With a little help from iBeacons, hotels just might win back customers. That's part of the thinking behind GuestDriven's drive to deploy the technology in more hotels.
GuestDriven is partnering with Estimote to deliver iBeacon technology to more hotels. (Image source: GuestDriven)
After testing technology from other vendors, the company, which specializes in providing mobile solutions to the hospitality industry, announced it is partnering with Estimote to deliver iBeacon technology to hotels. Estimote is a technology startup with a hardware and software platform that uses Bluetooth Smart technology; its Beacons are certified iBeacon compatible.
One of the most common questions hotel guests get when approaching the front desk to check in is: "Have you stayed with us before?," said GuestDriven CEO Anthony Zebrowski-Rubin. Presumably, the front desk, which holds the reservation, should know this information, but because consumers are using so many third-party booking parties like Expedia and Orbitz, the front desk doesn't have that information.
GuestDriven can bridge that gap, Zebrowski-Rubin told FierceWirelessTech. The biggest thing with on-demand applications like Uber is people want a connection with the products and services they consume, and in the hotel industry, "there's been a lot of bad legacy technology that doesn't talk to each other," he said. "There's no ability to know a customer in real time," and no ability to connect profile information with a customer due to all the different ways bookings are conducted.
GuestDriven aims to address that with beacon technology. "We're helping hotels know their customers in real time. This is kind of the last mile that we're closing with beacon technology," he said.
Estimote Beacons are small sensors that can be strategically placed virtually anywhere in a building or the outside grounds. Through the tiny radio signals broadcasted by the Beacons, guests can receive a variety of push notifications. The sensors communicate with the applications on the mobile devices.
Guests typically opt in to a Beacon push notification before they arrive to their destination. They can access these messages from either iOS or Android devices. If they're game, they can receive a special welcome message when they walk through the doors, offers to upgrade if another suite becomes available or get special in-room food options if they're checking in past dinner time.
As for anyone concerned that the Beacons are an intrusion on privacy, Zebrowski-Rubin says that they are meant to add value for guests and hotels, not spy on anybody. "The way we're looking at it is this is about recognizing and rewarding, not observing and being sneaky. I think that those who do it that way are looking at it in the wrong frame of mind, and I think it's about telling the customer you're going to have a heightened experience if you opt in, and those who opt in are customers who are looking for that," he said.
It's a software as a service platform that is sold to hotels to help them build better data and guest experiences, ranging from large chains to boutique hotels. "There's a huge opportunity and we're just getting started," he said. Growth forecasts put beacon installs across all industries at 5 million within the next four years.
GuestDriven tested other vendors' equipment before partnering with Estimote. "We are not a hardware company at the end of the day. That doesn't mean we won't keep expanding, but we want to work with the best and Estimote is trusted by tens of thousands of developers around the world. They have a great platform. We beta tested their product with other products and we found them to be responsive and very strong to work with, and as we've been doing the installations in our hotels… they've been part of the process," he said, declining to name the other vendors.
The company is on track to complete a dozen deployments in five cities before the end of this year, with more bookings for the first quarter of 2015. For each venue, GuestDriven and Estimote need to deploy anywhere from 10 to 40 of the Beacons per property, focusing on areas with the most traffic. "It's not about bombarding the customer, it's doing it based on the context awareness, so we need multiple Beacons in even one area of the hotel to do that with effectiveness," Zebrowski-Rubin said.
"We're helping hotels redeem the relationship with their customers that they have not been able to have for decades," he said. "We're helping them regain trust, regain a one-to-one relationship, knowing who their customers are in real time, and helping elevating this experience to drive more revenue and retention and loyalty... Yes, we are capturing rich analytics on our customers' behavior, but it's their decision to do so."
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group officially adopted Bluetooth 4.2 this week. Zebrowski-Rubin said he couldn't speak to Estimote's plans for that emerging technology but said anything that improves the hotel guest's experience is something his company wants to be part of.
- see the press release
Marriott, other venues want FCC to clarify Wi-Fi network-management rules
Gimbal, Urban Airship combine beacon, messaging expertise
Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi raise the hackles of privacy advocates