Understanding guest movements is often more intuition than science. Hotel managers might rely on basic visual analysis of traffic flows, or perhaps spend heavily on a vendor to come in and manage the project. Without significant time investment or monetary spend, there’s no easy way for hotel management to track and understand guest movements throughout the property.

What if you knew where guests were within your hotel property at any given time? What if you understood how guests interact with your property, such as time spent in the room or if a happy hour brings in more dinner business?

Such questions can be answered by technology that captures physical data and digitizes it for analysis. One technology is especially suited to affordable business intelligence on spatial movements: beacons. These small Bluetooth devices ping smartphones that pass nearby, revealing specific patterns and guest movements within the hotel’s physical space.

Analyzing guest flow

Once the beacons have been deployed on site, the fun begins. After all, the reporting brings the real value to the hotel manager. Reports (examples here) offer visibility into the time spent in specific areas of the hotel, the movement and flow through the areas, and the number of phones seen in the property throughout the day.

Time Spent Beaconator Report

A potential report from the Hotel Beaconator concept

As data comes in, valuable business intelligence emerges. While personalized offers could target a specific device – say a user who has the hotel’s loyalty app installed – it could also simply suggest placement of new on-property signage, or even help inform the best use of renovation budget.

Mark McSpadden, Head of Sabre Labs, knows that learning about guest behavior on-property can lead to some valuable outcomes:

“For hoteliers, insight into guest behavior could be very impactful. The Beaconator identifies opportunities to enhance offers, personalize the customer service experience or improve day-to-day operations. These are essential to building a hotel strategy that’s optimized for success.”

Contextual considerations

With the beacons, an action can trigger on a user’s phone as they pass, generally through an app. For hotels, the opportunity here would be to engage loyalty members within the app to offer contextualized, behavior-driven offers. So rather than just pinging indiscriminately, physical on-site behavior would be another input into the loyalty program.

Hotels should be wary of irrelevant offers based on a guest’s location, says Barrett Clark, Principal Software Engineer at Sabre Labs and one of the minds behind the concept:

“The low-hanging fruit is what everyone grabs first – the localized offers. But it’s also the thing that makes the consumer want to shut it off immediately.

How many times does a guest walk by the bar? It’s really hard to do context-sensitive personalization because you don’t always know the right moment. You don’t know the guest’s mindset.”

Beacons have captured retailers’ imaginations for many years now. And yet the technology has not quite delivered a full-scale revolution in the way that consumers interact at the retail level. Part of the struggle is that consumers are not always willing to allow retail offers into the intimate smartphone experience. For example, recent Sabre research found that only 27% of UK consumers prefer personalization relevant to their current location. The remaining 73% are not interested in place-based contextual offers. By using beacons in non-invasive applications, such as improving physical layout of a space, hotels can deploy beacons in a way that truly improves the guest experience.

For more on the Beaconator on the Innovation Hub.s