Did you know? The world’s first smartphone was introduced by IBM in 1993 (called Simon Personal Communicator) that was equipped with features like a calculator, world clock, calendar and contact book. It even allowed you to send/receive emails, faxes and pages. Remember those good old pagers?
(Source: Rob Stothard/Getty)
This was more than 15 years before Apple introduced the very first iPhone.
These “simple” capabilities were the first introduction to mobile apps for the public. Even back then, the goal of these phones was to make communication easier and more convenient for people.
Fast forward 25 years or so, the app marketplace is flooded with millions of apps for both IOS and Android users. Through technological advancements, now there are apps for basically anything you do in life. From tracking your health habits to gaming to business apps, the possibilities are endless.
For the hotel industry, apps have been an important part of the guest experience. The convenience of smartphones has dramatically changed the way consumers interact with hotels, for the better.
According to a study by JD Power, hotels with mobile apps get higher customer satisfaction ratings from their guests, making smartphone technology a key part of providing good service.
However, simply developing a mobile app that mirrors the hotel website does not provide any additional benefits for guests. Hotel apps need to include important features and tools that enhance the overall experience to give guests and potential guests what they are looking for whether it’s looking at availability or requesting room service.
Here are 10 Ways hotels can improve their guest app experience.
1) Mobile Booking & Check-in
As you will notice, the theme of these features is going to be CONVENIENCE.
Providing an effortless experience for guests for every possible interaction contributes to overall satisfaction and loyalty.
Offering mobile booking through your app has several advantages including reducing costs from OTAs, more engagement with the brand, and increase bookings. In fact, the trend for app-based booking is growing rapidly. According to a Criteo report, 60% of mobile bookings from travel companies are coming from the mobile app.
However, if you want customers to download your app and book through it, you will need to provide some incentives such as lowest price guaranteed or promotional price, otherwise, it will be hard to compete with the likes of Expedia.com or Hotels.com.
The same is true for guests checking in via the hotel app.
According to a Hotel.com study, 44% of U.S. travelers said they would be happy using mobile for checking in.
This study was done a couple years ago, but I would bet that number is higher today.
After a long day of travel, most guests dread waiting in a long line to get checked in. Eliminate that anxiety for guests and allow them to check in through your app.
2) Interactive Map
Finding things at hotels can be challenging. Make it easy for guests to find restaurants, bars, and other hotel amenities with an interactive map that directs guests and provides them with details of the destination.
As an example, the Orlando World Center Marriott partnered with MeetingPlay (an event technology company) to develop a “World Finder” mobile app. This interactive map assists people in finding specific areas within the property like a restroom, meeting rooms and restaurant & entertainment options including details and even an ordering option.
As Gary Dybul, director of sales and marketing at Orlando World Center Marriott points out, “the app provides a virtual concierge in our guests’ pockets, which aligns perfectly with our goal of providing top-notch services and interactive experiences for our group and leisure guests alike.”
3) In-App Chat & Messaging
Your guests are on the go. Whether they are out sightseeing, lounging by the pool, or just relaxing in the room, make it easy for guests to ask questions and request service like housekeeping or room service by simply sending a text message.
Some hotels have chat or messaging capabilities built into the app, but if you don’t, you can easily integrate a hotel text messaging software to add messaging functionality quickly with minimal cost and time required compared to building the chat or messaging functionality in-house.
4) Mobile Room Key
There are a couple of advantages to having a mobile room key. First, the obvious one is the convenience of it. The second, which is less discussed, is the security part of it.
Traditional hotel room key cards can be lost and can also be hacked wirelessly, causing security issues for guests. In the case of mobile room keys, even if you lose your phone, it’s theoretically harder for someone to hack into your phone than a standard room key (for an experienced thief).
Innovative hotels like Marriott and Hilton have been leading the charge in leveraging tech to improve and ease the guest experience as Marriott offers mobile room keys for over 400 of their properties and Hilton offering it at over 1000 properties.
That goes to show that mobile room keys are here to stay and continue to be more common as more hotels adopt it.
5) Room Control & Preferences
Imagine if your guests come back from a day at the beach and the room temperature is set at the exact coolness that they desire along with other room preferences customized to the guest liking. Now imagine if all this can be done within a hotel mobile app.
Hilton is again at the forefront of the technology-driven hotel guest experience when it comes to personalization and convenience.
In late 2017, Hilton rolled out their “Connected Room” feature within their Hilton Honors app. With this new app update, guests are able to control virtually every aspect of their room all with their smartphone. This includes adjusting the temperature, turning the lights on and off, opening and closing the drapes and even control the television with the ability to load your account into popular streaming services. Future updates include the ability for guests to upload pictures and have it displayed in the room as art as well as voice-enabled functionality.
6) Loyalty Program
I think this is a must-have for hotel mobile apps. When creating a loyalty program, you must make it easy to access account information and redeem points. Instead of just points earned for bookings, why not allow guests to redeem points during their stay including earning points for purchases, dinners, bars and other onsite amenities. Then allow guests to redeem their loyalty points for free night stays complimentary food & beverages airline tickets, concerts and more directly within the app without having to create another account.
With an easy to use a loyalty program, you can increase guest loyalty and even new business as 83% of highly satisfied hotel loyalty program members say they “definitely will” recommend the brand.
7) Guest Satisfaction Feedback
In order to measure guest satisfaction, you need to get guest feedback in REALTIME. The reason real-time is capitalized is because if you want a more accurate response, you need to get the feedback as soon as possible.
The app is perfect for guests to effortlessly provide feedback throughout their entire stay. Many hotels we work with send guests mid-stay as well as end-of-stay surveys to gauge guest satisfaction and respond to any negative feedback immediately to reduce negative TripAdvisor reviews.
8) Hotel & Nearby Attractions
Show guests what’s fun to do at your hotel or places nearby. Why have guests search Google or TripAdvisor when guests can instantly see what attractions & activities are available. Make sure to have a link or some way for the guest to contact the vendors to create a seamless experience.
9) Specials & Promotions
Whether the guest is currently staying at your hotel or if you’re trying to get them to come back, sending hotel promotions through push notifications is a great way to entice guests to visit your onsite restaurant or bar rather than going elsewhere. The same could be done to get guests back for a return stay.
10) Transportation Services
When it’s time for guests to catch a ride to their next sightseeing location or restaurant, enable guests to request a taxi or Uber (when available in the area). This will save guests tons of time by reserving a ride while they are getting ready so once they exit the lobby doors, their ride will be waiting for them. The example below is the Hilton Honors app integration with Uber. Pretty cool!
These are just some examples of how you can enhance your hotel mobile app to provide a better experience for your guests.
The important thing to take away is that if you add any of these features to your hotel app, make sure to do extensive testing so you can be confident in the experience it can provide.
The worst thing that can happen is launching the feature to your guests and having too many bugs or isn’t user-friendly. That will not only have a negative impact on your guest experience but also risk them not using it ever again.
If you have any other examples, feel free to post it in the comments.
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