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Hilton rewards loyalty members by unlocking mobile room keys

Hilton Worldwide is rewarding its HHonors members by enabling them to be the first to receive access to its Digital Key feature, which allows guests to unlock their hotel rooms via their mobile device.

After previously announcing plans to pilot the functionality this year, Hilton is bringing mobile room keys to the forefront and providing travelers with the option of bypassing the check-in counter at a hotel and accessing their room via the Hilton HHonors application. As major hospitality brands including Starwood Hotels and Resorts perfect these features following early rollouts, it will become even more imperative for other marketers in the industry to catch up.

?As the latest enhancement to our HHonors mobile app, Digital Key helps make our frequent guests? check-in and arrival process more convenient than ever before,? said Joshua Sloser, vice president of digital product innovation at Hilton Worldwide, Addison, TX. ?This holistic app experience truly sets Hilton apart ? our most frequent guests can book a hotel stay, check-in, select a room and go straight to their room upon arrival, using their smartphone as their key.

?Ultimately, we are driving towards making the HHonors app a one-stop shop for our guests before, during and after their trip, making it easy to connect with us and creating the seamless journey they are looking for.?

Digital focus
An increasing amount of hotel brands are looking to the future with a significant focus on digital amenities to offer consumers further convenience and personalization. Digital Key will enable guests to skip past the hotel lobby and go straight to their rooms after a long day of traveling, a feature that will be especially useful during peak times when check-in counter lines are long.

By early next year, Hilton HHonors members who have the app downloaded on their smartphones will be able to use personal devices as their room key to enter the more than 170,000 participating rooms across 250 Hilton properties in the United States.

This encompasses brands such as Waldorf Astoria Hotels, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Canopy by Hilton and Conrad Hotels and Resorts.

Currently, Digital Key may be tested at Hilton Alexandria Old Town and Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport.

The day prior to their arrival, HHonors customers may choose their preferred room on their smartphone using digital check-in, where they will be asked if they would like to use a Digital Key for the duration of their stay.

If the user opts in, he or she will have the mobile key issued on the day of their arrival.

Members at the Diamond, Gold and Silver status levels may head directly to their rooms upon arrival on premises if they have already digitally checked-in via the app. When they approach their room, they are asked to press the virtual ?unlock? button found in the app to open the door.

Offering this functionality to HHonors members before the rest of the general public is a smart move to boost loyalty and reward frequent visitors. Additionally, Hilton is providing any HHonors guest who uses Digital Key this year with a bonus of 2,500 rewards points.

The feature will continue beta testing through the end of the year. Digital Key is currently only available for iOS users, with an Android rollout planned for late 2015.

Starwood Hotels has also launched the mobile technology at its Element, 10 Aloft and W Hotels, with plans for 140 more of its properties to receive mobile keys later this year (see story).

Positive consumer response
Hilton has seen positive feedback come from customers using its digital check-in and room selection option, with travelers using it more than five million times since its launch last July.

?In a recent Hilton survey, we found 93 percent of Americans believe technology has made travel easier than it was even a decade ago,? Mr. Sloser said. ?We know our customers are increasing turning to technology ? specifically mobile - to research and book travel, and also as their ?companion? while traveling.

?Knowing this, we view our HHonors app as a platform that takes the friction out of travel for our guests. We will continue to build out mobile features like Digital Key to give guests the convenience, access and decision-making power they?re looking for.?

Ninety-three percent of HHonors members who have used the service deemed it satisfactory or extremely satisfactory.

Members using the app may also select their room on their smartphones and request amenities such as extra pillows and snacks.

?HHonors members who used Digital Key had great feedback to share, noting that the feature was easy-to-use and more convenient than the traditional plastic key card,? Mr. Sloser said. ?Overall, our HHonors members have loved ?going digital.?

?In fact, the enhanced HHonors app has been downloaded more than two million times since the launch of digital check-in last summer.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York