The Ritz-Carlton is looking to bring its signature luxury to mobile users by making it easier for them to check in and out with mobile check-in, among other enhancements to its app.
In an effort to bring the luxury for which it's known to its mobile customers, The Ritz-Carlton has introduced a revamped app that features mobile check-in among several other new additions. These improvements are the latest move in a growing trend of hospitality brands seeking to capitalize on the opportunities mobile affords.
"The big challenge for everyone in the travel industry is that a lot of technology underneath the covers is not up to date," says, Ben Reubenstein, president of global digital agency Possible's mobile division. "All of us carry these mobile devices and have access to these networks, so streamlining experiences like check-in is pretty powerful."
First launched in 2012, The Ritz-Carlton App now includes mobile check-in and check-out, real-time service requests, the ability to order food and beverages, and exclusive localized content. Though The Ritz-Carlton certainly isn't the only hotel with its own app - Mandarin Oriental allows users to book rooms or research its restaurants on its app, while the Caesars Palace Las Vegas app lets guests request room repairs and schedule spa treatments - it aims to be the most comprehensive.
Reubenstein first noticed the app not as a marketer, but as a traveler. Despite his disappointment that the Web, iOS, and Android apps are all the same, rather than optimized for individual platforms, he was nonetheless impressed by the overall experience.
"The app kind of has two modes: 'I'm getting ready to book my trip' and 'I'm here, ready to check in' or 'I'm at the pool, ready for a drink,'" Reubenstein says.
Christoph Heyn, The Ritz-Carlton's director of mobile and digital guest experience, stressed the importance of keeping in mind that travelers have drastically different needs at home than they do once they're physically at the hotel.
"If we do mobile, we wanted to do it The Ritz-Carlton way and fulfill the promise to our guests that they'll get a superior experience, not just when they stay with us, but when they're on their mobile devices, too," Heyn says.
The most notable enhancement to the app is the mobile check-in feature, which is also newly available for 10 other hotel brands under The Ritz-Carlton's parent company, Marriott International. While Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is currently testing a mobile check-in feature, which also includes keyless room entry, at two of its properties, one of which also unveiled a robotic butler earlier this week, The Ritz-Carlton's version is available to all customers.
Guests who worry about the absence of human interaction needn't worry - the front desk and concierge aren't going anywhere. This is just an option for guests who prefer to communicate electronically. When the app launched, an email was sent out to Ritz-Carlton rewards members with upcoming visits and according to Heyn, 18 percent opted for mobile check-in.
Additionally, though customers are none the wiser, another aspect designed to make their experience more seamless is an update to the food and beverage system's back end. Typically, the dining room manager receives orders as emails and dispatches them; now, they'll be sent straight to the kitchen and printed on-site.
In October, The Ritz-Carlton will launch the next phase of its app, a feature that involves using filters, titles, and stamps to turn users' photos into 1920s-style retro travel posters and lets them share on social media.
These continuous upgrades may prove to be effective for the hotel chain, as Reubenstein points out that it's crucial for any brand with an app to keep working on it.
"You need to pay attention year after year to what Apple and Google are doing, to what's going on in your industry, and keep it moving," he says. "You can't just write the app, put it in the store, and check the box. It's a continuous investment."
Before joining the ClickZ team, Mike O'Brien was a reporter for newspapers in Brooklyn and Eugene, Oregon, where he earned a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. Having also worked in newspaper sales, Mike enjoys writing about marketing and advertising much more than selling it.
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