Digital: Opening doors, closing sales

July 2015

Hilton Worldwide's Senior Vice President and Global Head of Digital Geraldine Calpin says the big trends in the travel industry are the emergence of new entrants and disruptors, online travel agents competing for a share of hospitality revenues and the explosion in mobile's share of retail traffic. Hilton's response to these shifts is to use digital touchpoints to provide exceptional marketing and customer service that elevates the brand above its competition.

Hilton is the world's largest hotel brand, so when the company launches a new app, feature or site, scaling it across the whole business is a priority.

"When we begin to make the experience of being in a hotel digital, we have to do that in 4,000 locations in lots of different countries," says Senior Vice President and Global Head of Digital Geraldine Calpin. "We want to do everything we do at scale."

Just knowing where to begin could seem like a daunting task, but Geraldine insists the formula is simple. "We're in business to make money, but that can't be the only reason. Why do we do what we do? How do you get your true north, your company's purpose? Hold all your decisions true to that, and then you'll make money anyway. Conrad Hilton, who founded our company nearly 100 years ago, said that our mission was to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality. And believe it or not, digital enables us to do that."

Technology lets brands like Hilton know what people want, thanks to consumers' interactions with their phones, tablets and other touchpoints. And when a hospitality company can know and anticipate a customer's context, needs and preferences, then it's in a perfect position to deliver premium customer service that surprises and delights.

What are some of the ways Hilton is harnessing technology to deliver surprise and delight? Because travel is inherently visual, Hilton has adopted Google Business View to enable visitors to virtually walk around inside its properties, offering a preview of everything from the lobby to the pool. The tool has seen engagement rates soar. Users of Hilton's app will see the interface adjust to their current context, so a customer who has just landed in San Francisco will be greeted with an image of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hilton Worldwide uses Google's Hotel Price Ads to drive sales and demand. "We've seen a significant increase in our click conversions," Geraldine reveals. Then when customers are making booking decisions, Hilton offers online tools to enable specific room selection — just like airline seating. And because the view from the room can be a deciding factor, Hilton uses Google Maps technology to enable potential visitors to see what the world looks like from the window of the room they're thinking of booking.

Once the customer arrives at a property, Hilton is working to enable key-free check-in — visitors will be able to touch their own smartphone screens to open the door to their rooms. Other upcoming developments include in-the-moment feedback resolution, so a customer can communicate issues digitally and receive a response and solution within 20 minutes.

With 650,000 rooms across the portfolio, Hilton has quite a large number of stakeholders to satisfy, but Geraldine says connected technology makes this more possible now than ever. "Core to everything we do in digital is about creating products and experiences that customers love, rave about and keep coming back for," she explains. "I believe that digital can create a love affair between our customers and us."

Watch the presentation below to hear more:

Listen to Geraldine Calpin (Senior VP and Global Head of Digital, Hilton Worldwide) share the Hilton Worldwide digital story.
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