The occupancy rate for Chicago hotels reached 75.28% in 2013, according to the city’s official marketing organization Choose Chicago. So when The Godfrey Hotel Chicago entered the scene on February 1, Adam Schomaker, director of sales and marketing for The Godfrey, knew that he had to find an innovative way to distinguish the hotel from its competitors.
In alignment with the hotel’s “discover your element” theme—a play on the periodic table—Schomaker wanted to centralize all of the elements that make up a guest’s experience, such as dining, shopping, and upcoming attractions. But because travelers are often on-the-go, Schomaker needed to be able to deliver this information through mobile.
To that end, The Godfrey partnered with interactive interface and software platform provider Nervana Group to create a digital reader board that would reside within the hotel’s lobby and on its fourth floor. The 55-inch tablet-like interface acts as a “digital concierge” and provides information about attractions and services in the hotel and around the city, explains Rhon Daguro, CEO of Nervana. Shopping, dining, and event information are all featured on 20 to 30 portrait-style digital cards that slowly flow from the left-side of the screen to the right-side in what Daguro refers to as the “lazy river.” Guests can also filter the board to only view cards of certain categories, for example just restaurants or retail locations. Once guests spot a card of interest they can stop the digital river’s flow with the tap of a finger and enter in their email address to send the card’s content directly to their mobile device.
“When people travel now, their concierge is their phone,” Schomaker says. “Everybody has Siri, everybody has Yelp, [and] everybody can use Google Now. Why not just add to that and make it a little more convenient for those in the market if they’re already going to be using their phone for travel?”
From a marketing perspective, the technology enables The Godfrey to control what content appears on the board, Schomaker explains, including hotel events, flyers, and nearby attractions. And while The Godfrey discussed enabling guests to send content via text, the hotel stuck with email due to budgetary concerns and because it’s how the hotel most frequently communicates with its guests, he says.
However, this decision seems to play in the hotel’s favor. The board also enables The Godfrey to capture email addresses entered into the board. Schomaker says that if he were to use the acquired addresses, he would send the users a message asking them if they want to opt in or opt out of the brand’s email marketing program first.
“When they enter [in] that information, they’re looking to just get the information that’s on the board,” he says. “They’re not saying ‘I want future promotions’ or anything like that. They’re not opting into that.”
Since opening the hotel earlier this year, The Godfrey has experienced about 848 board interactions—including taps and swipes—per day. Now that the hotel has been open for a few months, Schomaker says he can start deeply analyzing these interactions, such as what guests tap on and which visitors—for example, local Chicagoans versus business travelers—use the service the most. The board also enables the hotel to remarket to users, such as by sending a restaurant coupon to guests who scroll through dining options, although The Godfrey isn’t currently leveraging this capability.
“The board is absolutely being used,” Daguro says. “[But] we need to see how much of those interactions are meaningful—meaning what exactly are they touching?”
The Godfrey has already made a few changes to enhance its digital and mobile experience. For instance, the company has integrated a QR code into the board that guests can scan to download UrbanBuddy—a mobile app that allows people to ask local experts for recommendations. Social additions, like ratings and reviews, have also been discussed but not yet implemented. Furthermore, Schomaker says sensitivities around providing information in a public space may limit certain consumer interactions.
But if one thing is for sure, it’s this: Mobile and digital will be extending their stay at The Godfrey.