Data Tool Helps Hotel Managers Understand Guest Behavior



Understanding guest movements is often more intuition than science: hotel managers might rely on basic visual analysis of traffic flows, or perhaps spend heavily on a vendor to come in and manage the project.

Without a significant time investment or monetary spend, there’s really not an easy way for hotel management to track and understand guest movements throughout the property.

What if you knew where guests were within your hotel property at any given time? What if you understood how guests interact with your property, such as time spent in the room or if a happy hour brings in more dinner business?

These questions are an excellent opportunity for technology to capture physical data and digitize it for analysis. One technology is especially suited to affordable business intelligence on spatial movements: beacons. These small devices interface with smartphones using Bluetooth, pinging nearby phones as they pass by. The system offers general visibility for how guests interact with the hotel.

Once the beacons have been deployed on site, the fun begins. After all, the reporting brings the real value to the hotel manager. Reports (examples here) offer visibility into the time spent in specific areas of the hotel, the movement and flow through the areas, and the number of phones seen in the property throughout the day.


A potential report from the Hotel Beaconator concept.


As the data comes in, the valuable business intelligence can be put to use. While personalized offers could target a specific device — say a user who has the hotel’s loyalty app installed — it could also simply inform placement of new on-property signage, or even help inform the best use of renovation budget.

Mark McSpadden, head of Sabre Labs, knows that learning about guest behavior on-property can lead to some valuable outcomes.

“For hoteliers, insight into guest behavior could be very impactful,” McSpadden said. “The beaconator identifies opportunities to enhance offers, personalize the customer service experience, or improve day-to-day operations. These are essential to building a hotel strategy that’s optimized for success.”

“For hoteliers, insight into guest behavior could be very impactful.” – Mark McSpadden

With the beacons, an action can trigger on a user’s phone as they pass, generally through an app. For hotels, the opportunity here would be to engage loyalty members within the app to offer contextualized, behavior-driven offers. So, rather than just pinging indiscriminately, physical behavior data would be another ingredient in the mix of the loyalty program.

Hotels should be wary of irrelevant offers based on a guest’s location, said Barrett Clark, principal software engineer at Sabre Labs and one of the minds behind the concept:

“The low-hanging fruit is what everyone grabs first — the localized offers. But, it’s also the thing that makes the consumer want to shut it off. It’s hard to know when to hit someone with an offer,” Clark said.

“How many times do you walk by the bar? It’s hard to target the right time, as you don’t know the end user’s mindset. It’s really hard to do context-sensitive personalization because you don’t always know when the right moment is.”

Beacons have captured retailers’ imaginations for many years now and yet the technology has not quite delivered a full-scale revolution in the way that consumers interact at the retail level.

Part of the struggle is that consumers are not always willing to allow retail offers into the intimate smartphone experience. For example, recent Sabre research found that only 27 percent of UK consumers prefer personalization relevant to their current location.

Place-based personalization should be piloted on a location-by-location basis to determine how the interaction drives traveler behavior — and ultimately improves the traveler experience.

Read more about the Beaconator on the Innovation Hub.

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Nick Vivion is Sabre’s senior brand journalist. He writes about trends and stories relevant to the present — and future — of the travel industry. Prior to Sabre, Nick was AVP of Oper(...)

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