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Beacons and Hotels

Alienating Guests: A Cautionary Warning About Beacon and Geolocation Technologies in Hotels

It seems that wherever we surf the Internet these days, we receive a customized advertisement or offer based on our browsing patterns. While it may seem that “Big Brother” is actually following us, this is the new shift in digital marketing, and hotels are next to embrace this frontier.

As highlighted by this recent HotelNewsNow article, hotels are adopting the use of beacon technologies, which can be used to direct and push notifications to guests about offerings on-property and in the area.

By using these types of technologies, hotels can track guests’ locations, and then tailor and map out their experiences based on their preferences. This could also include push notifications about a concert, a craft beer tasting at the hotel bar and much more.

Along these same lines, a recent study found that 74 percent of all hotels and resorts plan on implementing location-based technologies within the next year.

On the surface the rise of beacon and geolocation technologies seem like a logical next step in enhancing the stay for the guest, while also enhancing long-term loyalty. However, if overused, these new innovations could back fire, and ultimately turn a “friend into an enemy.” This could potentially occur when offers cross the line into becoming spam, which can potentially turn off guests. In addition, receiving an offer on your mobile device (such as a free dessert) when walking by a restaurant or bar could be perceived as being annoying or even “Big Brother”-like.

For hotels to effectively use these types of recommendation innovations, there needs to be more of a strategic plan that fully understands guests’ preferences. From booking to checking in and beyond, it is possible to provide the right recommendations – that extend well beyond an simple offer – but enhance a guest’s loyalty, versus making them feel “watched.” It’s a fine line.

For example, if you push an offer to a guest about a new vegan restaurant around the corner – knowing that they are vegetarian based on their previous room service orders – then you are offering a more personalized approach.

Gaining guest loyalty is possible with the right recommendation approach, while arbitrary spam could tremendously diminish the brand connection with a guest. Leveraging new technologies to ultimately lose guests and revenue is a strategy that no hotel brand wants to embrace.


Will Beacons Drive More Revenue and Keep Hotel Guests Happy?

For the past two years, beacons have provided an opportunity for retailers to message shoppers and track consumers’ habits with two-way BlueTooth devices.

According to Business Insider’s BI Intelligence, beacons will drive more than $4 billion worth of retail sales in the he United States this year, with that amount increasing to $40 billion in 2016.

But do beacons really provide hoteliers with the ability to grow revenue while also pleasing the guest with new offers? According to this recent Hospitality Net article, the answer is “yes.”

It certainly seems this type of service, especially when it comes to promotions for spa services and restaurant discounts, would best work with resorts. But it can be complicated for hoteliers. To accomplish this goal, guests would need to download a separate app and activate BlueTooth on their mobile devices for this to effectively work.

In most instances, only the early-adopting, tech-forward guest would be apt to use this type of service. Some guests also may find this type of innovation to be invasive, and could raise privacy concerns.

In addition, the technology needs to be embedded into the existing hotel mobile application on the brand-level. As we all know, there is major competition in the mobile app space, and guests would most likely be unwilling to download another app, especially one from an individual property. The reward would need to be significant for guests to actually download and use the app. For example, a discount for a spa treatment would be nice, but will it be enough for guests to be enticed to use it?

This all remains to be seen, but it does point to the emerging trend in the hotel arena where brands are implementing technology for “technology’s sake.”

We certainly applaud new innovations that ultimately please the guest and translate into long-term loyalty. While the beacons seem very interesting on the surface, we shall see if they actually take off in 2016. We’ll keep you posted.