Technology Takeaways From the Hospitality Industry

A new survey sheds light on how hotels and restaurants are engaging their guests through technology tools. What can associations learn from the trends, and how can they keep up?

 Your attendees show up to your meetings ready to learn and engage. And they’re also likely equipped with a number of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, or iPads, expecting to be able to use them all seamlessly.

As meeting attendees rely more heavily on their devices and become more familiar with the technology tools those outside your industry are offering, they’ll expect your association to deliver that same level of service and experience.

But does your association’s meetings technology make it easy for attendees to engage and interact at your meeting? Does it matter? Yes, it does. A lot.

A look at findings from the recently released 2013 Customer Engagement Technology Study, conducted by Hospitality Technology magazine through a research partnership with the University of Denver Daniels College of Business and the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV, reveals technology trends within the hospitality industry.

Execs from 81,748 restaurants and 5,705 restaurants worldwide were asked how customer-engagement technologies are contributing to guest loyalty, differentiation, competitive advantage, and the bottom line. And while the study doesn’t directly relate to associations, it does provide plenty of food for thought for association meeting planners, as attendees will begin to expect to have the same type of technology offered at upcoming conferences and events. Following are four standouts from the survey:

Mobile Websites and Apps Are Must Haves

Whether using social media or websites to read customer reviews or post their own reviews and feedback, make reservations, order food, or search for coupons, technology has significantly affected the restaurant and hotel industries—and both are realizing how important mobile is, ranking it highest in affecting business performance and customer engagement.

Restaurants are investing in mobile websites and apps. Of those surveyed, 53 percent already have a mobile website and 29 percent have a mobile app. By 2015, 85 percent of restaurants expect to have a mobile website,  and 70 percent expect to have a mobile app.

Hotels are in a similar place: 76 percent currently have a mobile website and 40 percent have a mobile app. By 2015, 91 percent of them expect to have a mobile website, while 75 percent to have a mobile app.

The most common functionalities available currently are the ability to make reservations, collect guest feedback, and search for restaurants and hotels. However, functionalities are expected to advance in the next two years. For example, more than half of hotels expect to offer mobile check-in on smartphones and tablets by 2015. As this becomes the norm, associations will want to offer similar check-in experiences at their events.

Digital Signage Is a Good Investment

Digital signage is also growing in the industry, with 29 percent of restaurants and 53 percent of hotels saying they currently use static digital signage. Ten percent of restaurants currently use interactive digital signage, while 29 percent of hotels do. By 2015, 56 percent of hotels expect to use interactive signage.

For association meetings, static signage would include event listing, maps, expo floor layouts, and news or Twitter feeds. An example of interactive signage would be way-finding functionality, similar to what the Heart Rhythm Society did at its meeting earlier this year.

Mobile-Payment Options to Grow Considerably

One area that is expected to see significant growth is mobile payments. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that mobile payments will reach $90 billion in the United States by 2017.

While only 8 percent of restaurants currently have a mobile-payment solution in place, 53 percent expect to have one by 2015. When it comes to hotels, survey results show that 39 percent of them will seek to implement mobile payment by 2015.

Again, as this becomes the norm, association meeting attendees will expect to have the same options, whether they are buying a book at the onsite bookstore or registering for an additional workshop at the last minute.

Social Media Remains AT the top

Almost 90 percent of restaurants currently engage with their customers via social media, and that number is expected to climb to 97 percent by 2015. Hotels have been just as quick to embrace social media.

Both use social media as way to share promotional events and to engage customers in ongoing conversations and in games and contents. It is also used as a marketing tool. The top-two programs currently getting the most use by restaurants and hotels are Facebook and Twitter, while Pinterest has seen the most growth since 2012 (250 percent for the restaurant industry).

As meeting attendees rely more heavily on their devices and become more familiar with the technology tools those outside your industry are offering, they’ll expect your association to deliver that same level of service and experience. But if your association does, you’ll likely receive greater attendee loyalty and have an advantage over your competitors. How is your association dealing with attendee technology expectations at your meetings and events? Let us know in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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