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Starwood Hotels exec: Mobile keys augment product strategy, cater to consumers’ needs

NEW YORK – A Starwood Hotels executive at the Mobile Women to Watch 2015 Summit revealed the hospitality brand’s plans to roll out mobile room keys at Aloft hotels beginning today, with plans for bringing the Bluetooth-enabled technology to its other properties in the next year.

The executive discussed the importance of developing a cohesive and relevant mobile product strategy during the “Starwood Hotels and Resorts: Mobile is Big, So We Built an App. What Now?” session. The brand encouraged companies to examine ways that they can expedite associates’ time, create a product statement ahead of development and use customer feedback to determine their client base’s needs.

“We are about to see a complete restructuring of how we’re building mobile,” said Arlie Sisson, associate director of mobile product strategy, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, New York, NY. ”Mobile is mandatory, not emerging.”

Mobile Women to Watch 2015 Summit is a Mobile Marketer presentation.

Starwood strategy
Starwood has been pioneering mobile in the hospitality sector with the development of its room cataloguing mobile application, which provided employees with a streamlined way of collecting valuable room data and features that was then compiled for guests to be able to choose their perfect accommodations from (see story). If a guest prefers to stay in a low-level room with a fireplace and balcony, he or she can use the room catalogue to locate a room with those specific amenities.

Starwood Hotels, which is comprised of brands such as St. Regis, Westin and Sheraton, was able to have thousands of associates catalogue 350,000 rooms in just ten weeks using the app.

“If you can personalize your Chevy, you should be able to customize your stay in the exact same way,” Ms. Sisson said.

Other companies should be thinking about what consumers need or demand, and push the boundaries of what is available. These types of products will be physically and emotionally engaged with by mobile users all over the world.

“Make sure to create things relevant to users,” Ms. Sisson said. “You shouldn’t be afraid to say no to things that aren’t relevant to you or your user base. Push into what you think your guests want you to do.”

Mobile keys
Starwood’s SPG keyless strategy includes features such as one-time log-in, push notifications and encrypted mobile keys. It is one of two brands that will be the first to introduce the technology to the consumer market beginning today and continuing through 2015 (see story).

Guests will now be able to unlock their hotel rooms by placing their smartphone in front of the scanner, providing for a streamlined check-in experience.

“We hope this will transform the guest experience as we know it today,” Ms. Sisson said. “We are incredibly passionate about this.”

Starwood also highlighted five tips for receiving optimal mobile results, including defining product strategy and saying no to irrelevant ideas, building something that users want, collaborating with colleagues early and often, asking for frequent consumer feedback and product requests and celebrating your team.

“We are changing the way people engage with the world, so celebrate those things,” Ms. Sisson said.

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York