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Q&A: How Marriott?s real-time command center cultivates social engagement, geo-fencing

The rollout of Marriott?s real-time command center, M Live, has enabled the hotel chain to further optimize its presence on mobile and discover the importance of connecting with consumers during their travels, a strategy that has yielded 82 percent engagement with the brand?s social accounts.

Marriott has been consistently introducing new mobile-first initiatives to enhance guests? experiences at its resorts and target potential customers via social media, playing into millennials? tendencies to glean inspiration from friends? or brands? posts and book spur-of-the-moment trips. The hotel chain also developed an on-premises mobile chat platform, Mobile Requests, which enables guests to communicate with front-desk staff and request a variety of services and amenities via their smartphones.

Marriott?s attention has now turned to the popular mobile marketing strategy of geo-fencing, an initiative that prompted the brand to team up with location-based engagement platform HYP3R to more effectively target on-the-go social media users. In a Q&A with Mobile Marketer, Marriott International?s senior director of global creative and content marketing, Matthew Glick, discusses the brand?s M Live command center and real-time social targeting strategy.

What is the main goal of the collaboration with HYP3R?
Our approach to M Live and real-time marketing always starts with the guest, and how we can best engage and jump-start a two-way conversation. It?s at the core of what we do; we want to create brand affinity. 

We know that next generation travelers are digitally savvy, constantly connected, and are looking for a more personalized one-to-one relationship with our portfolio of brands that range from The Ritz-Carlton to Residence Inn. The power of M Live, our Global Marketing real-time command center, is that it gives us the opportunity to spark memorable moments across devices. We?re meeting our guests where they are engaging and interacting, and that?s on social.

Our partnership with HYP3R ? a real-time, location-based engagement tool start-up ? has enabled our team of digital content producers to take this one step further by finding moments and opportunities on social that may have previously slipped through the cracks. By creating deeper, more meaningful, and relevant content with our guests, we are building a relationship that ultimately drives loyalty to the Marriott portfolio and lifts perception of our brands.

HYP3R gives us a line of sight so that we can interact with guests? posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Through HYP3R, we have industry-first, exclusive geo-fencing capabilities across all 4,500+ of our properties. Geo-fencing allows us to better curate content in M Live by identifying experiences that are happening on-property, regardless of how they are tagged, so that we can create surprise-and-delight moments for guests?for example, a friendly ?welcome? from the hotel on social media after a guest?s first post from that location, or delivering a special dessert to a guest after she posted about a birthday celebration happening on-property.

We initially started with a pilot among a handful of properties in our M Live Caribbean and Latin America hub. It was a great success and we are now working with HYP3R at an enterprise level.

Did you geo-fence consumers who were already on-site at specific Marriott properties, or did you leverage geofencing to inspire individuals in the vicinity to stay at a local Marriott?
The geo-fencing technology is a two-way street. It enables our M Live team to selectively engage with guests on our properties. It also allows us to quickly surface and scale compelling imagery and powerful content. 

We found through the HYP3R partnership that our guests post on social as much as 10 times more often when they travel. That is significant. We also found that when we engage with them on social, those same guests go on to post twice as often, and 82 percent either follow us back, post again, or specifically mention our brand. This is exactly the kind of positive brand association that sticks with travelers and moves the needle on returning guests.

What future plans do you have with geo-fenced advertising strategies?
Looking ahead, we are already working hand-in-hand with our digital team to optimize geo-fencing data capture against specific advertising and in-market campaigns. From a CRM perspective, there are a number of growing capabilities M Live is utilizing for retargeting purposes.

What are some ways that Marriott uses M Live to engage with on-site guests?
M Live allows our brand social teams to leverage social media to enhance the guest experience as well as develop real-time creative and content. While we keep a calendar of notable holidays and events for pre-planned posts, our daily, real-time interactions from our brand handles are mostly determined by our guests, what they are saying, and pop culture stories/trending news. 

For example, M Live identified a lot of on-property social activity around a marriage proposal of epic proportions happening at a Marriott property in London. It turned out that a guy proposed to his girlfriend with a flash-mob at the hotel. We spotted it and quickly activated to develop content and creative to amplify the conversation. 

We now have three M Live hubs. They include the M Live out of our corporate headquarters in Bethesda, MD; M Live Caribbean and Latin America out of our Miami office; and M Live Asia Pacific out of our Hong Kong office. Having these multiple locations enables us to engage guests using localized and in-language content. 

For example, M Live CALA might follow social conversations around Carnival celebrations happening in Colombia, Aruba, and Brazil, spring break in Mexico, or the Caribbean Copa America games and identify opportunities to join the conversation in a way that is culturally relevant. 

I should add that our engagement goes beyond just what?s happening on-property.

For example, a traveler recently posted on Twitter asking for a hotel recommendation for a Nashville girls weekend. M Live took notice and shared relevant hotel recommendations, and also content about local nightlife to enhance the Nashville experience beyond the hotel stay. Just 13 minutes later, that same traveler shared on Twitter that she had booked a stay with a property within the Marriott portfolio. 

Now just imagine that same interaction a thousand-fold with guests around the world. We?re tapping into these social conversations every day, around the clock. We?re identifying ways to organically participate in these conversations so we can deliver a more personalized experience to our guests wherever they are and at any time during their travel journey.

Has M Live been particularly successful with millennials, or do you see guests of all ages interacting with it equally?
We have seen engagement from all types of guests, on a global scale. Our focus is not on a specific demographic, but rather on creating relevant, organic, personalized interactions with our guests by reaching them where they are already active and engaged. Clearly, for next-gen travelers, this increasingly means social media, and especially mobile. 

The modern, digitally-connected traveler is looking for a seamless experience across all touch points, and at all points in their travel journey.

How do you plan to leverage M Live in the next year or so?
We will continue to expand globally, opening additional M live command centers this summer in Europe and the Middle East and Africa in Q1 of 2017. As a global company, the ability to engage in-language, in-region, and in culturally significant ways is critical for us and for our guests. 

Are there any other mobile-facing initiatives you?d like to share at this time?
Our approach to mobile is centered on ensuring our guests have a seamless experience across every touchpoint, whether that?s via smartphone, desktop computer, or on-property. It?s through mobile technology that we are extending our culture of exceptional service to the digital world. We are amplifying content, moments, and experiences rather than simply replacing the human element.

A recent example of this is Mobile Requests, which the digital team launched last year as part of the Marriott mobile app. With Mobile Requests, guests can communicate immediately with on-property associates right from their smartphones. It doesn?t matter where they are: if it?s before, during, or after their stay. 

With mobile, we?re making the travel experience more personalized and seamless on a 24/7 global scale.