The hospitality industry depends on a lot more than just attractive rooms and attractive bathroom products – what will really drive the hotel business in 2018 is how those hotel brands add value to the guest experience, and how they communicate that value to their audience.
Two big factors will influence hotel marketing in 2018: Partnerships with retail and other third-party hospitality providers, and an increasing reliance on a full-featured mobile website.
Full-featured mobile carries the day
Hotel brands were one of the first to realize that the mobile website must be as full-featured, and must include the same content, as the desktop. Early mobile web browsing, hampered by slow mobile download speeds, gave way to two big mistakes – first, the belief that mobile websites need to be dramatically reduced, with less content and fewer features, in order to allow for an acceptable download speed. The second mistake which grew out of that, was the “minimalist” school of web development. Developers recognized that mobile and desktop should include the same content, but rather than beefing up the mobile site and including adaptive technologies and website orchestration tools like Yottaa, which speed up mobile performance by orchestrating the various components so that the most important ones download first.
The “design for mobile first” philosophy, still widely used today, is mistaken in one big way – developers mistakenly believe that mobile websites mean thin websites. Consumers, on the other hand, have very little use for thin websites, and generally want more, faster, and better when it comes to web browsing, regardless of platform.
In the hospitality industry, research from hotel comparison platform HotelsCombined showed that mobile bookings for hotels increased by 67 percent in the U.S. in 2016 compared to the previous year. At the same time, desktop bookings increased by only four percent. “HotelsCombined noticed the shift towards mobile bookings back in 2014 and invested heavily in developing our mobile product to ensure we provided customers with the same experience that they would get on a desktop,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at HotelsCombined. “Since then we have seen mobile bookings continue to grow year on year, while desktop bookings have decreased. We believe that this number will continue to rise as more and more people embrace a mobile or tablet as their primary device.”
Hotel brands will also add more content to their sites which allow guests to access additional services in real time. Website content on the hotel’s mobile site will be more than just billboard-style information – it will include retail content which highlights the new retail partnerships hotel brands are entering into. More hotels are entering into these partnerships, which allow guests to access retail stores and place orders from the convenience of their hotel rooms. Virgin Hotels’ partnership with The Gap for example, allows guests to order from gap.com, and have items delivered to their hotel rooms within three hours.
“Partnerships like these are a great innovation for the hospitality industry,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at HotelsCombined. “It’s a win-win. Retailers gain a new sales channel without having to invest in bricks and mortar, and the hotels themselves add a new element to their concierge service.”
In the coming year, expect hotel brands to enter into more retail partnerships, and to provide guests with content, features, and mobile apps for things like mobile check-in, smartphone based room keys, and Internet-of-Things based room control, also accessible via smartphone app.