- Starwood Preferred Guest, a hotel loyalty program run by Marriott International, updated its smartphone application to provide mobile check-in at 22 U.S. hotels. A global rollout of the feature will be completed by the end of the year, according to a statement by the company.
- The mobile check-in is available to Starwood members who have downloaded the SPG app and booked a room directly with the loyalty program online. When guests arrive to the hotel, SPG sends a mobile notification to tell them their room is ready and that they can pick up their key card at the front desk.
- David Flueck, senior vice president for global loyalty at Marriott, said of the 100 million members of its Marriott Rewards program worldwide, 200,000 use the mobile check-in feature each week.
Since Marriott bought Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide last year for $13 billion, the company has been working to integrate mobile offerings and loyalty programs across the businesses. With more than half of smartphone owners using their devices for travel-related activities, according to a Google study, Marriott needs to be accessible on its customers’ screens.
Mobile is an especially important channel for loyalty programs in reaching smartphone-savvy millennials who generally have less experience with customer rewards than older consumers. About 86% of millennials don’t participate in any hotel loyalty programs, according to a survey by Software Advice, an organization that evaluates hotel management systems. The report also said the common perception that millennial travelers are less loyal to brands isn’t entirely true. They are generally more discerning, similar to Gen Xers and baby boomers because of the easy accessibility of online travel information and cost comparison.
The study also found that 58% of millennials think a mobile app for a hotel’s loyalty program are “very” or “moderately" valuable. Many hotel apps allow loyalty program members to check their status and book rooms using points, providing guests with an easy way to respond to offers. Some, like Hilton, even let them unlock their room door using a digital key. While millennials currently don’t make up a large percentage of loyalty members, hotel marketers should understand the importance of adopting emerging technologies and reaching this group early on.