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Branded Mobile App, SMS, Push Notifications or Chatbots: Which Mobile Channel Is Best for Your Hotel?


It's no surprise that mobile has changed the way hotels engage with their guests. For instance, research indicates that 68 percent of hotel guests desire to skip the front desk and check-in via their mobile phone or a tablet instead. While there are many ways for hotels to connect with guests through mobile messaging, not all platforms are right for all hotels. For instance, developing a mobile app might be useful and increase guest satisfaction for large luxury chains but would not necessarily be the right choice for a smaller B&B. To determine the right platform for their business – in-app messaging, SMS, push notifications or chatbots to name a few – hotels must look at their size, regional preferences, and their budget. This article from TextMagic will help hoteliers determine which mobile channel could be best for them.

Branded mobile apps

Hilton and Marriott, both focus the majority of their mobile communications on in-app messaging via their branded mobile app. Both luxury chains have made significant investments in their apps and use them to provide highly personalized services to loyal customers. Hilton has also implemented mobile keys within their hotels. Guests have to download the hotel app to have their mobile key enabled. That way guests can skip the check-in counter and have a fully digital and independent experience.

Though hotel apps are the ideal communication platform, allowing for a variety of transactions through one single hub and boosting hotel loyalty and guest satisfaction, many guests are simply not interested in downloading an app. In fact, the 2017 J.D. Power North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study revealed that a mere 19 percent of guests have downloaded a hotel’s app.

With hotels struggling to find users for their apps, they’ve turned to other forms of mobile messaging. Best Western Hotels & Resorts recently introduced its Best Western Guest Engagement Platform which does all the work of an app for the guest – check-in and -out, payment, messaging, etc. – without the guest having to download an app. This platform has resulted in increased customer satisfaction and Medallia Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have improved by as much as 18 points while RevPAR has increased by nearly $1 per every two-point NPS increase.

Other mobile messaging channels

Starwood chain hotels in parts of the globe such as Europe, the Middle East and Africa forgoes a mobile app in favor of the mobile messaging platforms that are most popular in each region such as WeChat, iMessage, WhatsApp and Blackberry messenger.

Hotels may also use a variety of platforms - texts and chatbots among them -  for effective mobile marketing and better customer experience:

  • Push notifications are ideal for making sure guests know what services and events are available to them. If there’s a popular band playing at the hotel that evening, push notifications to hotel guests can boost attendance. On-site services like massage and other therapeutic services can all be advertised through push notifications. They are also ideal for communicating emergency situations such as a hurricane warning or to promote limited-time deals and offers.
  • Mobile messaging apps. Hotel Indigo chats with guests through their Facebook Messenger bot to boost guest engagement through mobile.
  • In-app communication. Hotel Indigo’s parent company, IHG uses mobile apps for everything from booking, payment, account activities and a smart translator that works in 12 languages.

How independent hotels employ mobile

While independent hotels can’t compete with the big brands when it comes to budgets for their mobile apps, mobile keys and other mobile technology, the increase in mobile-savvy customers and independent-forward platforms such as Airbnb have produced a significant increase in bookings for independent hotels.

In fact, the number of rooms booked at independent hotels on mobile devices has increased by 15 percent year-over-year and has far outpaced booking growth for big brand hotels.

Independent hotels can continue the guest’s mobile experience from booking to check-out by providing mobile messaging options. Given the expectation of the mobile-oriented guest for quick replies and the difficulty of providing 24/7 attendance with limited staff, mobile chatbots are a viable solution for both larger and smaller establishments.

Though mobile has taken the hotel world by storm, smaller hotels should remember that many guests book with them because they prefer the personalized connection with hotel staff that is a cornerstone of the small establishment.

Give guests the convenience of mobile where it matters: booking, reservation confirmation, directions and other basic forms of communication, but for now, it’s okay to let the larger chains handle the mobile fireworks.

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