The total retail value of the global hotel industry is somewhere north of $425 billion, making it among the 10 largest industry sectors in the world. (It’s even more significant when you consider employment numbers.) As a result of its importance to the economy, the hospitality industry has a long history of people swooping in with brand new, potentially game-changing ideas in an effort to capture a slice of that massive pie.
The one constant, though, is that the hospitality industry is, at base, a service industry. Service industries are driven by creating personalized seamless experiences for clients (in this case guests) possible. For a hospitality company to drive growth, the customer experience has to be top of the line.
Increasingly, that’s happening with the aid of mobile apps. Marriott’s CIO has even called the rise of mobile apps within hospitality one of the biggest shifts of the past decade.
Take a look at the travel apps that making planning a dream trip simple. Travels Apps to Satisfy Your Wanderlust
Hotels especially need to invest in mobile apps because of the customer journey process. Hotel guests have three distinct stages of a trip, and they need to interact with the hotel in all of them. The stages are (somewhat logically):
It’s a safe assumption that most of your potential guests have a smartphone. Now consider ways you could interact with them through a mobile app at each stage.
Before the trip: Reach a guest as they research, shop, and ultimately book a hotel. Deliver an easy, user-friendly app experience for research and booking and you’ll capture them. This can involve incentives and loyalty programs. After they book, you could send them a push notification with information about events happening while they’re in town or to make reservations at your swanky restaurant. There could be in-app messaging as well. (More on that in the next section.)
During the trip: Mobile check-in and check-out, car request from valet. Marriott has also experimented (pilot program) with using smartphones as room keys. (Radisson Red is planning the same thing.) Marriott has a mobile requests program as well, where the old standby of “calling downstairs” is replaced by submitting a request in-app.
Personalized recommendations and resources. The Hilton HHonors app uses guest information to suggest activities, provide maps, and more. “We can make the experience different for you based on where you are and the time of day; it’s about giving guests the right information at the right time, ” says Rich DeStefano, senior director of mobile products at Hilton Worldwide.
After the trip: Thank guests for their stay, collect feedback, and easy billing/invoicing.
Having a strong mobile app is a must for hotels and hospitality brands in general. Within the app, you can move across the entire customer experience and journey. When done properly, this breeds customer loyalty. Customer loyalty leads to referral (“Hey, have you stayed at a Marriott recently? It’s a great experience”) and retention (“When I go to San Diego for work, I must stay in a Marriott.”) That leads to growth.
This has all been from the hotel side of the equation, but it’s important to remember guest expectations as well. Most of your potential guests, especially business travelers, are active participants in the on-demand economy right now. At the airport, they’re using their phones to answer email, make to-do lists, check bank balances, check Salesforce customer data, and about 12 other things. That’s normative for them. So when they interact with the hotel they’ll be staying at as they do business, their expectation is around a quick, seamless and personal mobile experience -- it’s what they expect from all brands now. If that experience isn’t there in-app, they may stop coming back.
President Obama once annoyed an entire section of the hospitality industry by claiming travel agents were obsolete. They still exist--but increasingly, the hospitality world is being driven by mobile apps.
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