— 8 min read —
It’s not easy for hotels these days. Not only do they have to battle against the dominance of OTAs for the loyalty of their guests, but the technological revolution has made it increasingly difficult for hoteliers to communicate with a type of traveler who now prefers to find information and solve problems online.
But is it actually harder for hotels to communicate with this new silent traveler or can technology paradoxically present the solution to the hospitality industry’s rising issues? By presenting guests with an app of their own, a hotel can offer their customers anything and everything they might want and need – but most importantly all in one place.
Here’s our guide to what EVERY hotel app must have:
1. A friendly, in-depth, customized presentation of the hotel and its services
Essentially what an app can do for hotels is to provide them with an effective means of communicating with their guests. By presenting their destination as a welcoming, personable establishment with wonderful images and decorative text, the hotel becomes less distant and more accessible to guests thus strengthening the relationship between traveler and hotelier. Don’t forget: each hotel is different to the next. That’s why each app must obviously be custom-made according to the destination.
Does all this seem rather obvious? Well it is! However, this is virtual hospitality and undoubtedly one of THE most important things to include. A friendly greeting upon access to the app and the hotel has already made a good first impression and as the saying goes… first impressions are EVERYTHING!
2. Instant messaging
It must once again be stressed that communication is of the utmost importance for the hotelier. A new generation of silent traveler now exists; a tech-savvy individual who prefers to find information/ solve problems/ best profit from their stay by consulting the internet from their smartphone or tablet instead of verbally communicating with reception. Therefore what a hotel fundamentally must have is a solid, efficient but as mentioned friendly messaging system with which guests can communicate problems, ask questions and generally feel closer to the hotel staff.
Automated messages available in several languages to break down any potential linguistic barriers? Well that’ll certainly help the customer satisfaction levels!
Guest retention never felt so possible.
No one can deny the relevance of Trip Advisor and similar review sites these days (SDL stats) to the hospitality industry as a whole. Tripadvisor has a huge influence in the travel sector, in fact ‘more than 139 new contributions are posted every minute’ on its website and as of Q1 2015 it boasted more than 225 million reviews and opinions from travelers on over 4.9 million businesses and properties worldwide (source TripAdvisor). Hotels want, no need, to improve their online reputations in order to attract guests who in turn tend to consult such websites when booking a stay. An extremely efficient way of achieving this is by asking guests DURING THEIR STAY just how satisfied they feel. By offering in-destination surveys on an app, guests can specify why they may not be having the time of their lives and the hotel can correspondingly attempt to resolve any sentiment of dissatisfaction. If a guest feels that the hotelier is directly listening to them in such a way they are far more likely to post a positive review on the internet. Surveys of satisfaction can themselves increase satisfaction.
It’s common sense.
The keyword in a capitalized world and obviously and essentially important for hotels. By offering orderable spa treatments, bookable restaurants or simply the option of ordering room service on an app, the guest has the immediate means of spending money literally and physically in their hands. Hotels desire to make it as easy as possible to sell their services right? Well with 80% of guests now traveling with smartphones (MCD: Seeing Returns), surely it makes sense for the hotelier to allow guests to be able to order their products at the click of a button. Guests want it (62% of all guests and 70% of business travelers according to the aforementioned report), hotels want it; that’s why it’s a must-have on our list.
5. Local info
Ever got lost abroad while looking for that restaurant or monument?
Admittedly, with the current, apparent omniscience of Google Maps it’s no longer too much of a problem. That said, what if hotels could present detailed information about recommended restaurants, museums, monuments, local events, health centers, hairdressers, parking spaces etc etc. – all on ONE, SINGLE map?
Well, this is all possible on an in-destination hotel app and it has been proven (78% want it) to be one of the most popular features of already-existing applications. One of the most useful things that a foreign tourist can ask for is centralized information about the local area all displayed on a detailed map, displaying distances and more. That’s exactly what a hotel app could and should offer – convenience.
6. Offline map
Problem with unreliable Wi-Fi? Want all the aforementioned local, tourist info on the go? No problem! With an offline mode that includes the map, all this indispensable information can be taken out and about, particularly preferable for those traveling abroad and wanting to avoid pesky roaming charges.
7. Weather, flight tracking & travel info
It’s raining on your hotel room window and you’d like to know what time you’ll be able to go out and up the Eiffel Tower?
Want to know whether your flight home will be delayed the following day as a result of the bad conditions?
So bad that the buses might not be running?
A hotel app should have the ability to track flights, display live weather updates and be able to link guests to traffic websites and endless other useful travel information. The key being that these updates are live and centralized in one place for guests, saving them time on research and generally improving their in stay experience.
Centralization for convenience once again.
We undeniably live in an era that celebrates individuality. Guests want to be treated as individuals and thus personalized experience is quintessential. From something as simple as addressing each guest by their first name on the app upon access to more complex scenarios or even the use of iBeacon technology to personalize their stay, hoteliers have the ability to make their guests happier during their stay. For example, if a guest orders a club sandwich to their room on their first night, this data can be efficiently collected and they can be subsequently asked whether they enjoyed it. Collecting guest data also allows the app to change form to be better suited to a guest; an already loyal customer, for example, doesn’t want to receive communication about a loyalty card. The ability to easily collect and save data and thus personalize experience via the app necessarily creates a dialogue between hotelier and guest, strengthening their relationship.
9. Guest data collection: upselling and marketing
The capacity to personalize and create unique guest profiles in such a way can then be used by the hotel to target market their services. For example, if a guest visits the spa page of the hotel app three times, this data is collected through the app which then pushes an automated message based on this scenario, offering said guest a respective promotion on a certain treatment. Target marketing in such a way is a very efficient means of driving revenue on the hotel’s in-destination services as well as offering guests with relevant information they actually want to see.
Furthermore, the application should also allow the hotel to supplement their guest database, which can be used to monitor popularity of services to help upselling. All the information collected by the app becomes property of the hotel and, in this way, they have the perfect source from which to structure their future marketing, and ideally a source they can use to personalise their guest’s stays in the future.
Everyone’s a winner!
10. Kiosk / games / playlists: things to do
Nobody goes to Istanbul just to play games in their hotel room, we appreciate that, but sometimes after a long day of traveling or visiting the Blue Mosque simple things to do can be useful, especially if you have little ones to entertain. A module that offers free games, international newspapers, even mood-dependent music playlists (all available on the hotel app) is so easy to access it will fill even the smallest moment.
Something to please everyone.
11. Next stay
Finally, we thought we’d throw in another one for you, of course saving the best until last!
All of the aforementioned must-haves for any in-destination hotel app contribute in one way or another to increased guest satisfaction – be it through a more efficient means of communicating with reception or simply the ability to see local POIs on a single map. This in turn strengthens the relationship between hotel and guest which inevitably leads to increased loyalty. In essence, if a guest has access to a hotel app their generally improved experience ipso facto translates directly into their desire to book a next stay.
This is why our final, fundamental function for any hotel app is a NEXT STAY booking engine.
Essentially what any hotelier seeks is the guarantee of a next stay and a mobile guest relation app is the perfect means of converting guest satisfaction into permanent loyalty.
Over and out.
Written by Rebecca Benson