Hilton Worldwide officially launched its Digital Key feature on Tuesday, which allows HHonors loyalty program members to not only bypass the front desk during check-in, but also use their smartphone to open their room door. Digital Key launched at Hilton Alexandria Old Town, Washington, D.C., followed by Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport, Maryland, and more hotels will launch the program this summer.
The feature, available through the HHonors official app, comes after Hilton introduced digital check-in with room selection last year. HHonors members who book directly with Hilton are now asked if they’d like a Digital Key during their stay beginning the day before arrival (at participating properties). If the guest wants to use the key, it is issued to their smartphone as soon as the guest’s room is ready on the day of arrival.
This means that members can digitally check in, select the exact room they want (as long as it’s available), open their room door and even request amenities before and during their stay…all through the HHonors app.
On top of that, HHonors members who use the Digital Key this year at beta hotels will receive 2,500 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points.
By early 2016, Digital Key is slated to roll out across 250 U.S. properties across four Hilton brands: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Canopy by Hilton. It will first be available on the iOS platform; it will then be offered to Android users later this year.
Dana Shefsky, director of digital product innovation at Hilton Worldwide, said the success of Hilton’s digital check-in and room selection offerings was a precursor to Digital Key.
“We really see it as a natural extension to our digital check-in with room selection, Shefsky said. “That was an industry first and something we’re really proud of. This is the next evolution of that.”
Since Hilton’s introduction of digital check-in with room selection last July, HHonors members have digitally checked in more than 5 million times. There were about one million digital check-ins the first few months the features were offered—now, there are roughly one million digital check-ins each month, Shefsky said. According to Hilton, 93 percent of guests who have used the features have said they felt “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the experience.
In that same time period, the HHonors app has been downloaded more than 2 million times.
“Digital check-in has been overwhelmingly received by our guests,” Shefsky added. “We’ve seen amazing adoption rates. We’re now seeing that rate increase exponentially.”
Digital Key appears to be on the same track. According to Shefsky, more than 90 percent of testers at Hilton Alexandria Old Town and Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport—the two launch locations for the feature—said they would “use Digital Key again and found it convenient and easy to use.”
That’s what Digital Key and the new digital features are all about, Shefsky said: giving guests more convenience, access and decision-making ability.
“We’ve talked to a lot of our guests. We know this is what many of our guests are looking for,” Shefsky said, adding it was “a monumental feat.” “We know that so many of our guests rely on their smartphones to manage their lives. It’s just a natural extension of that travel journey.”
Of course, Shefsky also acknowledged that advanced technology can cause problems for both hoteliers and guests if not tackled properly. In that respect, she said Hilton did extensive internal testing to ensure Digital Key is seamless. She also said that HHonors members do not have to check in digitally or use the Digital Key feature if they don’t want to. Traditionalists can still check in and access their room door via the front desk.
“This is something that’s an option for our guests,” Shefsky said. “It’s there if they want to use it—they don’t have to use it.”
As for the future, Shefsky said to expect more features from Hilton via advanced technology, stressing that guests will have the option to use the features or not.
“I believe that hospitality is kind of the last frontier of the travel journey to get digitized,” Shefsky said. “There’s so much opportunity there. We really believe that the next generation of our digital customer engagement depends on giving (guests) easy-to-use tools and helping them better personalize and control their stay. We’re going to continue to push the boundaries of the industry.”