By Terri Miller, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Concilio Labs
When was the last time you used an app? Today? An hour ago? A few minutes ago? For most of us, apps have become an integrated part of our daily life — we might not even realize the extent to which we rely on them.
Our smartphone behavior is typically centered around the convenience and connection that apps readily provide. Despite this prevalence, there has long existed a trend of some businesses hesitating to break into the realm of mobile apps; a hesitation which may also extend to hotels. The push for technological innovation only continues to grow and, with it, comes the relevance of investing in a native app experience for your guests.
With global mobile app downloads set to reach 284 billion by 2020, can your hotel really afford to miss out?
The ‘Why’ Behind the Push for Mobile Apps As of 2016, the total number of mobile hotel bookings reached 148.3 million. Guests’ desire for mobile engagement extends far beyond the reservation process, including pre-arrival messages, check-in, check-out, mobile room keys, concierge, room management and upgrades, special offers, and more. In fact, guests’ orders increase by 18-20% when a mobile app is available. An impressive 83% of guests also wish to receive hotel service promotions on their devices.
Ideally, guests should be able to pull out their smartphone at the airport, open their hotel’s mobile app and request airport transfers, early check-in, and confirm booking information. Upon arrival to the hotel, guests may even elect to bypass the front desk line and head directly to their room, unlocking it with the hotel app’s mobile integration with its door management technology. Throughout their stay, guests should also be able to receive specially curated mobile offers through the app, book on-property restaurant or spa reservations, arrange for wake-up calls, car service, order room service, engage with hotel staff and much more. While some of these functions, such as booking information, can easily be accessed via a hotel’s mobile responsive website, other functions, like smart door integrations, require a dedicated app.
Apps also allow valuable insights regarding guest behavior, which can then be utilized and leveraged to create a personalized guest experience. As guests interact freely with the app, your hotel can create a guest profile that outlines their specific preferences, on-property behavior, spending habits, social media engagement, and more. Additionally, apps help to cater to the tech-savvy generation of millennial travelers who expect convenient, immediate access to information, prefer the low-touch service model, and assume timely staff response to requests or complaints on a 24/7 basis. The Mobile Movement: Web vs. App Mobile responsive websites will always be imperative to a hotel’s success in today’s tech-savvy landscape where the guest is looking for information about the hotels amenities, location, and making bookings. However, many properties may benefit from apps for specific behaviors that enhance guest experience and engagement, particularly while on property. Thanks to push notifications and alerts, apps become a far more interactive experience for guests. A well-done mobile app can open up opportunities for greater revenue before, during, and after their stay.
The data gleaned from in-app usage is also helpful. Apps typically gain access to smartphone features such as location tracking and camera, potentially allowing properties to create visually interactive experiences that enhance marketing efforts. When synced with social media feeds (via a social login) hoteliers may leverage the ability to create user-generated content or gain access to public profiles and friends lists.
Last, but certainly not least, while websites (accessed from a mobile device) generally require an active data connection or Wi-Fi, apps work both online and offline. If properly managed, your app can act as an uninhibited connection to your guest, encouraging them to interact with your hotel based on customized preferences while constantly storing or caching data for future use.
Perfect Your App’s Offering(s) Your hotel is faced with a myriad of options when it comes to what type of app you might want developed that will amplify your brand and increase guest engagement. Do you want your app to primarily offer a fast, frictionless booking system? Mobile, keyless entry to guests’ hotel rooms? Alternatively, you might prefer to build it out to include loyalty programs, special offers and guest use while on-property as well, such as: – Chat with hotel staff
– Receive push notifications for real-time promotions
– Obtain recommendations for nearby activities
– Order room service or make restaurant reservations
– In-room controls and connectivity
Constant connectivity and convenience, increased revenue opportunities, improved marketing initiatives, and additional guest engagements are key reasons why to have an app. However, the most critical factor in guest adoption and subsequent satisfaction lies in the app’s ease of use. Whether guests are relying on the app to book their upcoming stay, or to interact with the hotel throughout their entire visit, their mobile experience should be seamless and user-friendly. This requires the creation of a thought through user journey and thoroughly tested app before it is rolled out to guests in any official capacity. Whatever your app’s promise to your guest is, ensure it delivers every time.