MCLEAN, VA—Looking sharp at a business conference requires an attendee to prepare accordingly prior to arrival. Unfortunately, life obstructs travel plans with unforeseen hurdles: A sick child or spouse, inclement weather—whatever the case may be—may, sometimes, cause the traveler to forget that favorite scarf or power tie at home. However it happens, necessary items remain at home—left on the dresser instead of having been packed up neatly into a suitcase the night before. By the time a two-hour wait at the TSA line jogs the memory of the missing item, it’s already too late.
Or is it?
“We find packages are sent to the hotel for one of two reasons,” said Brian Kelleher, GM at the 458-room Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. “First, guests of the hotel either forgot an item or want to make their travel easier by avoiding the hassle of carrying bulky boxes, or they are business travelers with tight schedules. Second, members of the community want a safe and convenient place to ship their packages instead of leaving them unattended outside of their homes.”
Another reason, according to Jonathan Wilson, VP of product innovation and brand services at Hilton, is guests have very specific needs. For instance, there are guests who insist on drinking a particular beverage. “We have guests who have bottled water shipped ahead of their stay,” he said.
Handling packages for guests uses a hotel’s resources—someone needs to take inventory and track shipments coming in and out. It’s a tedious task, so why not have someone else do it? And not just someone, but the world’s largest e-commerce site, Amazon.
Hilton’s relationship with Amazon has been a longstanding one—a strategic partnership where ideas are exchanged between the two global companies. “With Amazon, one of the ideas that quickly came to the surface was this new idea of an Amazon Locker, and it wasn’t necessarily that the locker was new at that stage, but they had no enterprise application for it,” he said. “They had no way to scale it in a hospitality space, or really any space outside of what they had laid out originally.”
From there, Hilton worked closely with Amazon on the outcome of the product—providing input on service, size, design and accessibility. This, coupled with Amazon’s ability to provide the hospitality giant with an edge, encouraged Hilton to go through with the concept. “By partnering with Amazon, we get preference in our hospitality space, which is also exciting,” Wilson said. “We don’t have exclusive rights to Amazon Locker, but we do get preference with our partnership, which is great.”
Basically, Amazon Locker is a self-service parcel delivery service. It allows guests to send and receive packages from a variety of locations throughout the country. As far as maintenance is concerned with the machine, the online retailer takes care of it all. For instance, if the locker is broken, Amazon is immediately notified of the disturbance.
Nobody at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner has access to the 55-space Amazon Locker; Amazon handles all logistics related to turnover. “We find it stays pretty full,” Kelleher said, explaining the process of the program. “The Amazon Locker program works with a variety of carriers. Once at the Locker, the package is scanned, a locker door pops up, the package is placed in its space and the door is closed.” Afterward, an email with a unique pickup code is sent to the customer. “Customers can then come to the Locker and either enter the code or scan the barcode from their phones. The space with their package pops open, allowing for quick, easy and efficient pick up,” he said. All packages delivered to the Amazon Locker must be picked up within three business days.
There’s no cost to the property for having an Amazon Locker available for guests and members of the community (Amazon doesn’t charge a service or franchise fee). The only additional cost the property has is to pay a slight increase in the electricity bill. “The Amazon Locker does use a very small amount of electricity—like the amount of a cellphone—so the hotel would pay for that cost, but that’s about it,” Wilson explained.
Just as important is the impact the lockers have on the hotel’s business and community engagement. An unintended result of having the delivery service available on the property is community members frequent the hotel more often, increasing brand awareness and visibility. “Guests are more inclined to spend additional dollars at the property,” Kelleher said. “If they come in the early evening, they may stop at our bar for happy hour, or if they come in on a lunch break, they can grab some food at our restaurant.” Community members make up the majority of Amazon Locker users at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner; a little less than half of the delivery service’s users are guests.
“I was standing in the space when three guys from the office across the street picked up their item from Amazon Locker, turned around, and said, ‘I had no idea there was a bar here.’ Now they are frequent Friday afternoon happy hour customers,” Kelleher said.
Since its installation, the locker has provided relief to the hotel workers handling shipping and receiving. “The lockers are good from both an operations and revenue point of view,” the GM noted. “From an operations perspective, our team members are relieved from managing the delivery of our guests’ packages. This frees up their time to focus on other responsibilities at the property and engage more directly with our guests.”
When a guest arrives at a property without an essential accessory for an outfit or an article of clothing, a trip to the nearest shopping center may be an inconvenience—especially if it’s miles away and time is of the essence. Amazon Locker provides guests with an alternative way to remedy a packing blunder when a formal presentation matters. “One of my favorite stories is about a guest who was attending a meeting at the Hilton McLean,” he said, recalling the story. “He forgot his cufflinks, ordered a pair from Amazon, picked them up at the locker on his way to the meeting, and was ready to go by the time he walked through the door.” HB