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Why concierge apps are way of the future in hospitality

Hotel concierge applications are becoming a must-have for major hospitality brands seeking to tap into guests? smartphones to anticipate their needs before arrival on premises. 

Hospitality marketers? recent embracing of mobile technology has prompted many hotel brands to employ their own or third-party concierge solutions to drive room service ordering and easy communication with staff in a bid to personalize guest stays even more. Experts also suggest that teaming up with a third-party vendor is a smarter solution than marketers attempting to create their own branded experience, although SMS can still play a critical role.

?It?s no surprise that hotels are looking to increase communication with the guests, as that translates directly into more revenue per room, or repeat bookings,? said Scott Michaels, executive vice president at Atimi, Vancouver, Canada. ?I think we all can tell that hotels struggle with this in general, especially when it comes to technology.

?A great example is the room phone, which used to be a profit center for the hotel,? he said. ?Now, it?s a loss as everyone uses their own mobile phones than ever pick up the one in the room.

?So, hotels are adopting more technology in an effort to increase the revenue per room. That comes in the form of this SMS campaign, or in the form of tablets that are embedded into the room. Those do more than just turn the lights on/off or replace the old alarm clock, they also try to prompt guests with room service, or local business partner restaurant and nearby entertainment deals.?

Commerce capabilities
A plethora of capabilities to drive commerce within hotels exists in mobile concierge platforms, which can be built into the brand?s application.

Gansevoort Hotel Group and Standard Hotels are among the brands cottoning on to the trend by integrating with service-on-demand application Alice to bring guests convenient features, including poolside ordering and express checkout (see story).

Customers will no doubt have their moods elevated at the option of pressing a button and having a drink delivered to their poolside seats, a tactic which may increase long-term loyalty with the hotel and perhaps prompt favorable reviews.

SMS-based platforms may one day eliminate the need to fill concierge positions

Meanwhile, if guests at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue want the concierge to make a reservation at one of the hotel?s restaurants, they can text the request into the Connect CMS platform, where a staff member will answer as soon as possible (see story). The sheer ease of making a reservation from the comfort of a hotel room can sway consumers from going for offsite meals, and may ramp up spending inside the property.

?What most hotels forget is that mobile technology is a means to an end,? said Gary Schwartz, CEO and president of Impact Mobile, New York. ?The end is the mobile consumer.

?Whether you are a mall, sports team or even municipality, getting into the consumer's circle-of-trust and eliminating barriers are crucial,? he said. ?This channel gets a 98 percent open rate and response within seconds.

?Getting into this channel is essential for a brand. Beyond apps, iBeacons, notifications are pure unadulterated two-way communication.?

Third-party versus branded
While some hotel brands may have the necessary technological team and infrastructure to develop their own concierge solutions, most would be better-suited to using a third-party vendor for the job.

?There?s a major opportunity for hotel brands to integrate customer service into their mobile apps,? said David Bray, CEO and founder of dbray Media, New York. ?The greater value that their apps provide will increase usage and the potential to create new revenue streams by incorporating things such as contextually relevant advertisements.

?Challenges range from integration, learning curve on how to effectively use the new platform to measurement and control.?

Joining forces with a vendor can also open up vast opportunities for pursuing advertising within the concierge solution.

?Hotels are better off tapping third-party platforms,? Mr. Bray said. ?There?s more hotels can do beyond just offering a convenience to their customers through mobile apps.

Guests are given a wide selection of personalization options in the Alice platform

?For example, there's real money that can be made with in-app mobile advertising.?

However, for those marketers who are unable to invest significant funds into a standalone or in-app platform, SMS will likely be an optimal way of communicating with guests and ensuring that all of their needs are taken care of prior to arrival, during their stay and post-stay, if needed.

?When it comes to just the concierge function, it comes down to the expectation of the guests,? Atimi?s Mr. Michaels said. ?SMS is a lowest common denominator technology, even if the visitor is from abroad so it?s a great choice for communication with the guest during the stay.

?As with any guest facing communication, it falls down if unmonitored or too automated which simply turns off the guest from using it.?

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