Digital key services existed long before the pandemic hit, but the industry’s adoption of mobile-first solutions has been slow. Despite the widespread belief that guests preferred mobile-first experiences, hoteliers hesitated to implement mobile technology like digital key services.
This hesitation came from a belief that mobile services would prevent guests from having truly personalized experiences as well as reducing opportunities for valuable interactions between guests and staff.
The COVID-19 outbreak, however, ushered the hotel industry into a new era of digital transformation necessitated by the market’s shift towards minimizing germ risks while still ensuring a convenient and seamless guest experience. Hoteliers challenged with re-imagining the guest experience and implementing in procedures turned to mobile technology solutions, which reduced touchpoints and gave guests the ability to access property services while maintaining social distancing measures.
As digital technology became more widely adopted, with 42 percent of global travelers now using their smartphones throughout a trip, hoteliers have found that mobile technology has enabled guests to have more control over their hotel experience. According to recent studies, as much as 67 percent of guests in fact now hold a preference for digital key check-in and room access over more traditional methods such as plastic keycards.
Digital technology providers are creating innovative products and services like never before, and mobile access solutions are no exception; as digital technology transformed the hospitality industry throughout the pandemic, digital key services have evolved alongside these emerging solutions. Read on to learn how digital key services have changed to create a more seamless, personalized and contactless experience for guests in the post-pandemic world.
Mobile key solutions that are integrated with the property management system (PMS) help create an efficient, secure and modern check-in process. It can also improve personalization by collecting and storing guest data and preferences, which can then be used by integrated loyalty services to better target guests with rewards and promotions. To maximize a property’s ability to save energy without risking guest comfort, room sensor systems can integrate with a property’s access management technology to automatically adjust room temperatures when a guest checks into the property, which helps hoteliers meet Gen-Z and Millennial concerns about choosing an environmentally-friendly hotel stay.
Many properties have successfully deployed digital key entry through their branded mobile apps, which incentivize downloads and encourage loyalty by allowing hoteliers to better target users with promotions and special offers. Because most major contactless services are also integrated through hotel apps, mobile access control services can integrate with other guest-facing technology to become an interactive and essential tool to enhance guest experiences.
For example, integrating mobile access solutions with food ordering and contactless payment service vendors has helped hoteliers create convenient, engaging mobile app solutions that also boost their property’s bottom-line. Other hoteliers have integrated with guest messaging platforms to enable guests to message a concierge department with any request at anytime and from anywhere. With the rise of IoT and in order to meet guest expectations for enhanced contactless convenience, hoteliers are also increasingly providing guests with the means to interact with and control in-room amenities. This can include guests being able to use personal devices to effortlessly manage guestroom thermostats, lights, drapes, televisions and more.
Working alongside an access control provider’s certified third-party vendors can help hotels that want mobile app functionality beyond just access control but don’t yet have their own in-house app initiatives. They can pick a solution from one of a digital key service provider’s selected app specialist partners, who integrate Mobile Access functionality into their products.
The ease of use and flexibility that the mobile platform offers have shown to increase guest satisfaction and engagement, and because the check-in experience is a major contributing factor to overall guest satisfaction scores, no mobile app would be complete without it. Digital key service providers have evolved to easily integrate with other hotel services and provide guests with greater convenience and personalization throughout their stay.
Despite the fact that guests increasingly expected digital key solutions during the pandemic, small hotel groups and boutique properties without a dedicated app were challenged to create one or find another way to implement digital key service solutions. Many such hoteliers often held a misconception that digital key services feature too much complexity requiring multiple integrations in order to be implemented into their more simplistic operations.
Aside from equipping hoteliers with the services necessary to integrate mobile keys onto their independent apps, two other popular methods to integrate digital key solutions largely dominated the industry: hoteliers could either utilize a provider’s third-party vendors to offer a property’s mobile access functionality on their hosted apps, or use a general app hosted by the provider and customized to fit a hotel’s branding or design.
