All posts by Jos Schaap

StayNTouch in the Washington Post!

As part of Acceleprise, StayNTouch got its first mention in the Washington Post today! Congrats!

District-based Acceleprise, a business accelerator program for companies that sell technology or services to other companies or organizations, is expanding in an effort to serve more start-ups and raise its national profile. Started last spring, the program is the brainchild of managing partner Sean Glass and partners Allen Gannett and Collin Gutman. In addition to a $30,000 investment, participating start-ups spend several months honing business models and products at the Acceleprise office.

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

Social Seating, Social Staying… It’s coming!

If airlines are experimenting with social seats, should hotels take off with social staying?

SeatID a startup providing social seating to airlines has created an infographic on the topic, it includes a survey concluding that more than 60% of the travelers asked are broadly embracing the concept. Of the customers asked 37% believes it will make their flight experience more fun and social, while 32% believes it will allow them to connect with flightmates in a way never before possible. When those customers are asked about loyalty only 15% of them are loyal based on price, but a combined 49.5% is loyal based on good customer service and the onboard experience… the last one… as we all know can be influenced heavily by the person who you end up sitting next to.

If more than 60% of the surveyed travelers is interested in social seating, I begin to wonder how some of this could be translated back to the hotel guests social experience. While the guests will want the privacy of his or her room, there are many other areas in a hotel, where social interaction could initiate from a “virtual social hotel lobby”. At check in the guests can opt in for the hotel social lobby, which will take the guests Facebook and LinkedIn data to show the hotel guests other guests with the same or similar interests, and can chose to follow, like or connect with them. Once connected the guest can see what other guests think of the hotel, it’s services, where they eat, and what surrounding areas they are visiting. Guests can help each other with where to eat, hotel staff can participate and steer guests towards hotel services, such as the spa, room service, the hotel bar and restaurant. And referring back to 49.5% of guests remaining loyal based on a good experience, for many younger hotel guests, the hotel’s virtual social experience will be one they’ll remember and refer their friends to.

Social engagement: The major social platforms will continue to dominate guests’ time spent online, but hotel brands will become more focused on creating campaigns that engage the consumer based on their interests and passions-as opposed to which social network they prefer. For an increasing number of hoteliers, fostering social behavior ‘future platforms unknown’ -not a large Facebook community-will equate success, enabling hoteliers to focus on the story they want to tell, rather than worrying about the constraints of current social media platforms (source: boutiquehotelnews.com).

Think social seating… and translate it to social staying… hotels should have a technology strategy in place to provide for “Social Staying”. Enabling relevant conversations, to easily connect with guests, and allowing guests to connect with the hotel.

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Hotels 2013 Future Trends

This is an important year for touch, mobile and social. Hotels will offer their own social network, a place where guests and staff can exchange relevant and useful information, events and other things amongst each other. I could not agree more with the following 2 trend predictions from www.boutiquehotelnews.com

Social engagement: The major social platforms will continue to dominate guests’ time spent online, but hotel brands will become more focused on creating campaigns that engage the consumer based on their interests and passions-as opposed to which social network they prefer. For an increasing number of hoteliers, fostering social behavior ‘future platforms unknown’ -not a large Facebook community-will equate success, enabling hoteliers to focus on the story they want to tell, rather than worrying about the constraints of current social media platforms.

Interactive mobile fingerprints: Smartphones will continue to take over the universe as technology is infused into them to become encyclopedias, keys, wallets,  light and temperature dial operators and more -. Soon, they’ll morph into interactive fingerprints that constitute unique identity for guests providing a more seamless and enjoyable guest experience.

2013…. Your Mobile Strategy!

Many hotels now have a mobile booking engine, but only a few provide for a mobile experience beyond reservations. When Google’s Eric Schmidt tells the world “Mobile First” than it is probably time for others to do the same. Taking mobile beyond just the reservation also provides for improved customer services and staff efficiency. Here are five points hotels should think about when implementing a mobile strategy;

First, make sure your apps support all devices, while iOS (iPhone) and Android will carry you far, there are some other platforms. Microsoft just released their new  Surface (Microsofts version of the iPad) and will shortly release Windows 8, which will have promising support for mobile devices. Than the question pops: Should the apps be native or web based? In other words, should your vendor build the app using the platforms native app language or should they build it for a browser using HTML5 allowing just one app to be compatible with most devices. While using HTML5 has a cost advantage, I think the user experience provide from a native app is far more superior and engaging, and therefore a better strategy.

The most successful apps are easy to use, do not require any real thinking, they look awesome and provide for a great user experience. Think about the apps you constantly go back to on your mobile device, it is those type of apps you want to have as part of your mobile hotel strategy. Once the guest has used it a first time, they will want to go back to it, play with it, and use its other functions. If build well, guests may like it so much, they will want to come back, just to enjoy your mobile experience again.

