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Study finds WiFi is Top Technology Influencing Consumer Dining & Lodging Choices

October 04, 2019

Results from the "2019 Annual Customer Engagement Technology Study" point to WiFi as being the top technology influencing consumer decisions in hospitality. This article breaks down the annual report from Hospitality Technology magazine, exploring consumer expectations and how they are driving the digitization of the hospitality industry.

It wasn’t quite a mystery that guests at restaurants and hotels want free WiFi, but a new report shows just how much WiFi influences consumer choices. According to the "2019 Annual Customer Engagement Technology Study" the majority of hotel guests (84%) and restaurant diners (56%) say that access to free WiFi drives their booking and dining decisions.

The annual report, produced by Hospitality Technology magazine and sponsored by Comcast Business, explores what consumers want when it comes to technology at hotels and restaurants, as well as how hospitality organizations are directing their investments to meet consumer expectations.

According to the report: “When selecting places to stay, mobility and personalization are important but what ranks as top considerations are free WiFi (84%), ease of online booking (79%), ability to view property photos and video (75%), and consumer reviews (71%).”

Hospitality businesses are clearly following suit. The study found that the number one area of in-room technology investment is enhanced WiFi (91%), followed by integration between mobile devices and in-room TVs (82%), personalized messaging via in-room TVs (55%), in-room controls for lighting, thermostats, etc. (45%), voice-controlled devices such as Amazon’s Alexa (30%), and interactive touchscreens (24%).

HospTechReportPost_img1
Source: “2019 Annual Customer Engagement Technology Study” - Hospitality Tech

In an interview with Hospitality Technology magazine, Comcast Business’ Donna Cobb shared her insight on the role network technology will increasingly play in earning customer loyalty, especially WiFi. “Access to fast, reliable, free WiFi is table stakes, not just for guests but for back-office applications as well. WiFi needs to handle all guests and all their devices without impacting back-office connectivity that powers the business. It also needs to prevent the guest network from accessing unauthorized, sensitive data.”

Cobb, who will be speaking at the MURTEC Executive Summit on October 28-30, continues: “Often hospitality businesses overlook the number of devices that are accessing the WiFi, and the impact on responsiveness. Most guests are carrying three connected devices, so it is essential to provide adequate bandwidth for a great experience. In hotels, as an example, a guest’s stay is not confined to the hotel room. There needs to be seamless access in all public areas as well.”

Cobb recently spoke on the Hospitality Technology webinar “Unlock ROI with Customer Experience (CX): Findings & Predictions from the 2019 Customer Engagement Technology Study.”

From the restaurant perspective, the report indicated that free WiFi access was the fourth highest tech factor in choosing where to dine: 67% of consumers rely on online reviews, 61% want to preview menus and nutritional information online, 59% are looking for a simple, streamlined online reservation booking process, and 56% expect free WiFi access at the restaurant. Meanwhile, the report shows that technology is a big factor when it comes to earning customer loyalty: 57% of diners indicate that repeat business is dependent upon availability of preferred technologies.

Overall the report demonstrates how much the technology landscape in the hospitality industry is evolving, and that technology will be key to delivering what consumers crave from the service industry: frictionless, easy and pleasant experiences. It’s worth noting that the growing number of technologies supporting hospitality experiences, whether consumer-facing or back-office, will put a larger burden on restaurant and hotel networks. IT leaders in the space should be looking to future-proof networks for the digitization of hospitality.

Breakdown of the Report

The Hospitality Technology study is segmented into three sections: Consumer, Restaurant and Lodging reports. Each section reflecting the latest technology trends and investments for their respective segment.

Consumer Report: “Customers Crave Transparency and Customized Convenience”
This report examines consumer behavior and preferences for digital dining and lodging from mobile innovations and the technology that drives booking decisions from an increasingly fickle guest population.

Restaurant Report:Restaurants Push the Tech Envelope for Engagement”
The research shows that integrating guest and employee tech is important for delivering good customer experiences and gaining a competitive edge. The study encompasses 12,013 restaurant locations representing an annual revenue of $23.82 billion and encompasses everything from Quick Service through Fine Dining, with 67% of responders coming from the Fast Casual and Full Service/Casual segments. This part of the report examines the top areas of distribution of IT dollars to improve CX, prioritizing guest-facing technology rollouts, the impact of customer engagement vs. business outcomes and the top ways that restaurants are using guest data to improve the experience.

Lodging Report:Hotels Address Paradox of Differentiating Digital”
The lodging report finds that tech-dependent guests are driving hotels to create CX cultures that blend the physical and digital. This report examines the distribution of IT budgets to Customer Experience Management (CXM), how hotels plan for technology for 2019 and after 2019, charting the business gains vs. engagement wins, and how CX initiatives put hyper-focus on staff. The lodging portion of the study covered 2,619,800 hotel rooms representing more than $32 billion in annual revenue, and 66% of responders coming from the Mid- and Upscale segments.

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