Digital signage checking into hotels to stay

Every business wants the ability to communicate with its customers constantly, whether that communi­cation is non-verbal or face-to-face. Years ago, hotels stood at the forefront of the digital signage revolution, using screens inside rooms to promote on-site amenities and in the local area.

These days, the hotel industry is increasing the visibility of digital signage and making those screens the centerpiece of a visual campaign that reaches consumers from the moment they enter the lobby.

Digital signage provides everything from directions for incoming visitors to stand-alone stations with touchscreens that en­able patrons to check in on their own.

Thousands of hotels worldwide already employ some sort of digital signage. Even more anticipate adopting the technol­ogy as a means to engage the consumer base. Digital signage is considered a difference-maker in a hotel's ability to effectively deliver information and generate valuable feedback from patrons. That feedback is considered pivotal, as it is used to shape its operation.

"The hospitality industry is always looking for ways to further cater to their guests," said Dan Leunig, senior sales manager, digital signage division at LG Electronics USA Inc. "When it comes to information, digital signage goes a long way in giving visitors information needed to enjoy their stay, from restau­rants to shows, an effective signage solu­tion provides it ... Many studies show that digital signage, with its ability to portray images, employ sound and vibrant colors, can attract people like a magnet."

Where to use digital signage

An array of opportunities exist throughout a hotel to effectively use digital signage. Three prime ar­eas in which to focus are the lobby, confer­ence centers and in the rooms themselves.

Lobby

Upon entering any business, whether a ho­tel or a store, the visual aspects are the first things that define the customer experience. For hotels deploying digital signage, that first impression begins in the lobby.

Digital signage can be integral in creating an appealing hotel lobby for travelers, but digital screens can be used for much more than just attractive visual appeal.

In most cases, room rates at hotels are like drinks at a bar or gasoline. The price fluctuates depending on the time of day or year or the demand.

Although hotels do this for many reasons, mostly stemming from competition with other hotels, digital signage is allow­ing more hotels to post their room rates in clear view. Since the rates change so frequently, hoteliers are finding that the in­stant update capabilities of digital signage are useful and considerably cheaper than constantly printing rate cards.

"A hotel can use digital signage to inform travelers of value pricing before they even walk in the door to check in," said Jeff Bohnert of Drury Southwest, a division of Drury Hotels based in Arizona. "Digital signs also can help reduce vacancies by offering special rates and deals at a mo­ment's notice."

Concierges are vital resources for hotels, disseminating information or simply being a friendly face to visitors as they enter the facility. The services concierges provide, however, can be greatly expanded through the use of digital signage. Some hotels have added screens in the lobby, which are particularly useful at times when the con­cierge is not on duty, or for hotels where there may not be a concierge at all.

Whether they are digital signs or kiosks with digital signs incorporated in them, these units are useful for travelers on the go, while saving hotel employees time by not having to give directions or answer some common questions to travelers.

Conference center

The first thing people attending a trade show or convention need to know is where to find the conference center. So a good deal of digital signage acts as wayfinding guides for visitors. Such tech­nology is key in particularly large locations or in those where accessing meeting space requires detailed directions.

The signs can be most effective in situations where hundreds or thousands of people are walking the halls of the hotel each day for conferences and trade shows. During conferences, room names and numbers can change several times per day. Also, every conference or expo is different, so the look and visual feel of the signage may need to change depending on the event.

Using wayfinding signage can pay divi­dends financially for event organizers, instead of spending thousands of dollars on large banners and stand-up signs.

Because digital signs can be changed quick­ly, a wayfinding system also solves problems associated with room and time changes.

Digital signage can eliminate the need for hotel employees to print paper signs for room changes during conferences. This saves employees the time of printing and delivering the signs to their locations, while also eliminating printing costs for the hotel.

In some cases, employees have to input the same meeting information into several different systems (e.g., in-room messaging and television displays). Digital signage networks mean the information is entered in one computer, one time.

To further expedite meeting update pro­cesses, some digital signage providers offer software that can interface with the ho­tel's existing sales and event management programs. Much as a smartphone can sync with Microsoft Outlook, the digital signage network pulls the information off the event management program and dynamically distributes the information to the screens, eliminating the need for an employee to spend time doing data entry and leaving more time to cater to customers.

Related to wayfinding, a touchscreen sign could be set up so attendees can see their schedule, room information and even a map to their rooms, which then could be printed out via a kiosk nearby.

Guest rooms

Hotels constantly look for ways to improve their customers' experience and, at the same time, the image of their business. In recent years, hotels have spent countless dollars replacing outdated, bulky tube TVs with flatscreens in guest rooms, enabling operators to use the sets to communicate with patrons.

In-room channels can be controlled with the same software that handles the room and event schedules, making it easier to deliver the same information and promo­tions throughout the facility. These mes­sages can be controlled from the hotel's back office, the hotel chain's central office or an offsite PC set up with the appropriate content-management software.

Most travelers know that when they turn on a TV at a hotel, the first channel that appears is the welcome screen. Hotels set that up by design. Sometimes the welcome channel shows movie trailers and promos, while other times it gives pertinent infor­mation, such as restaurant specials, ameni­ties and other hotel services.

A third-party provider, such as Sioux Falls, S.D.-based LodgeNet, usually runs these networks, but digital signage networks can run on this same technology. New York-based The Hotel Networks, for example, is tapping into that opportunity to reach hotel guests directly.

In-room channels can be controlled with the same software that handles the room and event schedules, making it easier to deliver the same information and promo­tions throughout the facility.

"With the increasing amount of time con­sumers are traveling and staying in hotels, the opportunity to reach those consumers through video advertising channels be­comes invaluable," said Kim Norris, for­mer president of the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau, now the Digital Place-based Advertising Association.

"In fact, Hotel Networks says that 98 percent of hotel guests turn the TV on immediately upon entering their rooms. In-room channels offer a way to reach a very affluent audience at their home away from home. Consumers are watching TV more out of the home, and so it becomes even more important to catch them in a venue like a hotel."

An in-room hotel channel, on many levels, is a digital signage network. It plays dy­namic digital content in the form of movie trailers and local TV spots. Like digital signage, the in-room channels also can be used as an advertising venue to help create additional revenue for the hotel.

"Having video advertising networks in hotel rooms also gives consumers and the hotel an opportunity," Norris said. "The hotel can leverage the network to market events and its facilities, and the consumer can use the network for things like expe­diting the checkout process."

(This article is excerpted and adapted from the recently-updated guide, "Digital Signage in the Hotel Industry,"  originally written by former DigitalSignageToday.com editor Bill Yackey, and updated by DigitalSignageToday.com contributing writer Steve Arel. Download the free guide here.)

Read more about digital signage in hotels.

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