Your guest just booked a hotel room for an upcoming trip. Now what? They will receive a confirmation email with some information, but it will soon be lost in the black hole that is their inbox. They will arrive at the hotel, and there may or may not be a line at the front desk to check in. Once your guest has checked in, they will find their way to a room that may look similar to all the other hotel rooms they have seen. Throughout this whole process, they have probably been carrying around a rather small but powerful device that could change everything—their smartphone.
It’s a well-know fact that the average consumer is growing increasingly more connected with and is most always in arm’s reach of a mobile device. The effects of the hyper-connected consumer cannot be understated for businesses in almost every industry, including hospitality. While hospitality has made strides in mobile, there is so much more mobile technology can do to improve overall guest experience and revolutionize the industry.
Mobile isn’t a new concept in hospitality. Major hotel and resort brands have been playing the mobile app game for a long time now. Some brands have found success with their mobile apps, but many haven’t. Most hospitality brands struggle with initial adoption and long-term engagement of their native mobile apps. If a guest does download an app during their stay, they are unlikely to engage with it after they check out–or, worse, delete it altogether. Even the brands succeeding with mobile apps today aren’t taking full advantage of what’s possible with mobile tech. So, how do you create the ideal mobile experience? Well, the first step is understanding what’s currently working in mobile today, and the ways guests want to interact with hospitality brands moving forward.
In hospitality, native mobile apps succeed when they generally align with guests’ expectations and ease their overall experience. Here are some key characteristics of successful native mobile apps:
Easy mobile booking, and check in and out privileges are just some of the features that hotel guests expect from their mobile experience today
Less Is More
Streamline mobile experiences, and ensure that they are easy to navigate and don’t require the guest to download another app
Integrations Are Key
Increase functionality with integrations into other travel-specific apps (think: ridesharing apps) and loyalty programs, and you’ll build loyalty to the mobile experience and your brand
Provide real time information regarding things like room reservations, room charges, and loyalty program status, and guests will return to the mobile experience time and time again
Motivate with Special Offers
Promote special offers in a mobile experience to ensure that guests feel valued and brand loyalty will skyrocket
Make It Social
Increase app adoption and utilization by giving guests the ability to connect and share with others via text messaging, email, and social media
On the other hand, native mobile apps flop when they become a hassle for guests to use. Some reasons native mobile apps fail to be adopted and used are:
Lack of Convenience
Guests don’t want features that add to that already-present difficulty of the vicious download-update cycle
Slows You Down
Today’s guests expect fast and immediate, not slow and sluggish, so any app that slows the guest down will surely be abandoned
Even an app that is quick to load will flop if a guest believes it doesn’t reliably meet their needs
App updates are burdensome and expensive, meaning some are even abandoned by their own creators
Crash and Burn
When a native mobile app crashes, it leaves end-users frustrated, making it more likely they desert the app altogether
In a hyper-competitive industry, change is consistent, and the driving force behind most change is your guests. Staying attuned to ever-changing trends is critical to keeping your guests satisfied, driving recurring business, and brand differentiation. Let’s consider how changes in technology, consumer behavior, and competitive landscape are affecting the future of hospitality.
The once attractive “free, high-speed Wi-Fi” offer is now old news. While Wi-Fi is important to the always-connected guest, technology in the hospitality industry has to potential to revolutionize the guest experience. How’s that? Well, thanks to the same smartphone consumers can’t go without, everything from keyless room entry to IoT-enabled smart room controls to interactive maps are now possible, and are becoming easier for hotel and resorts to implement.
Providing a great experience is all about meeting—better yet exceeding—your guests’ expectations. To do that, keeping a steady pulse on how consumer behavior and expectations are changing is fundamental. Let’s explore some changing expectations, and how competition within the hospitality industry is affecting consumer behavior.
Eighty-three percent of consumers agree people view travel as a right rather than a luxury. Bill Duncan, Global Head of Homewood Suites by Hilton, has this to say about the right to travel: “From connectivity to the design of hotels, guests are looking for an experience that mirrors their home life.”¹ As more and more people start to view travel as not a novelty but a necessity, they will come to expect the feel of everyday life, and with that comes personalization over conveniences and experiences.
