You have them on your phone and you probably use them every day but have you considered developing an app for your business? Apps are a hot topic in the design and development world and are transitioning into viable marketing tools for the hospitality industry.
An app is defined as software that runs on iOS (iPhone) and Android platforms that are purchased and downloaded from an app storefront. It can act like a mobile site but is developed like software on your computer is.
Booking.com, Hotel Tonight, and TripAdvisor all have apps to provide their services on a more user-friendly platform. But, these OTAs also have the budget behind them to develop and release updates to their apps, not something that most independent properties allocate marketing dollars toward. On the other hand, a recent study from Fuel shows that travelers use apps and that 52% would use a mobile app to purchase additional services and that 61% would spend more for late check-outs or room upgrades through a mobile app.
Using apps for travel isn’t new, from having apps that allow guests to book travel, check-in/out, or find activities near them, but today’s guests expect more from your app which is where it can get difficult to determine if an app is right for your property or not. A recent article from Inc. highlights that a travel app must have one simple function to be deemed valuable to a guest: Messaging. Airbnb allows its users to message hosts within the app and even Facebook Messenger is used by Hyatt Hotels Corporation and other major brands as a way to handle customer service issues and even take reservations these days. The article continues to share that “78% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that gives them a great customer service experience on digital channels.”
Photo credit: Marriott International
Even Uber is getting in on the in-app communication when people have questions or concerns with the service. But again, these are larger businesses that have the in-house staff to develop these apps or the budget to white label apps. What does app development look like for a smaller, independent property?
We’re going to assume you’re focusing on a guest-centric or front of house app instead of an operational app for your staff. We’re also going to assume you have a responsive website design so that your guests can access your website on any mobile device already. So, why an app? An app can be beneficial for easier communication, updated information such as scheduling changes for your in-house wine tasting, or integration with your booking engine so guest can seamlessly purchase point of sale items.
Here are a few things you might want to consider before outlining what your app needs to include:
- How often will you update content? If you’re updating your content frequently, your responsive website will be much easier to manage than updating the content in an app and then resubmitting that info to the app storefront and hoping your users download the updates.
- What type of content are you creating? The positive side to apps is that they can store data meaning your guests don’t need an Internet connection to use the app. In that sense, having your guest be able to access reservation confirmations or package information could be beneficial to your guest but is it enough to justify the cost?
- Will you target guests? A very useful feature of apps are the ability to use their location to send them personalized content such as restaurant or activity recommendations based on where they are. You’d need to weigh the usefulness of this feature against your guests’ preferred communication style as not all guests are receptive to receiving notifications or pop-ups from apps.
- How will you prevent your guest from deleting the app? A lot of users download an app for when they need it and then will promptly delete the app post-stay. By adding in extra value, such as sharing recipes they enjoyed over breakfast, or having social connections provides your guest incentive to keep the app but also requires more work on your end to share that content.
- Do you have the time to manage it? Trust us, we know how busy you are but like mentioned above, you need to be communicative on this channel for it to be successful. Do you have the bandwidth to monitor guest interactions and communications through an app?
You might be asking yourself, how much is this going to run me? It depends on how interactive you want your app to be. Small scale apps with just information could be hundreds of dollars where robust apps could be tens of thousands. It’s important to understand what you and your guests want and need out of an app before creating one just because it’s trendy.
Have you looked into developing an app for your property? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!