For Hilton, Location Technology Must Solve Guests’ Pain Points

Geolocation and beacons need to address specific needs, says Hilton's Mark Weinstein at Millennial 2020.

Location technology is a central aspect of Hilton’s mobile marketing.

But as Mark Weinstein, SVP for Customer Experience, Engagement, Loyalty & Partnerships at Hilton, the use cases are clear: experimentation and novelty are fine, but nothing gets full adoption unless it serves a key need for hotel guests and staffs.

“There is no place for ‘technology for technology’s sake,'” Weinstein told attendees at day two of the Millennial 2020 conference.

Hilton Hotel’s Mark Weinstein

Spotify And Live Nation On Location

Location technology is a playing a central role in a Hilton marketing collaboration with music streaming service Spotify and concert promoter Live Nation aimed at Hilton Honors loyalty members, Weinstein noted.

The program was kicked off in conjunction with last month’s Grammy Awards. With “Music Happens Here,” Hilton Honors members are entitled to receive special offers for concert experiences as well as curated walking tours of Hilton locations via Spotify.

“It’s an opportunity to connect with our guests in a personal way. We have Hilton Honors members getting exclusive access to ‘Money Can’t Buy Experiences,'” Weinstein said. “But now the next level involves a content partnership with Live Nation and Spotify to show where music happens in travel around the world.”

The first episode appears next week. The band OneRepublic is kicking it off in Los Angeles, where people can get a tour of the city and explore “the dive bars where bands first got their start” among other locales.

“Travel and music have always had a passionate connection,” Weinstein said. “It’s not just about creating experiences, but offering inspiration for every traveler. On top of the exclusive content for Hilton Honors members, we’re offering custom curated playlists for walking tours of places like New York City, where you can experience how John Lennon was inspired to write Imagine at the midtown Hilton on a piece of the hotel’s stationery. It will play the song and then direct you to the next location on the musical walking tour.”

As Weinstein explained, “Music Happens Here” represents what a major hotel chain can offer versus a travel startup like Airbnb: the ability to create personal as well as communal experiences.

For a legacy brand, particularly a 100-year-old brand with 5,000 hotels across 104 countries, the focus is “not about playing the game, it’s about changing the game.”

Hilton Hawaiian Village

On Location In Hawaii

In looking at the way Hilton decides to incorporate technology at its hotels, Weinstein finds that there’s too many “solutions in search of a problem.”

Too often, he said, he’ll get a pitch from a technology company saying, “‘Here’s a beacon. Go put it in your hotel and figure out what to do with it.”

“We have failed miserably when we’ve tried to ‘figure out’ a technology’s use case after the fact,” Weinstein said. “But we succeed massively and disrupt ourselves when we think of a customer problem and use the technology to specifically address that.”

As an example, Weinstein pointed to the uses of geo-location at its 50-acre Hilton Hawaiian Village inWaikiki.

Wayfinding is a primary use case to help guests navigate the sprawling property.  Secondly, Hilton uses location-triggered alerts to offer guests recommendations based on where they are.

“We can see where someone is and send a notification in the app saying, ‘The luau is starting at this time in this area of the hotel, swimming with the dolphins is available over here,’” Weinstein said.

“Most importantly, we use location technology to help our team members manage the property,” he continued. “A staff member could walk up to you and know who you are, what your preferences are, and respond and deliver. As a general manager, I can know that the bar is getting extra crowded, let’s send more servers down and open up the other bar as well.”

Being Purposeful

The ability to open a room’s blinds with a phone is “interesting and gimmicky,” Weinstein said; and we’ll do stuff in that space for sure. But what’s amazing is being able to the room know when you left so that it was time to send in housekeeping.

“How many times do you get a knock on the door and interrupted? That’s a pain point we can solve,” Weinstein said. “What if you could bring you Nest thermostat app from your home to any hotel you stay in? That’s useful. We’ll try anything to see if it works. But ultimately it has to address a friction point for customers.”

When considering the proper role for technology, Weinstein made the distinction between anticipating versus predicting a customers’ needs.

“About 10 years ago, we had the technology and rolled out some pilots to let guests check-in at a kiosk that would allow them to bypass the front desk,” he said. “All the guest feedback we’d gotten said that they wanted to bypass the front desk. The kiosk was pretty advanced for its time. It picked a room, dispensed a key, printed out a receipt, and sent you up to your room.”

Guests hated it.

The reason, Hilton discovered, was that it solved the wrong problem. It wasn’t what guests were asking us for. They just wanted more control over their stay experience, Weinstein explained.

“Now, we offer remote control via the app on their phone,” Weinstein said. “We allow guests to choose the room they want, and take the phone via a mobile key straight to their door. It’s also important to point out that this wasn’t about replacing people with kiosks, it was about freeing up our team to serve guests even better in the ways they want to be served. And that’s what’s always directing our decisions.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.