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Residence Inn taps augmented reality-enabled social hours to fuel stays

Residence Inn by Marriott is driving interest in its social hour by enabling guests to use augmented reality application Blippar to scan beverage coasters with their smartphones to access suggested food and beer pairings and customizable selfies.

The Residence Inn Mix program was designed to offer customers a new approach to social hours, which now typically include young travelers swapping photos and messages on their mobile devices. At four select Residence Inn Mix events beginning this month, guests will be offered blippable beverage coasters to scan, thereby unlocking interactive experiences such as premium Anheuser-Busch content and customizable selfies.

“The hospitality industry has not traditionally fostered interactive, digital communities, and Blippar’s technology allows Residence Inn guests to build friendships and community like never before by connecting guests with similar interests via geo-targeting capabilities,” said Omaid Hiwaizi, president of global marketing at Blippar, London, Britain.

“Many travelers may not traditionally consider hotel stays to be a social experience and an opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, but Blippar and Residence Inn are aiming to change that perception for guests seeking a more social experience.”

Augmented reality experience
Due to the mobile-first nature of many happy hours, which usually features millennials and consumers of various demographics posting photos on Snapchat and Instagram to share with friends, Residence Inn opted to take the mindset a step further and leverage an augmented reality experience to entice more guests and drive future hotel stays.

Select hotels in Austin, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. will pilot the technology this month at four Residence Inn Mix events. Attendees will spot the blippable drink coasters, which may be scanned to unlock interactive experiences.

Guests will be able to play multi-player trivial games on their smartphones, create special selfies and view exclusive Anheuser-Busch content, such as suggested food and beer pairings to make consumers’ social hours even more delectable.

If the strategy proves to be a hit, this could be an optimal way of driving commerce inside the hotel restaurants or bars, as well as converting consumers into long-time customers who will select the Residence Inn for future accommodations.

“At Residence Inn social gatherings, all the beer and food will be free on site, so blipp-to-buy was not activated for this particular blipp,” Mr. Hiwaizi said. “However, Blippar’s technology does allow for users to purchase items in-app when this feature is enabled.”

The hospitality brand is also unveiling sleeker new branding and an updated lobby design to fall in accordance with its changing industry direction.

Image recognition’s potency
An increasing amount of brands and marketers are beginning to use augmented reality apps such as Blippar to offer users an experience that goes beyond banner ads and social media contests on mobile.

In a reflection of image recognition technology’s growing role in mobile shopping and mcommerce, augmented reality application Blippar and Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba recently revealed plans for next-generation solutions that promise to bring the real-world and digital experiences even closer together (see story).

Blippar also has experience working with food and beverage marketers to take campaigns off the bottle and onto users’ mobile devices.

Several weeks ago, Heineken tapped Blippar for a new digital campaign that offered consumers a look at beer’s ingredients while stirring up interest in sustainability matters by asking users to snap a photo of a Heineken bottle to unlock exclusive content and create selfies to share across social media (see story).

“Brands are always looking to emerging technologies for new and and impactful ways to excite, engage and provide added value to their audiences,” Mr. Hiwaizi said. “Blippar gives brands the opportunity to bring products and environments to life and offer social, interactive experiences through its unique image recognition and augmented reality technology.

“The hospitality industry is ripe for disruption and new technologies like Blippar that enable custom experiences as well as an opportunity for travelers to connect with each other and build lasting communities will be core to hospitality brands staying relevant in today’s changing world.”

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