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Social media and mobile websites have been ranked highest for hotel and restaurant customer engagement, according to Hospitality Technology (HT) magazine's second annual Customer Engagement Technology Study, which examined how food service and hospitality operators are now engaging their guests. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Through a research partnership with the University of Denver Daniels College of Business and the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV, the study reported some 143 separate findings on the evolution of customer engagement technologies (CETs) - including mobile, social and location-based technologies - and how they are leading to deeper and more meaningful connections with guests, as well as increased sales.

The study's findings suggested that four major trends are fuelling the growth of CETS: consumer technologies, social, mobile and convergence. The first Customer Engagement Technology Study (in 2012) proved the importance of CETs in the industry. The 2013 study aimed to find out how the segment had changed and how CETs are contributing to guest loyalty, differentiation, competitive advantages and the bottom line. Insights were gathered from executives who collectively represented 81,748 restaurant units and 5,705 hotels worldwide.

The merging of consumer technologies, social media, and mobility create new expectations and opportunities to deliver guest services and to enhance guest experiences. With social media apps integrated into every new mobile device, most social media usage and Internet activity now occurs through mobile devices. Travellers are - not surprisingly - at the heart of this convergence trend, as it epitomizes their lifestyles.

Among the study's many findings:

  • By 2015, 85% of restaurants and 91% of hotels will have a mobile website.
  • 72% of hotel apps have the ability to reserve a room.
  • 96% of restaurants display menus on their mobile apps.
  • By 2015, 53% of restaurants and 39% of hotels plan to offer mobile payment.
  • Interactive digital signage ranked high both in business impact and customer engagement for both restaurants and hotels.
  • Facebook (90%) and Twitter (78%) get the most use by restaurants and hotels.
  • Social media is the most-used interactive tool by restaurants (89%) and hotels (91%).