As the world slowly inches towards the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to face a multitude of challenges due to the unpredictable nature of the virus. Although in comparison to this time last year, society’s confidence in “normal” activities has significantly increased. In fact, the early summer days of 2021 triggered what some are calling the “travel rebound.”
For the first time in 15 months, on June 12, 2021, the TSA reported the number of travelers through United States airports at over two million. Even hotel occupancy results over the past summer are inline with air travel figures. At the peak of the pandemic mid-December, hotel stays dipped to 20%, but from June to August rose up to 70%.
Recently, the Delta variant has somewhat thwarted enthusiasm for travel, but travelers are still itching to get back on the road, and hospitality brands are looking for innovative and convenient methods to entice would-be guests. This is especially true for big hotel brands competing simultaneously for a large cohort of future guests. So how do they persuade people to stay with them instead of their competitors? By shifting their attention to re-engage guests on their mobile apps.
What does the landscape look like?
The pandemic precipitated a quick turn to a minimized contact and increasingly digital world and as a result, apps in the hospitality industry fought even harder to jostle for user attention in an over-saturated landscape. Once they earned that attention, they had to fight to retain it.
In fact, Singular reported that from 2019 to 2020, uninstallment rates of mobile apps increased from 13.38% to 16.10% with iOS devices, and from 33.80% to 52.15% with Android devices. It wouldn’t be fair to say this was due to the pandemic alone, but this statistic is significant for hotels and their apps as they decide on their strategy for engagement and retention. What can hotels do to ensure that their users won’t uninstall the app within a short timeframe?
Below are four best practices — effective mobile app guest engagement strategies — for hotels to utilize in today’s uncertain landscape:
The best way to get a user thinking about your brand is to meet them where they are. With push notifications, hotels can manage their relationship with prospective and current guests outside of their app, providing them with messaging that invites them back in. This might be a message that says “It’s time to treat yourself. Use discount code X to book your room today.” For those who are already staying at their hotel it might look something like this: “Good news! Your room is ready early, please check in at the front desk and make yourself at home”. For the guests, these kinds of notifications streamline their experience, make them feel valued, and signal that the hotel is prioritizing their comfort.
Ease of use is vital for any app that aims to be successful, and in-app booking for guests is just one of the many steps hotels can take to meet this goal. If a particular hotel equips users with a platform that makes booking a stay or vacation effortless, guests will be more inclined to choose that hotel over a competitor that only offers booking through general websites.
For example, for tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Zers who are used to mobile app interfaces, a standard browser-based reservation platform will look clunky and unappealing. They will look to book their reservations at hotels that make it easy via a mobile app. Additionally, if users choose to sign into their account on the app, hotels could give guests the option to save basic information for future bookings, increasing efficiency. Once booked, hotels can also drive in-app purchases for the benefit of the guest. This gives hotels the power to send messages encouraging dinner reservations, purchasing ancillary events like boat trips or wine tours, and much more.
The smoother the reservation process is, the faster hotels can develop a community of brand evangelists and optimize their app retention.
Timely in-app messages
In-app messages can be pivotal in fostering satisfaction during a guest's stay. Helpful reminders might include: current hotel health and safety protocols as they relate to mask-wearing and other pandemic protocols, amenity updates, activities such as a yoga class or spa treatments, room service offerings, or a heads-up about the housekeeping schedule for their room.
Communication is vital and will help guests make the most of their stay. Not only is the messaging important, but the timing must also be at the forefront of this strategy. When these gentle reminders and announcements are strategically timed for the benefit of the guest, they demonstrate the hotel’s thoughtful, personalized attention to each individual.
Nothing beats getting rewarded when you’ve already planned to spend money. Reward offers are great ways to build loyalty and keep guests coming back. Hotels have the potential to unlock a whole new experience for guests if they provide incentives for using hotel amenities in addition to rewards for booking. For some hotels, this might look like distributing a certain number of reward points for, say, attending breakfast three times during a stay or participating in a fitness class. This not only encourages the guest to check out all the hotel has to offer, but creates a symbiotic relationship between the hotel and guest.
The Bottom Line
Although there is no telling what the future holds for the duration of the pandemic, one thing is for certain — this is an incredibly opportunistic time for hotels to leverage technology and mobile app strategies to engage guests. Utilizing new features and finding unique and personalized ways to engage with the user will help hotels to gain their trust and loyalty in hopes of maintaining their business. Now more than ever is the time for hotels to not look at their guests as numbers, but instead as individual relationships that can grow over time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shelley has more15 years of agency and corporate marketing experience in fast changing industries. As Director of Marketing for the Americas, Shelley is leading the go-to-market strategy and growth for North America and Latin America regions. Currently and during her tenure at Salesforce and Zendesk she's led teams to support Enterprise Marketing growth in North America for all verticals, including e-commerce, travel and hospitality, and media and entertainment by activating the brand across multiple channels. As a Demand Gen leader, she deploys ABM best practices using seamless marketing tech stack integrations and database marketing to optimize the marketing funnel. Shelley is an artist, volunteer coach and board member for a non-profit.