American Marketer


How mobile and social media can drive luxury hospitality brand loyalty

April 4, 2012


By Duke Greenhill

High-end hotels are the ideal proving ground for social and digital media. Both marketing tactics are uniquely useful in enhancing customer service and luxury brand equity.

Still, most upmarket brands are scared stiff that the accessibility of digital media dilutes the exclusivity essential to luxury branding. But they are wrong.

Yes, exclusivity is an intrinsic luxury brand value, but so is personalization.

No traditional platform offers prestige brands the same potential as social and digital media when it comes to personalizing a customer’s experience.

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With that in mind, here is a day in the life of a guest at a “digitized” luxury hotel. Or rather, real-life examples of how luxury hotels should leverage social and new media to cultivate greater brand loyalty and equity.

7 a.m. PST: You hop on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. Before take-off, you tweet, “Headed to NYC. Looking 4ward to drink poolside @LuxuryNYCHotel.”

When you land and turn your mobile phone on, you have a Twitter response from @ LuxuryNYCHotel. It reads, “We look forward to having you. Shall we reserve you a lounge chair?”

The No. 1 cause of customer dissatisfaction in the luxury hotel business is a lack of immediate staff attention. This is why the primary gauge for determining a hotel’s star rating is its staff-to-guest ratio.

With a simple tweet, the hotel has made that ratio moot, and provided you with immediate, personalized solutions for your desires. Not a bad start.

1 p.m. EST: You deplane at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, grab your bags and head out to the taxi queue. You tweet, “Ugh. Never gonna get a taxi. Line is miles long!”

Your hotel has already followed your Twitter account – a standard procedure for incoming guests – and will continue to do so until you check out.

The hotel responds, “Shall we send a car for you?” You know that Dial7 is about the same price from JFK as a taxi, so you say, “Yes,” and within minutes, the hotel has ordered the town car and you are on your way long before the sods in the taxi line.

2 p.m.: Upon check-in, you are provided an iPad pre-loaded with the hotel’s branded app. It offers the concierge’s suggestions for dining, entertainment and site-seeing, and provides quick-access to purchase theater tickets, transportation and room service.

You take it up to your room where you find a handwritten note on your pillow. Yes, there is still a place for traditional personalization in the digital hotel. The note reads, “Thank you for finding us tweet-worthy. Please use the enclosed for a free poolside drink. Your lounge chair has been reserved.”

3 p.m.: You are showered and feeling better. You wish you did not have to go that darn meeting. You use the iPad to send a quick message to the concierge, and when you step off the elevator, a taxi is already waiting for you.

5 p.m.: The meeting is over, and you are feeling the physical effects of cross-continent travel and corporate meetings. You catch happy hour poolside with you private lounger and free drink, though you buy one or two more. You tweet, “Long day. Thinking about a massage @ LuxuryNYCHotel spa tomorrow before I fly home.”

7 p.m.: When you arrive in your room, you notice you have a message on your hotel iPad. You open it, and it takes you directly to one of the hotel’s Facebook videos.

The video illustrates the hotel’s spa offerings. Beneath the video is a “click to reserve spa treatment” button. You click. And before setting the iPad down, you use the hotel’s custom application to select and reserve a table at a recommended restaurant.

You shower again, change, head downstairs and, again, the taxi is waiting for you.

11 p.m.: You return to your room after a long day. Your bed is turned down and, again, on your pillow, is a handwritten note. It reads, “We’re sorry that you’re leaving tomorrow, but if you like, please text your airline and confirmation number to 212-555-5555 and we’ll have your boarding passes waiting when you check out.”

9 a.m. the next day: You are awake, refreshed and satisfied by the room service breakfast you scheduled the previous night on your hotel iPad.

You have your massage, then head downstairs where the hotel’s staff hands you an envelope with your boarding passes. You reluctantly return the iPad to them, after a one-click check out process via their custom app, and head to the waiting taxi.

10:30 a.m.: As you board your flight you tweet, “Wonderful time in NYC at @ LuxuryNYCHotel but glad to be headed home.”

When you land at Los Angeles’ LAX Airport, you notice you have a tweet. It is from the hotel: “We loved having you. When you visit again please use code XYZ for a complimentary upgrade. Thx, @ LuxuryNYCHotel.”

You think to yourself, “I will definitely stay there again.”

THROUGH A COST-EFFECTIVE and streamlined process of integrating social and digital media into their customer experience, the hotel succeeded in providing you quick and personalized treatment.

You do not know that there was only one person in the hotel offices managing all the tweets and iPad requests from the current guests.

You do not know that, operationally speaking, it is far cheaper for the hotel to provide customer service this way. None of that matters to you. You feel special and, in the world of luxury service branding, “special” is the name of the game.

Duke Greenhill is founder/CEO of Greenhill+Partners, a New York -based creative agency that specializes in the branding and marketing of luxury brands. Reach him at