What’s the one thing you can’t live without when travelling? For increasing numbers of travellers, it’s their mobile phone. Expedia Media Solution’s recent survey found that Millennials and Generation Z use mobile devices at almost twice the rate at which Generation X and Baby Boomers do at every stage of their travels – a trend that will continue to grow as these generations continue to build their incomes, allowing them to travel even more often.
With everyone travelling with their mobile devices, it’s clear that hoteliers need to do more to take advantage of this ever-present tool. Data from the 2019 Mobility Survey/Hospitality Benchmark Report of hotel management professionals showed that 91% of hoteliers see mobile apps as a key driver of customer loyalty. Yet, many hoteliers have a way to go with their mobile strategy. Just 69% described themselves as ‘Mobile Savvy’ – meaning they were confident in their abilities – with 16% falling into the ‘Mobile Laggards’ camp – noting they have lingering concerns about their mobile-readiness.
One clear thing is that hoteliers are feeling the pressure to transform. In the same survey, 50% said they were concerned their business would be displaced by more mobile, agile, customer-centric competitors. So what should hoteliers be thinking about when it comes to mobile apps?
Building a holistic experience
The rise in online booking services has already made it harder for hotels to retain profits and drive customer loyalty, and one of their strongest selling points is their seamless booking experience. To entice customers onto their own mobile apps, hotels need to go beyond the basic booking functionality to provide a more holistic mobile-based experience.
Guests want features that bring speed and convenience to their journey, both inside and outside of the hotel. This begins with functionalities such as self-service check-in and check-out, mobile locks, and the ability to order room service or make a spa booking all from their phone. It also extends to third-party enabled features like organising transport to and from the hotel or even planning activities in the city like dinner reservations or local tours. Guests also want to be able to communicate with the hotel no matter where they are, and apps allow them to ask questions and make requests via chatbot or SMS, even in their native language if they prefer.
In addition to providing guests with a more seamless experience, mobile apps can, in turn, provide hotels with an invaluable opportunity to get to know their customers better. By analysing guest choices over the course of their stays, hoteliers can collect information about their habits and preferences, for example, their desire to book a wellness treatment for each stay or to dine at a particular restaurant on the day of arrival. This information can be used to propose a stay that corresponds exactly with a guest’s individual tastes. For example, a room could be prepared in advance, customising room temperature, entertainment systems, and lighting to meet a guest’s specific preferences.
Creating the right ecosystem
The best mobile apps are much more than a collection of neat features – they also enable the hotel employees to do their jobs more effectively. For example, the deployment of chatbots can take over the majority of customer requests, helping to reduce the workload for employees. Customers get a faster response time to their queries, while employees are happier as they can focus on their core jobs and strategic planning.
Another important factor underlying successful apps is connectivity. To fully capitalise on mobile, hoteliers need to invest in a strong WIFI infrastructure so guests have high-speed internet access wherever they are on the property.
Finally, those who decide to utilise guest-facing applications need to actively promote them. Hotels can’t rely on customers’ curious nature to stumble upon their apps. It’s imperative to raise awareness of them as well as their benefits and effectiveness. Hoteliers should consider offering exclusive perks and incentives to increase guest usage of mobile technology – and show guests what they are missing by not using the app.
Hoteliers must continue investing in mobile technology to simplify and enhance guests’ encounters with hotels. There is an undeniable link among mobility, customer experience and loyalty. Ultimately, guests should be able to use mobile technology to access self-service or human hospitality as they wish, giving them the ideal hotel experience which builds loyalty.
By Richard Oram, Senior Director Solution Engineering – Oracle Hospitality (EMEA)