Deploying a room choice solution is a cross-departmental task

LONDON—Guests want choice. And, for many, that choice increasingly includes the ability to pick their own room. But a photo online isn’t the same as an in-room experience—so for the hotels that provide this service, it’s important to make the online experience as lifelike as possible. That’s why Hotel Room Chooser, an online platform that allows guests to choose their own hotel room prior to check-in, now supports content captured using the Matterport camera system.

Oliver Morrison, CEO of Filter Digital, which developed Hotel Room Chooser, reflected on the need for technologies like it. “Change in how people make bookings is being driven by the rise of platforms like Airbnb, which have put people in control of all aspects of a personalized itinerary, and the need among hotels to secure more direct bookings and revenue in what is an ultra-competitive and almost commoditized online bookings market,” he said.

“Hotel Room Chooser, and technologies like it, put hotels back on the front foot in terms of customer ownership and having a differentiator,” he added. “As opposed to ‘booking blind’ based solely on a description and stock images, guests have access to interactive floor plans, photos, 360-degree room views and more. With airlines already having moved in this direction, hotel brands will need to start delivering these services within the next four to five years to keep up with wider user experience expectations.”

The decision to add Matterport—a 3D camera system that creates realistic, fully immersive experiences—was a simple one for the company. “Working with Matterport was a very logical next step,” Morrison said, noting that the tool is used to capture hotel interiors, collect measurements and process data to create, edit and share a 3D rendering of hotel rooms, event spaces and more. “It means end users can now explore available hotel rooms from a variety of viewpoints, learn more about the aspects of the room’s location and get a feel for the space without having to physically travel there.”

And the quality of those images is important to guests, Morrison said. “The way we’re presented with hotel information online is gravitating toward the visual—TripAdvisor’s recent makeover has placed guest and partner images front and center within its content stream. Images are increasingly a driver of purchasing decisions,” he said. “Of course, for some hotel booking decisions, the considerations are purely economic. But for high-end business travelers and people planning vacations, the aesthetics and functionality of the hotel room they’ll be staying in can be as important as the location.

“In five years, allowing guests to choose their own room based on interactive visual information will be a baseline offering—hotel groups that aren’t able to offer this will be left behind as customers gravitate toward those providing this choice,” he said.

Consider this: In a recent survey of 500 customers where Hotel Room Chooser was available, 75% of customers did choose their own room, 96% found the experience enjoyable and 98% said they would use it again. “Since its initial launch, we have processed tens of thousands of bookings through Hotel Room Chooser, so we have a sizeable amount of real-world data we can use to iterate the platform and help inform client decisions,” Morrison said.

What do most hoteliers want to know when researching this type of technology? “The primary consideration for hotels when deciding whether to use any technological solution is how easily it will integrate with its existing setup, closely followed by how customizable a new system is to their own needs,” the CEO said. “This is doubly the case with a room chooser solution, which has implications for CRM. It’s why we’ve worked hard to give our platform the flexibility to either be fully integrated into a hotel’s existing booking journey or sit outside as a post-booking process. We always look to run small trials with partners, so they can see the results and make a more informed decision.

“Hotels need to know how such systems impact existing operational workflows,” he continued. “For example, our system can be fully integrated with a hotel reception desk, all the while capturing customer feedback. It’s also important for hotels to avoid downtime during the integration process; Hotel Room Chooser is hosted externally, with live API and network integration, which greatly reduces the heavy lifting required for deployment. Finally, it’s vital for hotels to understand that deploying a room chooser platform is very much a cross-departmental task, encompassing operations, marketing and IT—though we like to think we’ve made the task relatively pain free.”

Looking toward the future, Morrison said, “In the more immediate future, our focus is on layering up the solution to keep in step with advances in both technology and the kinds of functionality hotels demand.

“For example, we spend a lot of time making sure that the system offers the same user experience regardless of whether the end-user is accessing it from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone,” he continued. “This was a key consideration when we decided to integrate Matterport, which is as at home on an iPhone as it is on a huge screen.”

Aside from technical considerations, there are many ways choice technology can grow and expand. “Once it becomes the norm within the booking process, it makes sense that users should also be able to pick other services at the same time—whether that’s which snacks and drinks are in the minibar, or what time they’d like breakfast in the morning. The potential for transactional interaction is significant,” he said. HB

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