Four Innovative Ways Marriot is Using Digital to Stay Ahead of the Competition


Digital technologies have had and continue to have a significant impact on the hospitality industry.  Large incumbent organizations face the challenge of keeping up with digital upstarts. Instead of falling prey to a legacy operating model or an internal cultural not used to change, Marriot has effectively built a digital business. In 2016 Marriot generated $13 B, or 30%, of its revenue through digital channels ( and Marriott Mobile).  With the goal of providing a great customer experience, Marriot provides a number of digital services that are keeping it ahead of the competition.  Some of these include guest check in using facial recognition, trading in the telephone for Amazon’s Alexa devices, getting questions answered using Facebook Messenger bots and gaining access to hotel rooms using Marriot’s mobile app.

1. You can now use your face to check-in

Marriot is partnering with Alibaba to pilot guest check-ins powered by facial recognition technology. The service, offered at two Marriot hotels in China, features a check-in kiosk that scans the guest’s face to identify them.  Then the kiosk pulls up their reservations and checks them in.  Hotel guests also have to scan their photo ID and input their contact information before the transaction is completed.  All of this is done without human interaction.  It is estimated that checkout time is reduced from an average of three minutes to less than one minute using this service.  Over 60% of Chinese travellers have shown a preference for facial recognition technology, making China a natural fit for the pilot. If successful the initiative will be rolled out to all of Marriot’s properties.

2. Forget your phone, Alexa has you covered

In a new partnership with Amazon, Marriot guests will be able use in room Alexa devices to conduct a number of activities.  There is no need to pick up a phone as guests can ask Alexa for hotel information, access to guest services, pool hours, room service or house-keeping. Alexa for Hospitality is used with Echo devices that are found in the hotel’s rooms.  The devices can be customized for each hotel and is now offered in select Marriot hotels.  Initially the service will be offered in two Marriot hotels but that number will grow quickly next year.  Marriot also considered going with Apple’s Siri but ended up moving ahead with Amazon which is trying to expand its footprint in the hospitality industry.

3. Chat your way online to your next booking

In 2016 Marriot launched its Marriot Rewards chatbot on Facebook Messenger.  It allows guests  to find hotels, book travel, change hotel reservations, ensure the customer’s reward balance is accurate and get research on cities of interest and other topics.  Of Marriot Rewards members that use Facebook Messenger, 44% have received help in relation to a reservation or a stay with the hotel.  Marriot’s goal with using the chatbots is to improve customer service. Guests staying at Marriot can also use Facebook Messenger to order room service and book wakeup calls.  

4. Lost your room key? No problem your cell phone will give you access

Using a mobile room key guests can unlock their room using the Marriot app on their mobile device. Guests using this service can skip the front desk, check in and go directly to their room. When guests check in they receive a notification that their room is ready. Marriott offers the service at over 400 of it its properties.  Guests can also access public areas such as the parking garage, fitness centre and pool using the app.  

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Tricia McKinnon