Retaking Control of the Hotel Digital Experience

Opinion

The digital entertainment landscape is constantly changing and the rapid adoption of mobile devices coupled with cloud-based platforms has revolutionized how people consume TV. This has led to significant challenges, particularly in the hospitality industry where companies are struggling to adapt to the changing demands of their consumers.

But with change comes opportunity.

The ability for people to consume and enjoy content anywhere, anytime has transformed how it is delivered. Four out of five households are subscribing to streaming TV, opening the opportunity to binge watch an entire season or series at one time. Waiting a week to continue the next chapter of your favorite program is no longer required as the next episode is available whenever and wherever time allows. In some ways, the TV watching experience is beginning to resemble reading chapters in a book. As with favorite books, travelers want to take their favorite shows with them wherever they go.

This dynamic is challenging hotels to provide the infrastructure to satisfy guests’ entertainment demands. Also, with guests focusing their attention on third-party apps on personal mobile devices, hotels are missing out on opportunities to engage and build brand awareness while driving new revenue streams from a once captive audience.

As travelers take time to view the next episode of Game of Thrones or Homeland, hotel Wi-Fi networks are buckling from the bandwidth requirements. Hotel WiFi Test found that less than half of the wireless networks they tested at properties in New York City could support HD streaming video.

Guests are becoming frustrated with inefficient Wi-Fi, and poor performance is increasingly a top complaint for both business and vacation travelers. Consequently, great Wi-Fi networks are becoming a key differentiator in hotel experiences. In fact, smaller hotels are getting better reviews due to superior Wi-Fi performance, and millennials are citing better Wi-Fi as a “must have” for an Airbnb stay.

With guests streaming content to their personal devices, they are not looking for entertainment on hotel TVs, where companies traditionally could monetize and promote their properties’ services. Video on demand (VOD) is one particular revenue stream that had been disrupted by guests ignoring the TV. Between 2007 and 2013, revenue from in-room movie rentals dropped 42 percent, according to PKF Hospitality Research. The trend is also making it more difficult for hotels to generate revenues from on-TV promotions, build their brand in the room, and collect valuable data. Silicon Valley Internet giants such as Google and Facebook have built multibillion-dollar businesses by leveraging user data, including data that could be captured within a hotel controlled experience.

Instead, consumers are demanding that hotels make an investment in their infrastructure so Internet companies can poach their guests’ attention and data. This is a problem, and hotels need to do a better job of taking back control of the digital experience on their properties by providing an engaging experience that integrates multiple devices, environments, and content.

By delivering the content that guests want via the devices that hotels control, primarily the in-room TV, guest attention is shifted away from the small screen of a tablet, laptop or smartphone, leading to a better viewing experience—a win for the guest as well. Channeling content through the TV and coaxial cable also alleviates the pressure on the Wi-Fi network. This creates a better experience for streaming content and also allows guests to enjoy better network performance while completing less data-hungry tasks on their mobile devices. In response to this growing challenge, some industry leaders have brought solutions to market that enable users to view an extensive library of on-demand TV in their hotel rooms.

Once hotels recapture the attention of guests through an engaging and dynamic connected digital experience, opportunities arise to drive new revenues through differentiated and personalized services. Hotels can’t squander this opportunity by providing canned content and outdated interfaces. Providers need to rethink how to integrate all guest touch points into a more holistic experience.

Leading hotels such as the Heathman Hotel Kirkland, a 91-room luxury hotel on Lake Washington in Kirkland, WA, are integrating engaging and intuitive technology such as DRE Guest Welcome Screen Pro paired with UIEvolution’s products to further enhance guest experiences. The technology at the Heathman Hotel Kirkland provides the ultimate residential entertainment experience for guests, complete with the full channel lineup they love at home and can now enjoy while away. It also provides a solution to improving communication with guests, giving hoteliers a way to advertise events, restaurants and specials within the hotel. The hotel is embracing innovation and offering both an important amenity to its guests, as well as memorable personalized guest experiences—a win for both the hotel and its guests.

Another tactic hotels can use to help them succeed in the new digital age is to leverage mobile apps that enable guests to interact with their TVs and use their devices to find local shows or complete valuable transactions. A stay can further be personalized by streaming favorite music when a guest enters a room or presenting the guest’s preferred shows on the TV. Even integrating digital signage into the experience by displaying a personalized message when guests enter the lobby can make them feel welcome.

By integrating multiple digital devices that enable hotels to engage with guests throughout their stay and across the property, a more immersive and compelling experience can be realized.

Chris Ruff is president and CEO of UIEvolution. Follow @uievolution

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