Wireless charging is here. With 85% of all phones sold this year to be wireless charging enabled, it is set to become, as The Wire predicts, ‘as uncontroversial and universally embraced as Wi-Fi’. Just as Wi-Fi was a sea-change in the hospitality industry over a decade ago, wireless charging – as a service for guests and as operational technology for businesses – is making waves in hotels.
Guests want access to convenient power for their growing range of devices, and hotels that already offer wireless charging are seeing a persuasive ROI. For hoteliers almost ready to take the plunge, the good news is that unlike the early days of Wi-Fi, the process to get wireless charging up and running in your business is more straightforward, thanks to the lessons learned from the Wi-Fi journey.
Wi-Fi is now a hospitality must-have. So much so that the first space hotel (due to open in 2022) lists ‘high-speed wireless Internet’ as part of its offer. Whether on land or in orbit, guests want fast, free, reliable Wi-Fi across an ever-growing range of devices. It is a key search criteria on booking sites and features heavily in reviews.
Not that long ago, however, the industry was uncertain about Wi-Fi. When it started appearing in hotels around 2003, there were perceived challenges: installation, costs, guest room versus public space provision, monetization. But the arrival of the iPhone in 2007 fast made it a priority and those that hadn’t invested in Wi-Fi began losing out.
Wi-Fi provision has perhaps been one of the most significant developments in the industry. It still makes or breaks hotels, with many now phasing out the paid-for service to make it entirely free. Guests now rank free Wi-Fi as the most important hotel room amenity – more important even than room size or an ensuite shower. When it comes to hotels, we will put up with anything, as long as we are connected.
The same will soon be said of convenient power. The more we rely on our devices in our day-to-day lives – responding to emails or prepping a presentation on our commute, Google Maps to find our way to a meeting, ApplePay perhaps for train or Uber, then streaming a video to relax on the way home – the more power-hungry we become. And just as the iPhone made the demand for Wi-Fi soar, the launch of wireless charging enabled smartphones from all the major phone providers has accelerated the demand for charging points that will conveniently and easily meet our on-the-go power needs.
Hotels, workplaces, stadiums, coffee chains and food outlets are adopting it to offer a better customer experience. Ikea has even started to embed wireless chargers into furniture, which highlights the extent to which wireless charging is now mainstream technology for consumers.
With almost one billion wireless charging enabled devices due to be in circulation by 2020, hotels cannot ignore this growing demand for wireless power, but they are right to be cautious about implementing new hotel tech. Happily, with options for cloud management, always-on monitoring and seamless integration with existing systems, wireless charging already has the solutions for the problems that hampered Wi-Fi deployments at scale for so long.
By 2003, around 6,000 hotels offered Wi-Fi to guests; this was partly triggered by the rise in demand as Intel’s Centrino technology became a standard laptop feature. Fairmont was the first luxury hotel company to make the leap to offering internet connectivity across all its hotels. Research at the time, however, showed that hotels tended to use wireless ICT developments for operations, improving hotel services, rather than offering Wi-Fi as a direct service for guests. Some who did offer internet access to guests charged prohibitive fees and take-up was therefore low.
In the nascent days of Wi-Fi, early adopters knew it was more than a service. They leveraged the technology to create engaging guest experiences, in line with the growing trend for device-led hospitality, future proofing with features like self-service check-in, virtual concierges and smartphone room entry, setting themselves apart in a competitive market.
Hoteliers ahead of the curve realised they could also attract non-guests to use hotel spaces. Wi-Fi influenced the design and development of the hotel lobby, opening it up as a public co-working space.
The Marriott Group was one of the first to put Wi-Fi and connectivity at the heart of guest experience. In 2014, they developed a peer-to-peer guest networking app and in-room media services where guests can stream the content they usually would at home. This is now becoming general practice across the industry.
Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), a hospitality tech trailblazer, was the first global group to offer free Wi-Fi to its Rewards Club members in 2013, followed in 2016 by IHG Connect, which gave guests unlimited connectivity, one log-in across all its global venues and centralized tech support. Other groups have since followed suit, moving from location-specific to brand-specific log-ins, to enhance the guest experience and loyalty across different venues.
Hotels can use authentication platforms to personalize the service for each guest, provide tailored offers and experiences, and capture data on their choices – something that pioneering hotels like Hyatt Santa Clara started doing as far back as 2014. The hotel worked with Cisco to develop free Wi-Fi that could gather business intelligence such as whether using the free Wi-Fi made guests stay longer and spend more.
These commercial benefits have since been widely evidenced – tech-savvy hotels are rewarded by longer dwell time, extra spend, and plenty of data capture and marketing opportunities.
The same is true for early adopters of wireless charging, but with quicker wins, as they can draw on the lessons learned from Wi-Fi. Wireless charging spots encourage people to come to a venue, stay longer and spend more. The service offers an opportunity to gather data about how guests use facilities based on where they are charging and for how long. This can then inform business decisions. There is the chance to integrate wireless charging with loyalty apps and other third party systems using API’s, SDK’s and webhooks to increase engagement with guests.
Guests will come to expect wireless charging as part of their smart home-from-smart home experience. Granting them access to convenient power, as with convenient connectivity, ensures the basics are in place. The best services are often the ones that guests don’t even notice: free Wi-Fi that works perfectly, wireless charging spots where and when they need them. Staying connected and charged, without having to think about it, is the goal for both guests and hoteliers.
With widespread 4G and 5G availability, Wi-Fi in hotels is becoming a less urgent requirement than your guests’ need for power. At a time when devices are advanced enough to run our lives, staying charged is a challenge. According to an Ofcom report, more than a third of smartphone users feel stressed and ‘cut off’ without their phone. There are certainly practical implications for losing battery while you are away from access to power – for example, you can’t inform a client you’re running late and you can’t find your way to the meeting if you rely on your phone’s map.
On an emotional level, the worry of being phoneless is now so mainstream that it is being labeled ‘low battery anxiety’, reportedly experienced by 9 in 10 of us. Therapists are starting to recognise a deeper anxiety condition called ‘nomophobia’ (‘no-mobile-phone phobia’). The need to stay connected all the time is having a negative impact on wellbeing – but one that is relieved by access to wireless charging.
Chargifi’s 2019 survey of 2,000 people sought to uncover their charging needs and how they influence their decision-making in hotels and other hospitality venues. The results confirm how important this driver is in consumer behavior, revealing a persuasive business case for investing in effective charging:
Almost two thirds want to charge devices at hotels, cafes, restaurants or bars with some frequency – over 1 in 10 want access to charging every day.
Nearly half are more likely to stay longer and order more if they can charge (a major hotel brand in Las Vegas was able to increase revenue by 10% per bar seat when they deployed Chargifi smart wireless charging, equating to a projected ROI of 64%).
17% of customers have spent money at a venue simply so they could charge.
One in five 18-44 years olds have left a hotel, cafe, restaurant or bar because they couldn’t charge their device.
And on wireless charging specifically:
1 in 3 customers own devices with wireless charging.
50% of these said they would be more likely to visit a hotel, cafe, restaurant or bar with a wireless charging offer.
This increased to 61% among 18-24 year olds.
Guests will always need power. As Paul Squires, Global Hospitality Lead at Chargifi predicts, ‘Within 36 months, not having wireless charging will become a leading reason not to visit a venue’.
Smart wireless charging is the future and hoteliers should feel confident about seizing it. With smart wireless charging provided by Chargifi, this power source is reliable for your guests and your operations. Wi-Fi laid the foundations for deploying this type of game-changing technology at scale which now makes the implementation of wireless charging a simple and logical next step.