Next have some marketing strategies in place to make your guests aware of your mobile apps. Prior to arrival notify your guest where the app can be downloaded, have your staff mention the app at check in, or put a simple announcement with a QR code in each room. Ideally you will want to provide some incentives for the guest. If the app is fun, and useful adoption will come quickly.

Lastly, include some form of social staying in the app. Create a virtual lobby where guests and staff can interact with each other. Social is a perfect feature to get your guests hooked to the app. It can also be a great up sell channel, where guests through their engagement will do the up selling for you!

In summary make sure your mobile hotel app is not just a digital brochure, but actually serves a real purpose, and has some features, that will benefit the guest. Spend the time and money to make it easy, awesome and addictive. If you do, your mobile hotel app will serve you well, by increasing loyalty and revenues.

Happy Holidays!

 

Not for Bookings.. It is About Experience

Here is a great post from the Tnooz web site. While many hotels still are trying to use Social Media to get the guest to book, the reality is that most people, go elsewhere to book.

A sizeable study of leisure trippers in 13 countries around has shed further light on how important social media in two important areas of the travel funnel.

The influence of social media is strong at the points where inspiration for a trip is being sought and at the point where consumers are busily sharing their experiences, but not at the point where money changes – ie. purchasing a flight, hotel, car hire, activity, etc.

The study spoke to 4,600 travelers Australia, China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK and US who had taken at least one leisure trip in the past 12 months or planned to over the course of the next year.

Headline findings on the social media side of it all:

  • Those under the age of 34, 87% use Facebook for travel inspiration.
  • Over half also use Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms for inspiration.
  • Around two-thirds (68%) use their mobile devices to stay in touch with friends and family while on vacation – higher than those taking photos (43%) or checking news sources (20%).
  • Over half (52%) post photos and videos during their travels, while 25 percent write reviews.

Read more at Tnooz

Building The Right Travel App

Here are some great points from Timothy O’Neill-Dunne on what you need to think about when creating a travel app:

  • What is the real purpose of the app? Define it and refine the use cases. Is the app really necessary?
  • Apps may be smaller applications but they are still applications. This means that you have to use development methodologies – and there are NO short cuts
  • Know thy users.
  • HTML 5 is now pretty standard and makes the use of the mobile web probably just as functional without having to download and maintain an App
  • Don’t over complicate things.

 

Read the full article on Tnooz

Mobile Device Trends


If you ever wondered whether you should build your hotel mobile presence as native app or mobile web (app)… here is the answer: mobile owners in the US prefer (native) apps, they are spending 81% more time in their apps as suppose to the web.

The same consumer when “on the go” 68% uses a smartphone, while at home (or possibly in the hotel room) they will pickup their tablet.

Last but certainly not least… make sure your app has ample space for some in-house promotion add’s ideally targeted to the guest IN the hotel. Here’s why:

  1. when the ad is locally relevant,
  2. when it offers local coupons/promotions,
  3. features a known brand,

With those 3 points in place, 2 out of 3 guests will notice the ad, and 1 in 3 will result in a click.

These are some great statistics, to justify a mobile app strategy focused on guests IN house build on native apps. (Data and Infographic published by Telmetrics.)

Self Service Apps, 5 Import Points!

It is a growing service offering hotels will need to provide rather sooner than later. When I mean self service, I am thinking the guests smartphone centered around hotel services will be more and more a required service to offer, as highlighted in a post on www.kioskmarketplace.com: “Guests are experiencing and expecting it more and more in their everyday lives, and hotels need to adapt,”. “Self-service, if done correctly, allows hotels to operate much more efficiently while at the same time providing guests with an experience that they are comfortable with.” (May 21st, 2012) This quote mentions “if done correctly” which I think is key, here are 5 points to take in account when implementing a hotel self service smartphone solution:

  1. It has to be functional. The self service app, should provide for useful functions, such as check in, out, room service, request a task, extend your booking etc. Without useful functions, guests will quickly stop using it, and refer back to the old way of requesting the service. If it is just a brochure, don’t bother.
  2. If the app performs functions such as check in, it really only helps if the apps are also tightly integrated with the hotels PMS. While there are many self service apps out on the market today, only very few have mastered the skills of tight integration to the hotel systems. It is also important that the self service app and integration require minimal (ideally none) setup or software to be installed at the property, the higher up in the cloud the better, minimizing system overhead and security risks for the hotel
  3. Equally important is the look and feel of the app. The most successful consumer apps not only fill a need, they also look very attractive, are easy to use and quick to download.
  4. Make sure that self service app runs on top of a content management system, you can use to customize the look and feel to your brand, add information and created targeted promotions or messages for your guests.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, just like with your hotel website. Make sure the app can be found by your guests. Often forgotten, but especially in the beginning a strong marketing message with many touch points where the guest can learn about the  app is a must. Make it easy to access the app, and alert the guest of it through numerous communications.