Marriott TestBED — A look from the inside
It is common knowledge that for the modern-day traveller, a hotel room is more than a place to sleep — it is a fully functioning hub. Sometimes it only takes having weak internet connections or burdensome procedures to lose a customer permanently. This constant struggle to meet the needs of this faster-paced clientele, gave the hospitality industry a new mission: embracing new technology to streamline processes.
It is in this scenario that initiatives such as Marriott’s TestBED rise. This accelerator programme supports and promotes startups working on ground-breaking ways to improve the guest experience. In one sentence: Marriott wants to transform the future of travel and hospitality.
Marriott TestBED is in its second year following the debut in 2016. Though recent, it is already a hugely popular accelerator programme that attracts startups whose purpose is to improve the entire hotel guest experience. TestBED is an exceptional 10-week accelerator programme that gives to the chosen startups a priceless opportunity to test their products and services within an operating Marriott Hotel in Europe.
On this year’s programme, Marriott was looking for startups who majorly focus on: enhancing the in-room experience, transformed the overall guest experience in and outside the hotels and helped guests discover a “headspace” to achieve a focused and inspired state of mind during the stay.
There is no doubt that this programme offers an exclusive chance for the selected start-ups to develop and boost their products. The perks of being chosen are: receiving feedback from Marriott’s guests and associates, a marking training programme, mentoring from a wide range of Marriott experts, global exposure and the opportunity to attend TEDx and other industry related events supported by Marriott hotel brand.
Our journey with Marriott TestBED
HiJiffy’s journey through TestBED was, to say the least, fascinating. We discovered the programme online and applied for the 2016 edition. At the time, we were doing a three-month test-pilot with two clients in Portugal. Our preliminary metrics were quite promising and we managed to be short-listed by Marriott TestBED. Unfortunately, we were not chosen.
However, we made it to NUMA Barcelona which is an acceleration program (a joint venture between NUMA Paris and mVentures who organizes Mobile World Congress). Throughout 4 months, our team worked with extraordinary mentors, such as Sébastien Lefebvre and with more than 100 hotels with the aim of improving and expanding their innovative product.
Even though HiJiffy was not selected, we continued with an open relationship with the Marriott team who we met through the pitch and they saw our evolution. In 2017, the programme was going to have a second edition. Now feeling truly ready, we decided to apply again and this time, we were selected to actually do the test-pilot in one of their London Hotels.
What is HiJiffy?
“Any good hotel will respond to an email query, but when it comes to last-minute questions or help planning a trip, the on-demand generation finds it much simpler to communicate with someone in real time through portals they use on a daily basis — Yahoo Finance”
HiJiffy is a Portuguese startup that developed an Artificial Intelligence powered chatbot especially designed for the hospitality sector. By using our chatbot the Hotel can offer its guests a variety of services using Facebook Messenger at any place or time and in an efficient way.
How has TestBED accelerated our startup?
You will never know if you do not keep trying, the next time might be your time to succeed — and that is exactly what happened. In the end, we made it to TestBED! In addition to everything working out fantastically, we have learned a lot during these 10-weeks.
The test-pilot has been game-changing for HiJiffy. As said previously, our service is a virtual assistance within Facebook Messenger and before TestBED, we were focused on the booking process and the pre-arrival questions. At London Marriott Park Lane, we had the opportunity to actually test our service during the guest stay. How does that work? If you are in your room and you want an extra towel, you can go on messenger and ask for one.Testing this within the hotel made us trial a feature that we plan to test in six months’ time. Our goal with the programme was to find out what was the role of a chatbot within guests’ stay. Thus, we already know today that guests within the hotel actually engage during their stay.
In terms of confidence, it is really important for HiJiffy to be out working with Marriott. When we pitch to other clients they feel confident to know that we have a company such as Marriott working with us. It is really important for startups to have coverage and this program helps us with that. Regarding our pilot metrics, they are really good — we activated a new channel with 800% increase in Messenger engagement. Furthermore, we had 41% of the guests making requests during the stay which is really meaningful bearing in mind that our next step will be focusing on this feature.
If we had to describe the experience in one word that would be incredible.
NB: This is a viewpoint by Mariana Marques from HiJiffy. HiJiffy brings chat to the hospitality industry, enabling guests to effectively connect with Hotels through instant messaging apps.