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Boosting Image, Interactivity, and Income

Boosting Image, Interactivity, and Income

Hotels Embrace Digital Signage Without Reservations

In their efforts to attract more guests, hotels now routinely introduce services and guest perks such as wireless internet access, flat-screen TVs, and more comfortable beds. Increasingly, hotels are also turning to customer engagement to establish consistent and ongoing relationships with their guests, and they are deploying digital signage to communicate information effectively to make the guest experience as pleasurable as possible.

Digital signage essentially takes advantage of high-resolution digital displays and dedicated computers running software to deliver targeted messages to viewers in public places. With its maturation, digital signage has become interactive and personalized, more capable of communicating information relevant to the viewer. Within the hospitality environment, today’s attractive digital signage installations not only engage customers, but also instantly upgrade a hotel’s image as a savvy, forward-looking property.

In addition to building customer comfort and loyalty, digital signage offers opportunities for increasing the visibility of the hotel’s amenities and on-site services, and ultimately increasing the hotel’s revenue streams. By replacing paper posters and signs, digital signage also can demonstrate the hotel’s commitment to green and sustainable materials and technologies, and serve as an added tool for drawing in potential corporate clients and event sponsors.

Both visually striking and highly functional, digital signs increase guests’ sense of well-being by providing timely, easy-to-follow directions and by informing them about hotel services when and where they most need that information. Signage can give guests access to information about scheduled events, facilities, concierge services, and amenities, as well as live information regarding weather conditions, news, traffic, and flight arrivals and departures.

The primary guests at hotels, especially those with conference centers, tend to be business travelers. News, information, ads, promotions, and other content should be relevant and especially targeted to these guests. Many of these guests arrive ready to learn about nearby places to eat, neighborhood attractions, and hotel amenities.

Sign-placement analysis allows hotels to identify locations at which guests typically stop to consider where they’d like to go or what they’d like to do. These locations include the lobby, the entrance from the parking garage, corridor intersections, escalator landings, and corridors outside ballrooms and other meeting areas. At these sites, hotels are installing large (46-inch or larger) digital touchscreen displays that provide a wealth of information about the hotel, its environs, and meeting schedules and locations, as well as an interactive map that can illustrate pathways from point to point.

In hotels with conference facilities, for example, a touch-enabled lobby display might feature interactive wayfinding based on a conference directory. Equipped with a sensor device, the signage system can be configured to welcome approaching guests, greeting them and indicating its touchscreen functionality. Thus, in quiet mode, the screen could display a continuous “screen saver” or sponsored content. When a guest approaches, however, the system’s sensor can trigger the sign to display a greeting, engage the viewer, and provide visual indicators pointing to the conference directory.

Conference attendees attempting to navigate an unfamiliar hotel need only identify the organization to which he or she belongs. By tapping the organization’s name, which appears on the system’s continually updated menu, the user gains immediate access to a timely list of that organization’s sessions. When the user taps the desired session, the system brings up an easy-to-read map that highlights the route from the user’s current location to the meeting area. If, however, it’s going to take an espresso to get the user through that meeting, he or she also can use the map to find the nearest source for a caffeine fix. Those directions can also be sent to a user’s mobile phone and accessed as required.

Enhancing Operations While Keeping Costs Low

The benefits of a digital signage system to hotel guests are numerous. For the hotel and its staff, the system should make it easy even for non-technical personnel to update content quickly and easily so that the programming is kept fresh and relevant to visitors.

An effective digital signage system goes even further by automating many of the content updating tasks automatically, thereby reducing the time spent by hotel staff on updating on-screen content. By linking to live feeds such as weather conditions, news, RSS feeds, and flight arrival/departure data, the content management system can automatically update screens with accurate, timely information. Seamless integration with popular hotel systems overseeing sales, catering, and scheduling also improves the accuracy of information provided to guests while further reducing the need for staff intervention. By eliminating the need to rekey information — event details, meeting room updates, and other announcements — the digital signage system reduces the time and cost required to maintain up-to-date messaging.

A highly interoperable digital signage system not only keeps administrative costs low, but also gives hotels the ability to run promotions and ads on digital screens. In this way, digital signage provides the hotel with a new revenue stream. Facilities within the hotel, as well as local businesses and nearby attractions, can be promoted by playing and embedding unobtrusive ads into the contextual content. Each successive presentation of wayfinding information, for example, provides another opportunity to present ads with an increasingly specific focus. Different types of content, such as local traffic reports, can be presented by different sponsors, with advertisers buying specific screen space.

With a template-based digital signage system, ads can be easily refreshed to reflect a new price point, to target a specific demographic group, or to add a timely seasonal or event-oriented theme.

Digital signage screens within the hotel landscape must strike a critical balance: they need to be convenient to use by guests, but not be too noticeable to take away from the hotel’s overall ambiance. As a result, each digital screen should complement the existing environment, almost like a piece of art mounted on the wall. Careful thought and planning should be given to the screen’s mounting and any surrounding hardware. In addition, the signage system must display content at top quality: clear, bold messaging that reflects a high production value and that’s shown in high resolution with professional images, videos, and graphics.

Digital signage is continuing to evolve and will be integrated in increasingly creative and useful ways in the hospitality environment. For example, in addition to featuring motion sensors that trigger a welcome message, interactive signs are being equipped to communicate with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips embedded in either a conference badge or a room key. With the swipe of a card, a sign could greet a guest by name and, without being prompted, identify the level of the guest’s status in the hotel’s loyalty program, provide details of the guest’s last visit, and provide promotional information based on their past expenditures.

Having come a long way since their origin, digital signage systems offer quality and functionality that have a real impact on a hotel’s ability to enhance the guest experience, improve branding, and reinforce the hotel’s image as a technologically savvy and even eco-friendly enterprise. By leveraging the latest digital signage solutions, hotels can gain a significant competitive advantage and introduce a new revenue stream.

Maria Porco is vice president of business development for X2O Media, a full-service provider of software, network management services, and content services for professional digital signage and corporate communications applications. She can be reached at maria@x2omedia.com.