business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Los Angeles Times had a piece the other day talking about a number of hotels “that have adapted their reception areas to be a better fit for the digital-savvy guest,” turning on its head the traditional hotel lobby experience in fundamental ways.

Some examples from the story:

• “At the Andaz West Hollywood, a host stands near the entrance to register guests on an iPad tablet. The 239-room boutique hotel ... also features free Wi-Fi and communal tables designed for laptop use in the lobby ... The Andaz ... used to have a standard lobby that was not particularly set up for working. Now, in addition to tables designed for laptop use, there are free computers for browsing the Web ... The walls were removed between the lobby, bar and restaurant, creating a common area where guests can order food and drinks 24 hours a day.”

• “At the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells, electrical outlets have been installed on the surface of the lobby bar so guests can power their laptops and mobile devices 24 hours a day ... (It) spent about $2 million to upgrade its lobby, removing the check-in counter, clearing access to the bar and adding a high-speed fiber-optic Internet connection.”

• “The Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Bel Air recently created a large common area by removing the walls between the lobby and the restaurant, which added snacks to the menu for patrons who want to munch while clicking away. The hotel also increased the wireless Internet speed in the lobby by 600%.”

• “The Loews Coronado Bay Resort (has) a lobby remodeling project scheduled to be finished in June (that) will include several built-in iPads at the bar and nearby tables.”

According to the story, “Hotel operators say the investments are good business because they help boost hotel loyalty. Plus, guests who hang out in the lobby longer are likely to order more food and drinks.”

Of course, all these changes also mean that many hotels are likely to eliminate the traditional business center. But that’s okay, because many operators say that they aren’t being used much, anyway.

There is a good lesson here for retailers in any venue. Sometimes, you have to look around and try to figure out what components of your business have outlived their relevance, even if they’ve been there so long they feel like core values and/or bedrock traditions. And then, you have to have the courage and leadership to test new approaches and find new solutions.

Not easy. Not simple. But the kind of innovation that is absolutely critical to remain relevant, especially to the next generation of shoppers (which is, in case you have noticed, rapidly becoming the current generation of shoppers).
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