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InterContinental Hotels Group’s fastest-growing revenue channel is mobile commerce

January 11, 2011

IHG is hitting it big in mobile commerce

IHG is hitting it big in mobile commerce

Hospitality giant InterContinental Hotels Group plc is ramping up its mobile initiatives, with various commerce-enabled mobile Web sites and applications for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, as well as mobile-social efforts.

The hospitality company tapped PlacePunch to deliver timely messages to guests via Twitter when they check-in at IHG properties such as InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. IHG has used this capability to welcome guests via Twitter and also to invite them to participate in Twitter-specific contests.

“The PlacePunch partnership is another example of IHG’s ongoing strategy of exploring and testing new media throughout our companies’ history,” said Del Ross, vice president of sales marketing for the U.S. at IHG, Atlanta. “Since we do not know what is going to be the next big thing, we like to try everything to see if it works.

“Location-based marketing and check-in services have come on the scene in a hurry, and we’re excited about it, even if we’re not sure how it will fit in long-term—we’re not sure if it’s a trend or a fad,” he said. “We love the idea that our customers and prospects can literally put our brands in their pockets and be integrated in their lives.

“There is tremendous potential for us to engage them in new and exciting ways via mobile and social that help us both, but the risk is if we do something wrong, it is easier than ever for them to share their experiences with others—marketers must be aware of the opportunities and challenges of mobile social media.”

InterContinental Hotels Group is a global hotel company headquartered in Denham, Britain. It claims to be the largest hotel company in the world, with 646,000 rooms and 4,500-plus hotels in more than 100 countries as of Jan. 2010.

Approximately 3,800 of the company’s hotels operate under franchise agreements, around 630 are managed by the company and 16 are owned.

IHG packing a PlacePunch
IHG is partnering with PlacePunch to create a mobile loyalty program for its various hotel brands that rewards customers for checking in on any mobile check-in service, from Foursquare and Facebook Places to Gowalla and Yelp.

Hotel Indigo is an IHG property

Hotel Indigo is an IHG property

Via the platform, customers automatically get a reply message via Twitter when they check-in at an IHG property.

“We do not want to be playing catch up—we want to be at the forefront as these new technologies develop,” Mr. Ross said. “The jury is still out on what is the best way to use this—we’ve used it to promote offers, brands and rate-based promotions.

“It is hard to say that any one of those tactics is dominant over any other, as it is still a little early,” he said. “We’ve been testing, and when we do find something that works, we’ll keep doing it forever until it stops it working.”

IHG gets real-time analytics and reports from PlacePunch designed to help the company identify its best customers and learn more about them.

“PlacePunch helps us reach consumers across platforms much more effectively than we could on our own and give us insight as to what is happening with our brand across these various check-in services,” Mr. Ross said.

Tablets offer opportunity
IHG has Priority Club Rewards applications for Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android.


To complement its smartphone platforms, in December InterContinental Hotels & Resorts launched its free Concierge Insider Guides application for Apple’s iPad.

The Concierge Insider Guides application lets current and future guests tap into the collective knowledge and experiences of InterContinental Concierge Teams in more than 120 destinations to get recommendations for restaurants, shops and nightspots, as well as insider tips on local culture, attractions and events.

The iPad application lets consumers explore the cities and destinations where InterContinental Hotels & Resorts are located by providing access to destination-specific concierge videos, interactive Google Maps, recommendations and suggested itineraries and insider tips.

Additionally, the iPad app facilitates online booking and provides detailed information and images about individual properties.

Once the application is downloaded, consumers can view all of the content without a wireless connection, with exception of streaming video.

“We’ve been active in mobile marketing since 2001—we were first hotel company to offer mobile booking ten years ago,” Mr. Ross said. “You can go to any of our brand Web sites on your mobile device and book a room or manage a reservation, with functionality that is largely the same across brands—all of our brands are mobile.”

IHG has also done a significant amount of mobile advertising for all of its brands. Mr. Ross said IHG started doing some tests a long time ago, and in the last 18 months it has significantly scaled up its efforts in that area.
Mobile commerce is IHG’s fastest-growing revenue channel, per Mr. Ross.

“Mobile commerce is really taking off—it reminds me of what was going on in the Web in 2002 and 2003,” Mr. Ross said. “Mobile commerce is definitely coming into its own.

“Driving the growth rate right now seems to be the adoption of smartphones, as call-centric phones continue to be replaced by more multifunctional mobile devices where calling is just one thing you can do on it,” he said. “We continue to see improved functionality and incredible growth for the foreseeable future.

“The adoption rate of our apps is great, and the booking rate and transaction volume is growing like crazy.”

Final Take
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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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