This is a guest post by Kristen Gramigna, CMO for BluePay
Mobile payments are now a common means of accepting payment in stores, food trucks and festivals — but did you know travelers have embraced them wholeheartedly, too? In fact, nearly half of travelers who responded to a survey by the air transport firm SITA said they’d “definitely” use mobile payments during their journey.
Here’s are a look at why customers now expect that the hotel they choose has embraced mobile payment technology.
Mobile guests expect mobile accommodations. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, which they use to “navigate the world around them”— including following breaking news, staying in touch with friends and family, finding directions and public transit routes, and of course, travel.
Though a SmartBrief study reveals that travelers typically bring at least two tech devices with them on trips, they’ve come to expect that the hotel where they’ll work, sleep and play will accommodate these devices. To meet the expectations of the new mobile guest, some hotel brands now offer the ability to sync a guest’s room entertainment with the music, shows and movies a guest may have access to via her mobile device. Others have mounted mobile wall units so that guests can store and retrieve their mobile device with ease without having to retrieve a remote or grab their wallet in order to pay for in-room entertainment or similar services.
The trend is clear: Mobile users expect hotels to understand, and accommodate the many ways they use mobile devices throughout their stay.
Check-in desks are on the move. When asked if they would use a mobile kiosk to check in or make guest room requests, 91 percent of respondents to the SmartBrief study said that they had either tried some form of mobile kiosk technology (like an iPad) to check in already, or would if it was available. At The Andaz Fifth Avenue, mobile check-ins replaced the traditional front desk check-in process entirely — a move the brand’s general manager says has made the transaction feel more personal and friendly. When the process includes mobile payment technology, guests can be greeted by any member of the team who is equipped with a mobile payment device immediately upon arrival, eliminating the need to wait in line in order to check in and access their guest room.
Mobile payments and loyalty go hand in hand. Travelers love to be rewarded for choosing one brand consistently; mobile payments provide a perfect vehicle for simple rewards earning and redemption programs. In fact, as Scott Resnick, head of loyalty marketing for Jet Blue told Media Planet, the new trend in hospitality rewards is moving to rewarding customers for the money spent, instead of tallying the number of nights they stay or miles traveled in order to earn rewards.
Because many mobile payment providers integrate with a brand’s existing loyalty program, they also make it easy for customers to earn points or rewards on the many little purchases they’ll make throughout the duration of their hotel stay. “Customers expect to do as much on mobile devices as they can on computers, including seeing point balances and redeeming awards… Many travel companies realize that providing a rich and useful mobile experience can be a major driver of customer loyalty in and of itself,” says Resnick.
Global consumers embrace mobile payments. International travelers — including those who haven’t historically had access to robust financial services options — now rely on mobile payments to book and pay for travel throughout the world. The hotel brand Marriott recently announced that it would enter into mobile payment partnership to serve its Chinese guests, by Fall 2016. As Payment Week reports, nearly 60 percent of tourists in China who responded to a Hotels.com survey said the ability to use mobile payments is a very important factor they consider when making hotel reservations. As a result, Payment Week estimates that simply entering the new mobile payment partnership could help Marriott attract nearly 400 million Chinese tourists.
Mobile payments offer hotel guests a convenient way to pay when, how and where they want — and travelers have taken notice of these benefits. When your hotel accepts mobile payments, you can give guests the personalized, on-demand experience that will keep them happy during their stay — and ideally, a reason to come back for more.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. Follow her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO. She has over 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in marketing, direct sales and sales management.