This year, technology research firm Gartner predicts 1.95 billion mobile phone sales, of which about 70 percent will be smartphones. This is a staggering number that hoteliers should pay attention to. Guests and potential guests are relying on their mobile devices to deliver information and convenience. To stay competitive in 2015, hoteliers will need to meet these three mobile milestones.
Responsive Website Design
Responsive design is no longer something that’s nice to have, but a must-have. Because more people are using mobile devices, there’s been a change in how people view websites. This means that more travelers are using their smartphones as part of their search process. However, research from Google has shown that 61 percent of mobile users leave a website if it’s difficult to navigate.
The goal of responsive web design is to create an optimal viewing experience, regardless of device. In other words, responsive website design ensures that your website can be easily viewed on smartphones, tablets, and various web browsers.
For the past several years, hoteliers have dabbled with mobile payments, but the technology hasn’t gone mainstream. One reason for this is the relatively low number of customers using mobile payments, coupled with security concerns. These concerns, however, are quickly evaporating. The restaurant industry has already seen the use of mobile payments skyrocket, and hoteliers should consider adding mobile payments to their tech roadmap.
One form of mobile payments is the “mobile wallet.” This type of mobile payment allows users to download a single app, which can be used to make purchases at various businesses. Some of the most popular mobile wallets are Google Wallet, SoftCard, and Apple Pay. The latter mobile payment system, which launched last October, appears to have reinvigorated interest in mobile wallet apps.
What type of impact could mobile wallet apps have for the travel industry? In early 2014, Atmosphere Research Group studied a group of 5,000 U.S. travelers. The group found that 1 in 5 smartphone-owning leisure travelers have mobile wallets on their phone. Additionally, 1 in 3 business travelers have a mobile wallet installed.
One reason smartphones have grown in popularity comes from the convenience they offer. Hoteliers can tap into this convenience mindset by creating a mobile app that quickly and easily lets guests inform hotel staff of their needs. These apps (sometimes called a virtual concierge) can include information about a hotel's amenities, dining menu, local attractions, and restaurants—in addition to booking details.
A robust example of a hotel mobile app is Virgin Hotel’s product Lucy. This app allows guests to adjust room temperatures, stream personal content to their room’s TV, turn their smartphone into a TV remote, and request services.
While rolling out Lucy, Virgin Hotel pointed to research from BuzzCity to justify its need. BuzzCity, a mobile advertising network, found that about 1 in 4 travellers use mobile devices to book, and that 30 percent of business and leisure travellers rely on their mobile devices to make last minute bookings. Also of interest, the reported stated that just 21 percent of travellers went “unconnected” during their vacations, and that 24 percent of travellers used their phones to find out about local tourist information, restaurants, and attractions.
Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and chief executive officer of YouVisit, a technology company that develops virtual tours and virtual reality tours for a variety of industries, including education, hospitality, real estate, travel and leisure, and many others.
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