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4 Features That Will Help Your App Deliver a Great Mobile Experience


Frequent travelers by their very nature are people on the go, so it’s only natural they’d rush to take advantage of mobile conveniences, loyalty programs and perks offered by hospitality brands. In fact, a recent report by Deloitte found that at least 64% of millennials, 50% of Gen Xers, and 30% of baby boomers have downloaded at least one hotel mobile application.

On the surface, this looks like a good trend for the hospitality industry, which has been viewed by some as slow to capitalize on the game-changing mobile, location-savvy, and personalization opportunity of mobile applications. However, Deloitte found that 50% of a loyalty member’s annual spend is not with a preferred brand. Said another way, half of a member’s annual spend is going to another brand or multiple brands.

The data indicates that hotel brands would do well to reimagine their loyalty and engagement platforms as "me-too" loyalty programs are no longer enough of an incentive to retain loyal customers or increase frequency and spend, according to Stellar Loyalty.

So how can hotel brands engage with guests in more meaningful ways that will ensure their loyal customers stay connected before, during and after a stay?  How do you create memorable experiences that foster deep brand loyalty and advocacy?  The imperative many experts point to is: reinvent the mobile experience.

Industry analyst group Forrester often refers to today’s environment as the Age of the Customer. According to Forrester, if brands are going to win in this new environment, they must become “customer-obsessed” by embracing the mobile mind shift, turning customer data into business insights, transforming the customer experience and by accelerating their digital business to become more effective.

Forrester’s Thomas Husson predicts, however, that in 2016, most brands will continue to under-invest in their mobile strategies, treating mobile as just another siloed channel instead of making it a fully integrated part of their overall strategy to transform the customer experience. This is perhaps why customers download but then don’t use an application — they want and expect a rich experience, not simply an application.

Shifting from Mobile App to Mobile Experience

The most successful hospitality mobile apps offer users the following:

  1. Relevance and usefulness. The mobile experience features personalized, location-savvy information and delivers timely offers the guest cares about; location-related tips, add-on services and recommendations make this a one-stop shop/personal concierge.

  2. Frictionless transactions.  For the busy traveler, the most “valuable” deliverable may in fact be frictionless transactions that provide privileges without wasting time waiting for front-desk personnel, self-service options such as pre-check-in with room selection, mobile key and online check-out.  Speed and efficiency make the application valuable and keep incentivize guests to return.

  3. Entertainment and engagement. The mobile experience should take advantage of immersive experiences, interactive games, social engagement and chances to win (e.g., sweepstakes) to keep the brand fresh and top of mind even when the guest is not looking for a hotel room.

  4. Rewards that feel like true rewards. The mobile experience must offer each guest rewards that are personally appealing. For some guests points and free stays are the most attractive, while others might want VIP-type privileges, opportunities to participate in one-of-a-kind experiential rewards or the chance to contribute to charitable causes. Understand your guests’ preferences, use customer interaction and loyalty data and then use the mobile experience to align with their personal interests and to deliver rewards that are meaningful.

Strategic mobile-best loyalty and engagement programs might seem unattainable, but they are already being implemented today. They are powered by new underlying technology platforms that can capture and leverage each guest's every interaction — in real-time and in time sequence — which feeds the mobile app the information needed to deliver personalized offers, relevant information, special rewards etc. These platforms can help a brand optimize their programs from initial guest acquisition and engagement to transactions and rewards, delivering to guests a rich and seamless customer experience all via their mobile device.

You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, a book by Denis Pombriant, gives the example of Hilton Hotels and how the hotel app not only helps people reserve rooms but also  lets them check in without standing in line at the front desk.

“With the app, customers can check in, select a room on the property, order room service or a morning paper, and the app even enables the phone to function as a room key,” Pombriant says.

The hotel also customized its application after listening to its customers. Guests requested the ability to select their rooms based on both hotel layout and internal/external location, so Hilton partnered with Google to let guests "see" what would be the view from their window.

“The Hilton app’s hidden benefit is that it acts as a platform on which the company can build all manner of solutions for customer outreach,” Pombriant points out.

Hospitality brands can no longer afford to sit back and rely on a "set it and forget it" loyalty program. The pressure is on for hotels to invest in creating integrated loyalty and engagement programs, delivered through mobile devices that are flexible and easily adaptable to meet and exceed guests’ expectations. Only then, it seems, will hospitality brands enjoy more guests with staying power.

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