January 17, 2011, 4:27 PM

Two hotels let visitors multi-task with mobile site and apps

The apps are paying for themselves on a monthly basis after only 90 days.

Lead Photo

At the Eldorado and Silver Legacy casinos and hotels, mobile traffic doubled in 2010 while mobile revenue was only up about a quarter of that.

At the Eldorado Hotel Casino and Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, mobile commerce goes far beyond booking a room for the night.

Chad Hallert, director of Internet marketing and e-commerce for both hotels, thought the hotels would benefit from a mobile presence when he saw that mobile traffic to the hotels’ web sites was increasing. But mobile visitors weren’t buying or booking at the same pace as PC visitors.

“Traffic from mobile was increasing much more than revenue from mobile,” Hallert says. While mobile traffic had doubled over the past year, mobile revenue was only up about a quarter of that, Hallert says.

The hotels launched iPhone apps and mobile sites in September with vendor MacroView labs. Mobile revenue growth is now keeping pace with mobile traffic growth, Hallert says, and the apps are paying for themselves on a monthly basis after only 90 days.

The hotel and casino is constantly adding fresh features and convenient tools to its mobile offerings, particularly its apps. Consumers can do all the basics via the apps—book a room, purchase tickets to a show and request a meeting on the property. Members of the casinos’ loyalty program also can log in and book a room using their rewards points via the company’s mobile offerings.

But the two hotels, which are connected via a mezzanine skywalk, also are leveraging the MacroView platform to add dynamic features and functions and enable visitors to interact with the apps to complete a range of tasks.

For example, Hallert and his team recently added several features to its apps to coincide with a popular charity bar crawl in an attempt to drive more bookings from the event. It offered a map, a list of participating venues, GPS functionality so friends could find each other and get directions to the next establishment, a list of after-hours parties, and links to Facebook and Twitter.  Bookings for stays during the crawl rose 120% this year compared with last and a significant portion of the bookings came directly from the app, Hallert says.

Hallert says his staff can easily update the mobile sites and apps by logging into MacroView’s content management system. Additionally, XML feeds from the company’s e-commerce content management system tie into the iPhone app and mobile site enabling the hotels to update mobile channels at the same time they update the web site.

A big m-commerce goal, Hallert says, is to leverage mobile to make visitors’ stays more convenient. For example, shows are a big attraction at the Silver Legacy, but the hotel can’t afford to staff the ticket counter all day, every day. So, in the coming weeks visitors who approach the ticket counter and find it closed will encounter a sign explaining three ways they can purchase via a mobile device right then: scan a two dimensional QR code, download the hotel’s app or text a message to the hotels’ telecommunications short code. For example, a visitor might text ‘Buddy’ to 1234 to buy tickets to a Buddy Holly impersonator concert.

Today, visitors can order room service through the apps, browse restaurant menus and preview shows. They can upgrade their rooms while playing slots and make dinner reservations lying poolside. The apps also show things to do around Reno and let visitors drop a pin on a map to help them remember where they parked. Customers can also unlock location-based deals depending on where they are at the resorts.

“With the web sites, we have to be sexy and glamorous,” Hallert says. “We have lots of videos and maybe 200 pages of content. With the apps, we try to find the most important things that can be helpful to visitors specifically during their stay.”

Both hotels hold many conferences and events and the app can offer special features for those visitors, too. Event attendees can access password-protected content available only to registered attendees such as schedules, programs and speaker bios—eliminating the need to carry around books and brochures.

While mobile traffic was increasing, Hallert says he was at first uncertain if the hotels’ middle-aged demographic of visitors in their late 30s to early 50s would actually use and buy through the mobile apps and site. “Places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles were doing well with mobile,” he says, “but other resorts with similar customers to ours, like ones in Atlantic City, were getting mixed results.”

However, that uncertainty is gone. “Mobile,” he says, “is picking up steam each and every month.”

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