Mobile: it’s not a customer distraction, it’s an untapped opportunity

It’s hard to believe there was a time when being the first person at a pub or restaurant meant staring around awkwardly, sipping a drink and hoping the rest of your party will turn up soon. Today, we have an instant time filler in our pocket, in the form of our smartphones.

To say that mobile has changed the way we behave is a massive understatement. It’s disrupted the way we communicate with our family and friends, and with businesses. Because of this, mobile presents a huge opportunity to drive patron engagement, loyalty and spend, yet the hospitality industry is under utilising its potential.

The statistics speak for themselves. Vodat International surveyed 1,000 UK consumers for our latest report – Battle of the Bandwidths: how customers are won and lost on the strength of hospitality networks – which revealed the significant influence of smartphones on customer activity.

Around half of consumers will use their smartphone every single time they visit a pub, restaurant, café or bar. Not just as a distraction between conversations, either; 2 in 5 will use their mobile to access a discount code before settling the bill, a quarter will ‘check in’ on social media, and 10% will even use their mobile to pay.

Clearly, customer smartphone usage has become intertwined in the hospitality experience, and many vendors have introduced free WiFi services to control and manage patrons’ digital journey. However, this service often doesn’t live up to expectations.

Our research discovered that more than a quarter of patrons don’t find the WiFi being offered at hospitality establishments reliable, with a further 1 in 10 preferring to use their phone’s own 3G or 4G capabilities.

One of the main issues with customer WiFi is that vendors’ data networks simply aren’t sufficient bandwidth to handle the number of devices logging on. Bearing in mind this network is also likely supporting a number of staff devices such as card machines, point of sale technology, when things get too busy it can cause devices to run slow and signal to cut out.

Greater network investment is needed if the hospitality is going to embrace the opportunities of digitally-dependent patrons. The number of people wanting to use technology in their favourite food or drinks venue will naturally increase – so the problem is only going to get worse if vendors ignore their network’s inadequacies.

To find out more about the impact of sub-par network performance, download Vodat International’s latest report, Battle of the Bandwidths: how customers are won and lost on the strength of hospitality networks.

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