The additional challenge is understanding who their guests are. Hoteliers need technology that provides insights into how their guests book. What proportion of those guests is booking through direct and through mobile? Hoteliers need to understand their guests’ behavior and intentions.”

It’s also important to have your brand voice come through technology, warns Anne Frye, president, the Americas at InnSpire. “Having a mobile experience that looks and feels like your brand enhances your guests’ stay and allows hoteliers to tell the story of the property and what guests can expect while staying there,” Frye said.

From a logistical standpoint, hoteliers need to have a backup plan for guests who may need assistance with technology.