Glance around any hotel lobby — anytime, anywhere — and the scene will likely be the same. From check-in to check-out, today’s hotel patrons are toting phones and tablets at all times, doing everything from talking, posting, texting, and tweeting as they move throughout their day. In a device-driven society, how can hoteliers use the latest technologies to build customer engagement and guest loyalty? To help hoteliers address this critical issue, SkyTouch Technology (cloud hotel PMS provider) shares a recap of key findings and insights culled from the recent 2014 Customer Engagement Technology Study commissioned by Hospitality Technology:

When it comes to customer engagement, there’s a definite race to market to deliver customer engagement technologies (CETs) — the guest-facing technologies and applications used throughout each phase of the guest lifecycle to drive positive hotel experiences. These stats from the study help indicate why:

–42% of hotels plan to implement social loyalty programs into their functionality in 2015
–80% of hotels plan to have a mobile app by the end of 2015
–49% of hotels will focus on tablet check-in next year (compared to 15% in 2014).
–93% of hotels will have a website optimized for use on a mobile device by next year

These climbing figures indicate why hotels of all sizes are making mobile channels a priority. Hoteliers should realize that the potential for ROI is high and almost immediate and, as such, they should plan to invest more in guest-facing mobile applications and technologies in 2015.

The study also identified a big shift toward the integration of social media with loyalty programs. In the digital age, hospitality executives are challenging themselves to think of new ways to create meaningful encounters that will build loyalty. The industry can therefore expect to see a unique influx of incentives that may include rewarding guests with points for checking in from a mobile device or tagging a hotel property’s photo on Instagram.

Customer relationship management, social and mobile integration, and data analytics were also highlighted as critical areas linked to engagement. Mobile and social tools will help hoteliers capture “big data” on customer behaviors and trends, but how will hoteliers use these analytics to their advantage in order to identify guest needs and proactively serve guests in a personalized way throughout every facet of their stay? How well hotels rise to this challenge will help set them apart from their competitors.

Finally, the study yielded a note of caution for the hospitality industry. It’s not always a cool download or click that will win over a customer; sometimes guests simply crave a warm smile or nod from a guest service member. Cool gizmos and gadgets aside, hoteliers must not lose sight of the human nature of our business. While guests appreciate the convenience and empowerment that come with CETs, we can’t allow overreliance on these tools replace the human component of the hospitality experience that guests also need in order to form truly memorable connections and experiences.

In the end, CET deployment is still in its early stages. While CETs hold much potential for transforming the industry and enhancing each phase of the guest stay experience, it’s up to hoteliers to strike a balance between utilizing these tools to deliver on guests’ needs without overshadowing the h