top of page
Image by Justin DoCanto

Marriott Hotel

User Research


Kent State University - Class Project

My Role: 

User Researcher


4 weeks

Project Introduction

The Marriott Hotel User Research project was an extensive study conducted by a team of four UX researchers, including myself. The project was initiated in response to a request from several senior executives at Marriott Hotels who had identified key business goals they were keen to achieve. The primary focus of our research was to provide insights that would help the executives meet these goals, specifically through the application of qualitative user research methods such as interviews and observations.

"As we change and grow, the beliefs that are most important to us stay the same — putting people first, pursuing excellence, embracing change, acting with integrity, and serving our world."

The Challenge

The challenge presented to our team was a complex one. We were tasked with addressing a broad range of business goals identified by the senior executives at Marriott Hotels. These goals spanned from increasing customer loyalty program enrollment to understanding the needs of business and leisure travelers, optimizing mobile app usage, and ensuring website accessibility.

However, not all of these goals could be addressed through our expertise in qualitative user research methods. Additionally, some goals seemed to contradict each other or appeared unrelated, adding another layer of complexity to our task. Furthermore, the sheer number of goals and the tight four-week timeframe for providing answers added to the challenge.

Our initial primary task was to sift through these goals, identify which ones could be addressed through our research methods, and then communicate with the stakeholders to prioritize their top goals for us to focus on.

The Journey

Our journey began with a comprehensive review of the stakeholders' business goals. We analyzed each goal and categorized them based on whether they could be addressed through interviews and observations, required other research methods, or couldn't be addressed with user research at all.

Once we had this categorization, we communicated our findings back to the stakeholders, asking them to prioritize their top three goals. The stakeholders responded with a clear directive, focusing on understanding why people do or don't sign up for the loyalty program, and what business and leisure travelers look for when choosing a hotel.

With these priorities in mind, we embarked on the next phase of our journey: crafting a detailed research plan. This plan outlined our approach to recruiting participants, designing research questions, conducting interviews and observations, and analyzing the data. This plan served as our roadmap throughout the research process, guiding us as we sought to uncover the insights needed to address the stakeholders' top priorities.

User Research

The user research phase was the heart of our project, providing us with the insights necessary to address the business goals set by the executives. Our research was centered around understanding why people do or don't sign up for the loyalty program, and what business and leisure travelers look for when choosing a hotel.

We began by recruiting eight participants, ensuring a mix of individuals who had traveled for both business and leisure. This diverse group allowed us to gather a wide range of perspectives and experiences, which was crucial for our research goals.

Our research method involved one-on-one interviews and observations, both in-person and remote. We designed a set of research questions for each of our three main goals. For the loyalty program, we asked questions about participants' past experiences with such programs, their motivations for signing up or not, and what features they would include in an ideal loyalty program.

For business travelers, we focused on understanding their needs and preferences when choosing a hotel, including the importance of amenities, property features, and overall goals for their stay. We also asked about any disappointing experiences they had had in the past.

For leisure travelers, we asked similar questions, but with a focus on their specific needs and preferences when traveling for leisure. We sought to understand what features or amenities they prioritized, what they looked for in a hotel property, and their overall goals for their stay.

The interviews were conducted over one week. We compiled individual session notes and then analyzed the data for patterns and priority/severity using an affinity diagram. This process allowed us to identify common themes and insights, which were invaluable in informing our recommendations.

The user research phase was iterative, with each interview providing new insights that helped us refine our research questions and approach. This phase was crucial in ensuring that our research was robust, comprehensive, and aligned with the stakeholders' priorities.

The Outcome

The outcome of our user research project provided valuable insights that directly addressed the business goals set by the Marriott Hotel executives. Our findings were based on the experiences and perspectives of eight diverse participants, offering a rich understanding of the motivations and preferences of both business and leisure travelers, as well as the factors influencing the decision to sign up for a loyalty program.

For the loyalty program, we found that most participants were motivated to sign up by the potential for redeemable points, room upgrades, and booking discounts. However, those who hadn't signed up cited reasons such as infrequent travel or their company handling travel arrangements. This led us to recommend enhancing the loyalty program with additional perks, such as partnerships with local transportation services and restaurants, complimentary breakfast, and free or reduced parking.

In terms of business travelers, our research revealed that key factors in their hotel choice included proximity to work events or airports, availability of meeting spaces, reliable Wi-Fi, and modern, clean facilities. Based on these findings, we recommended ensuring that Marriott Hotels in business districts are equipped with these features and amenities.

For leisure travelers, our research highlighted the importance of proximity to attractions, cleanliness, safety, and the availability of an on-site restaurant and pool. We recommended focusing on these areas when marketing to or designing services for leisure travelers.

Our findings and recommendations were compiled into a comprehensive report, which was presented to the stakeholders. The report provided actionable insights based on our research, offering a clear path forward for Marriott Hotels to enhance their services and better meet the needs of their customers.

The outcome of this project was not just the valuable insights we gained, but also the process we followed. We demonstrated the power of user research in addressing business goals and highlighted the importance of involving stakeholders in the research process. This project served as a testament to the value of user experience design in shaping business strategies and improving customer satisfaction.

Although this was a group project, each individual member had to create their own presentation.

Lessons Learned

Throughout the course of this project, our team learned several valuable lessons that will inform our future work in user experience research and design.

  1. Stakeholder Engagement is Key: Engaging stakeholders from the beginning and throughout the project was crucial. Their input helped us understand the business goals and prioritize our research focus. Their involvement also ensured that our findings were relevant and actionable, leading to more effective recommendations.

  2. Iterative Process: The iterative nature of user research became evident during this project. Each interview provided new insights that helped us refine our research questions and approach. This iterative process was crucial in ensuring that our research was robust and comprehensive.

  3. Value of Teamwork: Working as a team was a significant part of this project. Collaborating on the research plan, dividing tasks, and synthesizing our findings as a group was representative of real-world experience. This project reinforced the importance of clear communication, shared responsibility, and mutual respect in a team setting. It was a reminder that diverse perspectives within a team can lead to more comprehensive insights and innovative solutions.

  4. Value of User Research: Perhaps the most significant lesson was seeing firsthand the value of user research. Our findings directly addressed the business goals set by the Marriott Hotel executives, demonstrating how user research can inform business strategies and improve customer satisfaction.

These lessons will not only shape my future projects but also contribute to my ongoing growth and development as a user experience researcher. As I move forward, I will continue to apply these lessons to ensure that my work effectively addresses both user needs and business goals; knowing that sometimes these can contradict each other. While I will always advocate for the user, I understand there are times when business goals, costs, or timelines become the main objective. This delicate balance is a part of the real-world challenges in user experience design (in any type of profession really), and navigating it successfully is a crucial part of the UX designer's role.

Luggage and Woman's Stuff

The thrill of UX design for me lies in the discovery process, where I get to explore and understand the wants and needs of the user.

bottom of page