Ten things hotel franchisees should know about digital communications,
including digital signage and beacon technology.
By Sylvain Bellaïche
The rapid rise in popularity of Airbnb and similar services has served both as a warning and as an inspiration to hotel franchisees. On one hand, placing the ability to both offer and book lodging directly into consumers’ hands reduces the need to pay for traditional hotel booking services. On the other hand, the roles of digital technology and digital marketing can inspire the hospitality sector as a whole to improve the guest experience while creating loyalty for your franchise. In this article, I discuss the use of digital signage and beacon technology, which individually are very strong and when combined can create a powerful platform for franchised hotels.
Here are 10 insights about the integration of digital marketing into the hospitality sector that could benefit hotel franchisees by differentiating them from others in the playing field:
- Digital signage can help create a positive image of your hotel while providing useful information to your guests. On first stepping foot into a hotel lobby, customers can be “wowed” by your use of digital signage to provide them with innovative and sleek information. Digital signage can help elevate the image of your hotel and also provide important information about your facilities and information on local restaurants, stores, spas, bars and transportation, all of which help deliver excellent customer service.
- Digital marketing can be easy to implement and within your budget. Advances in beacon technology and digital signage have made their implementation both user-friendly and pocketbook-friendly for hospitality franchisees. Enhanced interfaces on the computer screen can be easily controlled by a single person, with specific messages and information easily uploaded and transmitted to guests at one or many locations. The costs for this implementation can be well within the budget of a hotel franchisee. Further, the return on investment can be rather quick, so its reasonable cost is well worth it.
- Digital media and millennials mix well. Free Wi-Fi, beacons and digital signage technologies are a great way to communicate with millennial travelers. Not only is this relatively young generation thoroughly conversant with technology, but they have come to expect to receive information via mobile technology and to be able to communicate with others. Their interest in tech does not wane when they travel for business and pleasure, so utilizing technology to meet their expectations is a good idea. Using digital signage can demonstrate to this generation that you are a forward-thinking hotel offering the latest in digital technologies and services.
- Digital communications can convey a wide range of information. Information on a hotel’s services, restaurant menus and other targeted features can be sent via beacons to users’ smartphones. The technology can also be used to keep customers up-to-date on special offers relating to a hotel’s facilities or those in the vicinity, such as restaurants, theaters, clubs, spas and salons, perhaps with a discount code redeemable to guests. These perks can help draw in guests and increase a hotel’s revenue stream, with increased patronage of your facilities.
- Digital marketing can be used to co-brand with neighboring venues. Hotel franchisees can add to the benefits accrued from beacons and digital signage by co-branding with neighboring venues and selling advertising to your commercial partners. A digital signage platform allows for the control not only of the specific message from one of these businesses; it allows that message to be changed daily or even more frequently, and can be customized and geolocated for real-time marketing for all of your hotel locations. This functionality is designed to maximize the impact that the messaging has on potential customers.
- Digital marketing is already in use at hotels large and small. Many hotel chains across the country have already begun to adopt beacon technology with positive results. By signing on to this growing trend, franchisees can signal to their guests that they are sincerely devoted to customer satisfaction and at the cutting-edge of what is going on in the industry. This will especially please customers who have utilized and benefitted from similar technology at other hotel chains in the recent past.
- Digital marketing can enhance customer loyalty. Every franchisee knows that customer loyalty and revenue go hand in hand. Imagine guests checking into a hotel and seeing a digital sign with their names on it, providing a warm welcome to often tired travelers. These guests can also receive notifications on their smartphones alerting them of customized specials they can take advantage of during the course of their stay. These sorts of perks are precisely the types of tools that can be used to foster a desire for a return stay.
- Digital marketing can be used together with various mobile apps. Guests can access special offers – and let them do things such as view maps, contact the hotel and request services – via beacons. Beacons can also be used to send a virtual room key to users’ smartphones, allowing them to unlock the door of their rooms with the simple touch of a button. The check-in and check-out process can be sped up using the same technology.
- Digital signage and beacon technology can be used to convey safety information. While guests may not want to be reminded of potential hazards, it is a fiduciary responsibility to provide that information to each and every guest. Hotels can provide important safety information through their digital signage platforms, especially in case of emergency of any kind. When communicating with the hotel guests in real time, this could potentially prevent harm and even save lives.
- Digital communications is ubiquitous outside the hotel environment. By adopting beacon technology, hotels are joining a trend already in play at many retail locations and shopping malls, college campuses, restaurants, sports arenas, hospitals and ski resorts. Wayfinding is a major rationale for its use at those venues; similarly, hotels can use beacons’ connectors (communication with iOS and Android devices running Bluetooth) to find the hotel’s swimming pool, fitness center, bar, vending machines, public bathrooms, spa and more.
Appreciating the importance of these insights could help hotel franchisees improve business at a time when competition in the hospitality sector is growing rapidly. By giving guests an experience that includes beacons, franchisees can encourage repeat visits, foster positive word of mouth and ensure their brands stay on the cutting-edge.
Sylvain Bellaïche is the founder and CEO of Digital Social Retail, a company that has developed a beacon connector management platform that is revolutionizing the relationship between customers and brands.