Many people may have already seen video or the announcements surrounding Starwood’s new keyless, app-based room entry system. It’s a brilliant move for many reasons.
Like others, Starwood has a range of hotel brands. Right now the participating hotels include most Aloft, W and Element locations. Eventually, based on guest response, I’m sure the chain will roll out keyless room entry to more properties.
So why is this brilliant exactly? Here’s why:
- It creates a compelling reason have the SPG app on your phone
- It will generate more SPG loyalty program signups accordingly
- It will increase direct bookings (a requirement, see below)
- It will increase loyalty (and generate compelling word of mouth from first-time users)
- It ensures users have bluetooth turned on and thereby sets up on-site marketing and promotions
Here are the verbatim rules according to the company:
- Member must have an SPG number, a valid credit card and a registered mobile device.
- Reservation must be for only one room.
- Reservation must be made through Starwood booking channels, such as websites, mobile websites, the SPG app and the Customer Care Center.
In other words, you can’t use the system unless you book directly with Starwood. Boom. Take that aggregators!
While it will be used mostly by frequent business travelers it’s great marketing for the company in general. In some cases (other things being roughly equal) it may tip the balance in favor of Starwood vs. other hotel brands (i.e., Hyatt, Hilton, IHG).
For example, I’m a member of multiple hotel loyalty programs. This appeals to me very much and makes me more inclined to book with Starwood just like Apple Pay has increased my visits to Whole Foods.
The main benefit to users is the ability to check-in and go straight to the room without going through traditional front desk registration. While Starwood doesn’t guarantee this in every case it’s a big deal. It removes the frustration and fatigue, among those using it, from waiting in registration lines and eases some of the pressure on the front desk.
The front desk line also becomes an compelling opportunity for SPG loyalty signup signage (“don’t want to wait in this line?). The only risk comes if the actual experience is weak or inconsistent. But overall this is a great move.
It’s also an example of jumping on an opportunity that competitors haven’t yet seized. Keyless, app-based room entry will ultimately become a standard in the industry and so Starwood is smart to get out in front and use it as an early differentiator.