Hosting digital key services on a property app, however, is no longer the only method hoteliers can use. Major digital key service providers have also begun to offer mobile wallet compatibility for the storage and use of digital keys. This is rapidly proving to be a successful method to swift services and meet new demands, as many consumers are increasingly using digital wallet services in their everyday lives: in 2019, nearly 1.5 billion travelers downloaded mobile boarding passes that were stored in their digital wallets, and mobile wallet payments increased by 29 percent in 2020. Access control technology has evolved to allow guests to access digital key cards in the same central location where many other essential travel documents are stored, allowing for increased convenience and seamless use.
Using mobile wallets to access keyless entry services offers additional benefits that mobile apps don’t. Rather than using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based systems that are used for mobile app integrations, cell phone providers and digital key service providers have partnered together to offer Near Field Communication (NFC)-based technology solutions that enable device-to-device sharing of data. With NFC utilizing guest devices for the passive storage and transfer of digital key credentials, phone wallet services offer unique advantages by incorporating the ability for compatible guest devices to unlock doors even if they are powered off. Unlike BLE-based digital key services, which require guest devices to actively send and receive data, NFC ensures that guests experiencing low batteries on their smart devices never have to worry about being locked out of their room.
Aside from preventing guests from being locked out of guestrooms due to low battery status on their device, mobile wallet-based digital keys also serve to further provide a more seamless and hassle-free travel experience from start to finish. Guests using the feature are significantly able to store a hotel’s digital keys alongside other digitalized items such as airplane passes or event tickets, preventing the need to shift between several various apps and minimizing any frustration that can arise as a result.
Hotel properties today recognize that incorporating contactless solutions are necessary to meeting guest needs, and as they build their contactless service strategies for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond, the solutions they choose must be scalable, flexible and future-proof. With research indicating that 46 percent of travelers believe mobile key solutions are important features for their stays, most major hotel brands have invested heavily in digital keys, recognizing its undeniable importance in contactless service strategies.
In the era of instant gratification, digital key services now play a valuable role in providing swift, efficient service for their guests. Guest satisfaction scores can plummet by 50 percent when check-in wait times are 5 minutes or more; keyless entry not only eliminates wait times, but the adoption of these services leads to an average increase of 7 percent in guest satisfaction scores. Not only can this benefit guests by more easily meeting their needs, it benefits hoteliers by allowing frontline staff to focus on other tasks. Mobile key use also means employees do not have to physically replace lost keys, which increases efficiency and reduces costs for hotel properties at the same time.
Modern mobile key technology also offers guests increased security and reduces the risk of a lost or stolen room key. By eliminating the need for physical keycards, hoteliers can better ensure that sensitive guest information is not easily stolen or lost, and that the property is only accessed by approved guests and staff. Additionally, because the phone’s passcode or Touch or Face ID is required to access mobile keycards, a person who uses a lost or stolen phone cannot easily gain entry to guest rooms.
In conclusion, mobile key technology is an essential tool in a hotel’s contactless service strategy for two reasons: first, it meets short-term challenges because it reduces risk, making travelers and staff members feel more comfortable during the COVID pandemic. But second, it has incredible potential and long-term benefits for the future. Mobile access technology has already undergone rapid transformation, enabling hoteliers to better streamline operations and meet guest needs in an innovative, connectivity-oriented manner.
As digital technology continues to evolve, mobile access solutions will continue to adapt and provide properties with digital convenience, reduced costs, sustainability and efficiency over the next decade and beyond.
As Global President Hospitality at ASSA ABLOY Hospitality, Markus Boberg is responsible for maintaining relationships with key clients within hospitality markets worldwide. Based in Stockholm and a member of the ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions team since 2015, Boberg is a seasoned sales and marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience.
The ASSA ABLOY Group is the global leader in access solutions. Every day, we help billions of people experience a more open world.
ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions is dedicated to reimagining how people move through their world. Our expertise in customer journey mapping, innovation and service design leads to the invention of new security solutions that create value for our clients and exceptional experiences for end users.
For the hospitality market, these solutions include integrated software systems, mobile access and location solutions designed to help our customers enhance the hotel guest experience, while improving operational efficiency. In order to provide best-in-class customer service, we offer support in more than 166 countries.
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