The growing usage of smartphones and tablets has had a huge impact on the travel and hospitality industry. For example, a whopping 52 percent of consumers have used their mobile or tablet device to book travel in the past 90 days, according to JiWire.
As a result, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has changed not only the way it markets, but it also has been forced to evolve the way it does business. The company says 18 percent of its Web bookings come from mobile devices, and mobile is the only technology that lets IHG stay connected to customers through the entire guest journey.
“This has changed–on so many levels–how we do business,” Michael Menis, SVP of digital and voice channels at IHG, told CMO.com in an exclusive interview. “I think a lot of companies are just really focused on the booking and getting people to transact, and while that’s a big priority for us as well, it doesn’t end there.”
IHG said the key to its success is the fact that is can now market to consumers while they research their vacation packages on the couch in the living room from their tablets, to booking, to when they’re looking for transportation from the airport to the hotel, and then again after the vacation to make sure they enjoyed their stay. Mobile has a different role in all of these touchpoints.
For the research phase, IHG has a pretty hefty mobile advertising strategy that focuses mainly on mobile search and very little on mobile display ads. The former is working better for the brand.
“Much like online advertising, in mobile we are more focused on search and other more performance-based activities,” Menis said. “We do some display, but it’s a relatively small percentage of our mobile spend.”
Consumers can book their stay via IHG’s mobile app and Web site. Then once consumers are in the hotel, there are signs all over the place encouraging them to download the IHG mobile app. There’s even a bar code to make the download process as painless as possible. But IHG isn’t really bullish on QR codes beyond that. Menis said that there’s a lot of noise in mobile, and it’s tough sometimes to get though everything and prioritize. The key is constantly evaluating what’s working and what’s not.
Consumers that download the app get access to special offers and discounts from IHG based on where they are staying. According to Menis, IHG is currently exploring options on integrating a concierge service into the app, meaning things like letting consumers order room service via the app or find places to eat nearby via a mapping functionality.
Once a customer is done with the trip, IHG follows up and asks them to provide feedback for their stay. IHG hopes that at this point, the consumer is so happy with their experience that they become a loyalty program member. And if they do, they get a whole slew of mobile services, such as the ability to modify upcoming reservations, use IHG Rewards Club points to redeem free stays, use the credit cards already associated with their account to expedite bookings, and view their points balance.
By focusing on all the ways consumers use their devices throughout their travel, IHG has ensured that it has a true 360-degree mobile strategy. But the company still tests and tries out new platforms. Its test-and-learn approach should be mimicked, while at the same time exercised with caution. Trying everything out all at once dilutes the programs.
“I think one of the struggles with mobile is that we’re in such a trajectory phase,” Menis said. “Companies like us are bombarded with too many options so it becomes difficult to stay focused on the things that matter most, especially when there are resource and budget constraints.”