It’s clear that one trend firmly embedded in the hospitality landscape for the next few years is the QR (quick response) code. Riding on the back of guests demanding everything contactless from the pandemic, software developers have now come back with quite a few functional and lucrative applications for this trendy tech.
Before expanding on some use cases, it’s important to reflect on both the pre-COVID-19 applications of QR codes and, critically, their overall perception. Pre-Covid, most people thought of these matrix barcodes as nothing more than a fad or even an obstruction from otherwise accepted and routine mediums of commerce. Think paper menus as a quick and convenient way of conveying what’s on offer at a restaurant (if it ain’t broke, right?).
Just as few accurately predicted the pandemic, few could have foreseen just how central this technology would become. The overarching lesson here is that while you are allowed (dare we say, encouraged) to have strong opinions on a subject, you must be open to change in the face of new information – ‘strong opinions, loosely held’ as they say in the investing world. The virus represented that new information which pushed QR codes into the limelight, so much so that heading into 2023 they are a de facto part of our phone-centric society.
Ruminating on this shift, ask yourself what other trends are you reluctant to embrace even as the social fabric evolves around you? For the more cerebral hotelier to consider, there may also be a morsel of ‘technological determinism’ at play here, with the new functionality, feature, platform or device influencing the grand direction of civilization and relegating the non-adapters to the scrapheap of history. It’s worth an evening scotch to ponder how this may play out over the decade ahead.
Basic QR Advantages
While QR codes are already ubiquitous, it’s important to run through the fundamentals for why they have persisted even as the worst of the pandemic has (hopefully) ended. These matrix barcodes are:
- Socially accepted which encourages further usage of the technology
- Convenient and frictionless after all the improvements made over the past two years
- Contactless and therefore safe for those still worried about physical distancing
- Relatively cheap where, once the setup is complete, print costs are minimized
Given these four advantages, QR codes will continue to find new uses for hotels. With any new feature or proposed application for this tech, you should always evaluate it from the guest’s perspective according to these fundamentals to better predict if it will work as intended.
Taking QR to the Next Level
These use cases require a bit more explanation for how these work, but the end goal throughout is always one of heightened convenience, personalization or optimizing revenue per guest. (The following three use cases are ones that are currently deployed and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction of some prospective vendors who can help you out.)
- Incentivizing app downloads. Hotels want guests to use their apps because these apps tend to be great tools for increasing spend, expediting service requests and augmenting engagement for better GSS. But here in the 2020s, we’re all “apped out” and thus resistant to yet one more company trying to cajole us into downloading yet one more mobile app. We need a spark, which QR codes can provide in the form of bespoke onsite offers – think happy hour drink promos advertised at the front desk – that automatically take customers to the app download page.
- Upselling and cross-selling. Building on the first point, several vendors now allow hotels to use QR codes to not only offer bespoke promotions that boost impulse buying, but the matrix barcode redirects can also be set up with a single sign on (SSO) so that customer authentication doesn’t act as a point of friction in the sales process. As an example, consider a QR code set up on the 15th or 16th hole at a golf resort with a message that encourages players to order ahead of time so that the total order is fully ready by the time they get to the clubhouse. Upon activation, the QR code takes users directly to the appropriate restaurant ordering page where, due to SSO mechanics from a previous interaction with the app, those users are already known, thereby enhancing data collection and personalization. The result is smoother service, faster food delivery and greater spend; everybody wins.
- Getting around OTA email aliases. Despite what hoteliers may say out in public, in private we all hate the OTAs. They’re stealing our business in more ways than one, foremost of which is the email aliases they use that stymie loyalty incentivization, remarketing campaigns and lookalike audience analytics. This is where QR codes present a nifty trick. Any app download or sign-on incentive can be programmed to require a real email (not an OTA alias) as well as the guest’s phone number for verification. Then, behind the scenes the phone number will be used to cross-reference and update a guest profile with their correct email.
While we are always game for a fireside chat about the applications of NFTs or another futurist technology for hotels, from the above three use cases it should be apparent that QR codes are far more fitting for the harried hotelier amidst this current travel recovery phase. This technology can speed up service, help reduce a lot of the busywork and grow guest revenues across a variety of profit centers. This isn’t necessarily anything new; when you make something more convenient – like the shift from cash to credit cards – people are bound to spend more liberally.
To end with a caveat emptor, always evaluate your deployment of this technology from the four core abovementioned utilities because there are some instances where old school remains in vogue. For instance, while the two of us have embraced what QR codes can do, one area where we’re still holding out is the physical food and drink menus at high-end dining establishments. There’s something about caressing a heavy cardstock and glancing over the grooves of embossed, expertly typeset branded text that delights the senses and adds to the overall meal experience. Prove us wrong!
Larry and Adam Mogelonsky represent one of the world’s most published writing teams in hospitality, with over a decade’s worth of material online. As the partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice, Larry focuses on asset management, sales and operations while Adam specializes in hotel technology and marketing. Their experience encompasses properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Their work includes six books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017), “The Hotel Mogel” (2018) and “More Hotel Mogel” (2020). You can reach Larry at [email protected] or Adam at [email protected] to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.
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