As with many digital innovations, beacons started as a little-known technology that quickly gained popularity. Connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), beacons offer the capability to send geolocation-based personalized recommendations and notifications. They are extremely effective in tracking indoor locations within large facilities, and provide greater precision compared to GPS tracking. In addition to that, they are low on maintenance as they use a low-energy Bluetooth connection and can run for up to 2 years on a watch-sized battery.
Apple propelled beacon technology into public awareness in 2013 when it released iBeacon. Today, beacon devices are manufactured and enabled by a number of different vendors across an array of industries. They have become so popular that Forbes declared 2016 the “Year of the Beacon.”
Connected Travelers expect a Connected Experience
Many sectors have already embraced beacon technology, but the retail industry has been at the forefront of adoption and has set a notable precedent. For better or worse, customers are beginning to expect the same level of one-to-one service wherever they go. Travelers in particular have a heightened expectation for tailored services and personalized recommendations. Hoteliers can adopt and utilize beacon technology in order to elevate customer experience, and retain a competitive edge.
The on-the-go nature of travel makes this industry especially well-suited for beacons. As more digitally savvy travelers are exposed to enhanced customer experience at hotels and resorts, optimal service will become the expectation. Hoteliers who fail to recognize and meet this new customer standard risk losing valuable business to their rivals who rise to the occasion.
As an examples, Dutch airline KLM created an app using iBeacon technology to provide transfer assistance to passengers. At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the KLM app shows users the best route and estimated walking time to the next gate—giving peace of mind to travelers who may be anxious about the time they have in hand to catch their connecting flight.
Delivering a Connected Experience
There are a number of ways hotels and resorts can use beacon technology to provide outstanding service. When implementing beacon technology, hotels should put themselves in their customer’s shoes. What questions do guests typically ask? What is a novel way to give provide answers and engage them? How can we create a more seamless experience? The limitless possibilities of beacon technology will help hotels deliver outstanding service to customer. Some of these include:
- Indoor navigation: Help guests find their way to a room, spa or restaurant, or offer an interactive road map of the property and provide turn-by-turn directions. Many guests traveling internationally may not speak English or the local language. Hotels can create features or apps to help overcome this language barrier while continuing to provide superior customer service.
- Analytics for service response time: Beacons offer the ability to pinpoint staff member closest to a guestroom where a service request has been raised for extra towels, toiletries, coffee or IT support, enabling a faster response time. Hotels can use beacons to speed up services and increase staff productivity by eliminating paper-based management of housekeeping and maintenance workers.
- Digital storytelling and gamification: A combination of beacons and augmented reality (AR) technology can create a stronger emotional connection by engaging guests in an immersive digital experience that tells stories about the history of the hotel or property. Resorts could use AR to mimic a Pokémon GO–style experience where guests use their phones to see data overlaid on real-world objects and gain rich information about the artwork, architecture or food.
- Personalized settings: Beacons can track when guests enter their rooms and send automatic notifications that enable them to control the lighting, temperature and TV, or place an order for room service.
- Safety and security: Beacons allow parents to track their children on large properties through a preset location range. Parents will be immediately notified if their child crosses the perimeter. This allows children to have freedom while parents can rest assured they are not straying too far away. Beacons can also be used to track and help rescue guests by either guiding them out or sending a rescue team to their location quickly during an emergency situation.
- Automated check-in/checkout: Beacons eliminate the hassle of waiting in line and fumbling for a reservation number—instead guests can enter the lobby and receive a push notification that they’ve been checked in.
Beacons help hotels identify their customer’s precise location using low-cost, low-energy devices and deliver targeted services to enhance experiences. A majority of travelers are carrying smartphones and they don’t mind being reached on their phones, preferably through messaging or notifications, for the added benefit of convenience. Given the level of personalization that consumers have come to expect, it is imperative that the hospitality sector follows suit to stay competitive.
About the Author
Rajath Ravikumar is a consultant with the digital industry solutions group at Mindtree.