Inside Hilton’s plan to stay ahead of the tech curve, and the competition

Hilton's Conrad Concierge App

Hilton is hoping a series of new digital innovations to enhance the customer experience across its hotel chains will help it differentiate from competitor brands that are jumping on the digital first bandwagon.

Hilton is on a mission. The hotel giant, which owns 13 brands and 4,726 properties (that’s over 775,000 rooms) is working to get all of its guests to sign up to its HHonours loyalty programme and corresponding app that serves as the power house behind Hilton’s digital offering. It allows guests to choose their own room, check in, and use a digital key to open any doors they would usually access with a regular key.

The reason is two-fold; to encourage guests to book directly through Hilton rather than the slew of online intermediaries and to ensure the hotel behemoth stays ahead of the curve of rival hotels such as Radisson, which have invested in similar digital initiatives that focus on customer experiences designed to grow revenue and forge a deeper emotional bond with customers.

Earlier in the year, Hilton launched what it dubbed the biggest campaign in its 97-year history called ‘Stop Clicking Around’. The aim was to educate customers of the benefits of booking direct and signing up to its loyalty scheme such as discounted rooms and digital benefits. Since rolling out globally in January customers are signing up to HHonours every three seconds, claimed the hotel chain, while the number of people joining is up 100 per cent and the number of those downloading the app is also up 100 per cent.

Speaking to The Drum Geraldine Calpin, global head of marketing and digital at Hilton, explained the thinking behind the campaign and the company’s latest plans for its HHonours app.

“Our distribution strategy is to be in all the channels customers want to find us in but we are able to give a better experience and a better rate if they come direct,” she said. “It was really to change what had been a misperception in the market, as a lot of people think online travel sites offer lower prices than the brands directly and with Hilton that wasn’t the case. The big message was really you will get a lower price if you come to use direct and you will get digital check in.”

The next “big” thing Hilton is focusing on in terms of its digital customer experience is rolling out its Conrad hotel Concierge app across its various hotel brands, which include Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels and Hampton by Hilton Hotels, a key feature it is hoping will continue to differentiate its offering.

“Say for example you have just checked in and the air con is a bit noisy or the room is a bit cold you can message us through the app,” continued Calpin. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to pick up the phone if it’s just something that is niggling them but they are more likely to do it using technology.”

Messages go through Hilton’s call centre and each guest is responded to within 5 minutes of sending.

“We are using digital to create a better stay experience and we will continue to innovate in that digital hospitality experience because for us it’s about better experience. In some cases people don’t want to talk to people so enabling digital and technology to provide guests with more choices and control over their stay is what we want to do. The big thing is how can we make that easier and with less friction for our guests.”

Hilton is also looking to appeal to the millennial generation with the launch of a new hotel called Tru. While not open yet, the chain will be at a lower price point than the rest of Hilton’s portfolio and early marketing plans expect social and emerging platforms to be a focus.

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