Would you like to see information that is relevant and important to you, at just the right moment, when you travel? If your answer is yes, then your guests and customers will probably feel so too. With Augmented Reality (AR), this is now possible—especially when combined with an omnichannel strategy driven by an effective customer engagement platform. In fact, the use of AR in the hospitality industry (together with Virtual Reality – VR) is expected to grow by 34.2% from 2022 to 2028.
This is a trend driven by a consumer preference for immersive experiences prior to purchase, increased availability of the technology that makes AR accessible (i.e., smartphones on the customer-end), and rising leisure expenditure globally. In fact, the data suggests that by 2023 there will be 2.4 billion mobile AR users across the world, up from 2 million in 2015.
A consumer survey of the wider retail market has found that 71% of consumers would shop more often if their favourite brands had AR experiences. The survey shows that 61% of consumers said they preferred retailers with AR experiences, 40% said they would pay more for a product they could customize in AR, and 32% of consumers were already using AR while shopping. The study also highlights that 70% of all consumers surveyed, between the ages of 16 and 44, were aware of AR.
While the overall market for AR is expected to reach $50 billion U.S. dollars globally by 2024, the use of 3D technologies in online shopping experiences (which can be transposed to online booking experiences) helped to increase conversion rates by up to 40%, with customers saying they had higher confidence in their purchasing decisions, as well as higher post-purchase satisfaction.
So, What is AR?
If you recall the Pokémon Go craze of the mid-2010s, then you already know how amazing AR technology can be.
Augmented reality can be defined as “an interactive experience that enhances the real world with computer-generated perceptual information… by superimposing digital information onto real-world objects to create a 3D experience that allows users to interact with both the physical and digital worlds.” – according to SAP.
AR is the technology that powers selfie filters and effects, and so much more of what we do and play with in our online lives. Most of us who use a smartphone probably have been in contact with AR at some point and may even use it daily without realizing it. In fact, the backgrounds and filters we use in our online meetings are all a form of augmented reality.
5 Ways the Hospitality Industry Can Integrate AR
Because you’re selling real and emotional experiences in hospitality, AR can be a very powerful tool to boost sales, customer engagement, satisfaction, and confidence. With AR, customers can have a much more in-depth, immersive, almost life-like experience, beyond the already amazing real-life experiences we create. So, let us look at a few important applications of AR in the hospitality industry, with some real-world implementation examples.
1. Interactive Rooms
When you get to your room, you usually encounter the typical informative brochure that may include hotel information, room service details, menus, FAQs, etc. Truth be told, these can be boring, but you can give them exciting new implementations with AR!
It is possible to include “scannable” places around the room, using your own dedicated app or popular AR platforms, such as Facebook, to enable additional exciting features. For example, if your guest scans the entertainment system, they will get quick tips on how to use it. Same with any other feature of the room.
More excitingly, you can take all those brochures, notices, documents, and other in-room literature and give them a whole new dimension with AR. Say, a guest scans the hotel information document with their phone. Elements of it can pop-up in AR to show more information or provide more perspective or background.
2. Show Your Guests the Way
Whether it’s navigating through your hotel or the surrounding areas, AR can be a great tool for guest convenience and comfort. Your guests can find their way to hotel rooms and other services using AR features to guide them in real-time.
You can even have maps that your guests can scan and get more information from. Add more value to your guest experience by offering AR guided tours of the areas surrounding your hotel. This opens opportunities to partner with other complementing vendors or places of interest in your area, increasing the chances of guests stopping by on their tours. Check out these examples.
3. Make It All a Game
Using AR, you can incorporate gamification into your guest experience. Just like Pokémon Go, you can have quests for your guests to complete and then unlock rewards or special opportunities, if successful. This can make a stay even more engaging and exciting than it otherwise would be. Moxy Hotels, a JW Marriott concept, did this well recently.
4. Virtual Room Keys and More
Using beacon technology, which uses AR and Bluetooth technology to work, you can send rich and interactive, highly personalized, information and experiences to your customers when they are in a particular location. Starwood Hotels used this technology superbly, by allowing guests to be sent virtual room keys so they could unlock their rooms using their phone. Beacon technology also has other uses such as letting guests know about something interesting happening nearby when they are close to that location.
5. Overall Enhanced Guest Experience and Marketing Boost
Hotels and other service providers in the hospitality industry can use AR to add additional unique art or entertainment-based experiences for customers, to make guest stays even more enjoyable. A great example is that of Holiday Inn allowing guests to use AR to see celebrities in various places in their hotels. Best Western also used a similar idea in partnership with Disney, allowing kids to see themselves alongside characters from Disney Films.
The options are, quite literally, endless. The benefits become even greater when you incorporate these features into your marketing strategy, by encouraging guests to share their AR experiences on social media, creating conversations and promoting your brand.
Integrating AR into an Omnichannel Experience Powered by a Customer Engagement Platform
Adopting an omnichannel approach means that your target audience, and guests, can enjoy a uniform experience through any, and potentially all, channels they may wish to engage through. This is important as 98% of people use and switch between multiple devices and platforms throughout the day, according to Google.
Your omnichannel approach can be managed conveniently, through the adoption of a good customer engagement platform, such as Syniverse, while providing your back-office/customer service resources with a single window through which to monitor and control it all, helping you to better execute your omnichannel strategy.
A comprehensive customer engagement platform can also address cost and investment concerns by being economical, affordable, scalable, and quickly implemented, provides unmatched data gathering and analytics tools, while also making delivery and tracking seamless, intuitive, and unified.
This means combining technologies like AR, AI and chatbots, together with channels like WhatsApp, SMS, and voice messages, into one simple, seamless, convenient, and powerful platform, secured by the latest industry-standard mobile identity and security features, from which you and your team can manage your entire omnichannel presence with ease, consistency and responsiveness – all while creating a very personal bond and emotional connection with your customers. This will help you to effectively communicate and respond to queries about reservations, changes, special requests, hotel activities, and more.