Modern travellers expect your hotel to be mobile-friendly. After all, they use their devices during all phases of the travel, from dreaming, to planning, to booking, to experiencing and finally… to sharing. So, you need to be there every step of the way.
Hotels must embrace the mobile guest. They are not just the future for hotels but the “here and now”. And there is no longer any viable excuse to delay offering an all-encompassing mobile presence for them. However, the question most hotels get caught up on is whether or not a custom mobile app is necessary for them to stand out from their competitors, attract more bookings and enhance their guests’ experience.
Wondering if a hotel app will pay off for your hotel or not? Here’s our take on it.
- Hotel apps offer guests the ease of one-touch bookings
If executed well, a hotel app can offer an Uber-like experience by saving user info and payment details. By storing these items, guests will only need just a few clicks to book a room. This bodes well for the modern traveller, who is using their mobile device more and more to make purchases and book travel plans on-the-go.
- Hotel apps can consolidate and connect guest details
Imagine a portal that will track your guests’ in-house behaviours and booking habits, including if they book a spa appointment, order room service, make housekeeping requests, and book dining reservations. By tying your hotel app to your CRM or PMS, you’ll be able to collect vital intelligence that can help you appeal to similar guests, better anticipate your guests’ needs and build relevant marketing programs to upsell ancillary services during that guest’s future stays.
- Hotel apps build loyalty
A hotel app can strengthen both brand loyalty and customer loyalty. When the app is on a person’s smartphone, just its presence alone will keep your brand top-of-mind when it comes time to look for a hotel. Most importantly, a mobile hotel app is most effective when it is integrated with your guest loyalty program. Guests will be able to collect points for their hotel stays and direct bookings, which they can later convert into rewards. After checkout, the hotel can also use the app to collect reviews directly from these guests.
A hotel app also allows your hotel to deliver delightful functions not possible with a mobile website alone, including innovations such as keyless entry, real-time service notifications, room service requests and Apple Pay. All of these extra features offer more convenience to guests and an enhanced experience that heightens their satisfaction and loyalty.
- Hotel apps open up a new level of guest-staff communication
Hotel apps allow you to connect with your guests before, during and after their stay in a way that no other channel can. With a hotel app, your staff can respond to guests’ requests and give them real-time updates. Imagine being able to message a guest and let them know that their room is being cleaned or that room service is arriving in ten minutes. With a hotel app, your guests can also request room service, early check-ins, request their car from valet or get updated billing information.
- Hotel apps aren’t as valuable to independent hotels
People consider their phone as sacred real estate and will only install apps that they’ll use frequently. A hotel app is not competing with other hotel apps for space, but rather any other app that the user finds valuable, including social media, productivity apps, games, music, etc.
Guests of independent properties will usually not see the benefit of downloading a hotel app, even if it were to make their current stay even better. The most utilised hotel apps are those that are designed for frequent visitors (i.e. brand loyalty members), where they can track their earned points for each stay and get personalized recommendations and offers.
- Hotel apps can be costly and complex to connect to your current property systems
Creating a truly worthwhile hotel app requires a hefty investment in app development, design, technical testing, coding and content creation. Not to mention the difficulty in syncing up the app to your booking engine, mobile check-in, PMS or any on-property service and concierge functions that you currently have. While there are several app companies that offer templated formats, it is often difficult to maintain the same customisation and quality as if it were created exclusively for your individual hotel.
- Guests prefer mobile sites, not apps
A mobile hotel website is just as beneficial as a hotel app, without the hefty fees associated with app creation and upkeep. Plus, a study by ComScore found that the mobile web browser audience is TWICE as large than the audience downloading apps, and growing at a much faster pace. While a hotel app is optional at best, a mobile website is a necessity. Today, when guests are searching for hotels, some may use an OTA app, but many more simply look up hotels in a search engine, like Google, on their phone.
- Hotel apps aren’t as flexible to different devices and technology updates
Hotel apps require you to create different versions for Android and iOS devices, while one hotel mobile site is compatible across all devices on the market. The one constant in technology is change, and each year new devices are launched with new operating systems requiring app upgrades, testing, ongoing development and compatibility issues that will only pile on more headaches and investment over time.
- Most hotels have chosen not to create apps
While you will hear plenty of news about major hotel brands offering innovative features with their apps (keyless entry, room selection, etc.), the truth is that most hotels, even larger brands, have decided that apps are not worth the price tag and tiresome maintenance.
Most hotels want to use their mobile presence to make it easier for travellers to discover them and make direct bookings from mobile devices.
However, a majority of hotel apps have serious issues with being discovered on app stores, as there are hundreds of competitors fighting for rankings. The travel section of app stores is already crowded with well-known names like Expedia, Jetsetter, Kayak, TripAdvisor and Airbnb. Most likely no one will find your app unless they intentionally type in your exact name looking for it. Even popular hotel apps like Marriott, Hilton and Ritz Carlton are missing from travel categories on app stores and are only found if you search specifically for them.