As mobile evolves to be at the heart of the guest experience, brands have a great opportunity to use mobile technology to deliver the personalization and choices guests want. Ninety-two percent of consumers agree with the statement, “Hotel guests will expect their stay to be personalized around the set of choices they make at the time of booking or prior to arrival.”2
While mobile technology provides you an extraordinary opportunity, it also makes the guest experience extremely transparent. Aly El-Bassuni, Vice President of Operations for Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham said, “If somebody’s had a negative experience at your hotel, they now have a megaphone where they can go out and tell millions of people.”¹ This is yet another reason to provide extraordinary guest experiences via mobile and build brand advocates who use their megaphone to your advantage.
Competition Driving More Local Experiences
With the rise of home sharing sites, the already competitive hospitality landscape has become even more challenging. It would be a mistake to underestimate the disruption Airbnb has caused, and with it a shift in consumer expectations has occurred. So much so, businesses of all sizes are looking to supply guests with options to try local events while they travel. Take for example, Hello Scott, a startup concierge service and booking website providing services to independent hotels in six cities across the country, or Marriott’s PlacePass program designed for loyalty members to use points on local experiences like music, sports, and dining. As this trend grows, more and more brands are vying to fill guests’ expectation of personalized, local experiences.
In the hospitality industry, the future is mobile. Guests are already using mobile in their everyday lives, and it provides trailblazing brands with the opportunity to create highly-personalized, engaging experiences that reinvent the guest experience. But what do guests really want out of these mobile experiences?
As guests demand more personalized mobile experiences, are hotel brands keeping up? Forty-four percent of hotels say that creating a comprehensive mobile experience for guests is an area most likely to grow in 2018, according to Hospitality Technology's 2017 Customer Engagement Technology Study.⁴ To achieve this goal of creating a more engaging and personalized mobile experience, hospitality brands need to turn away from native mobile apps and transition to cloud-based mobile apps. With cloud-based mobile apps, guests have all the app-like functionality without ever having to download the app. It also allows for an extreme level of personalization that is extremely cumbersome–if not impossible–to achieve with native mobile apps today.
With a good understanding of the changing trends and the current state of mobile in the hospitality industry, let’s place mobile at the center and dive into what an ideal hotel mobile experience should look like.
Connecting with your guest via mobile from the very beginning–meaning as soon as they book a stay–leaves a great first impression for your new guest. A pre-hotel mobile experience can easily be activated via a confirmation email thanks to a QR code, text, or click. It should include easy access to all relevant hotel and reservation information, local information complete with upcoming events during their stay, recommendations based on the purpose of their visit, and options to personalize their stay (think: early or late check in and out, specific room requests, etc.). A cloud-based mobile experience can easily be saved to their homescreen so a guest can return to it time and time again. By providing these choices before the guest arrives, you ensure your guest is taken care of from the beginning, and set the tone for a more personalized, guest-centric stay.
Since you have connected with your guest before they arrived, imagine allowing your guest to skip the front desk hassle altogether by using geofencing to know the exact moment your guest steps in the door, prompting them to start a mobile check-in process. When their room is ready, they receive a push notification, and can use an interactive map to navigate to their room. Once there, their smartphone can act as the room key via NFC technology.
After check-in, the mobile experience can evolve into an in-room experience, giving your guest the ability to book dining reservations, text the concierge, request items from housekeeping, order room service, and change channels on the television–all from the comfort of their bed. Providing this in-room mobile experience not only eliminates the need for things like room keys, TV remotes, room service menus, and more, but allows your guest to use the device they love to complete simple tasks during their stay.
Even as your guest’s trip comes to an end, staying connected is critical in increasing brand loyalty and gaining valuable feedback. A check-out experience allows your guest to receive a push notification with their final bill, take a quick survey with just a tap, and easily rebook the same hotel experience again or choose from a list of recommendations for future stays directly from their phone.
From the beginning to the end, placing mobile at the center of your guest’s stay has various benefits for you and, most importantly, your guest. By staying on top of changing industry trends and what is happening in mobile, and providing a highly-personalized mobile experience that can evolve with your guest throughout their entire customer journey with your brand, you are guaranteed to impress any guest, drive repeat business, and edge out the competition.