{468x60.media}
Mr. Patterson

Technology

App-ocalypse: How Hotels Can Thrive in the Post-App Economy

By Drew Patterson, Co-Founder and CEO, CheckMate

It's no secret that consumers are more addicted to mobile than ever before. The average American spends five hours on a mobile device each day. Hotel brands-always eager to capitalize on lifestyle trends-have taken notice, and it shows. Nearly every major hospitality company has its own mobile app (and several have more than one). Over the last few years, we've seen hotels race to create newer, sexier apps, valuing bells and whistles over practicality. From a QR code scanner to music streaming to live video chat, brands have tried nearly every gimmick imaginable in an attempt to lure consumers to their apps.

Guests Are Just Not Into Your App

That approach is increasingly problematic for several reasons. Perhaps the most obvious reason-at least in hindsight-is the fact that it goes against the very core of the hospitality business, which aims to provide service, comfort and convenience. There's nothing convenient about asking your guests to download yet another doodad that'll take up valuable phone storage and introduce even more visual and mental clutter. Already, competing apps and messages have become noise that's easily tuned out-do your guests really need more of this? Do they need a replacement for human interaction, or a seamless way to improve communication,increasing personalization and decreasing response time?

Don't take this personally; it's a crowded field out there. Travel is not the only industry taking notice of consumers spending more time on mobile devices than ever before. The problem is that as the time spent on mobile increases, the number of apps used per day decreases. As I mentioned in a Hotel Executive website post in November, the Apple store alone has more than 1.5 million apps. But that doesn't mean users are engaging with these apps. In fact, user activity is becoming much more focused: the average consumer spends 79 percent of her or his device time on just five favorite apps. And only 10 percent of apps downloaded are used more than once. It's a huge challenge for businesses-especially in "infrequent purchase" categories like travel-to develop an app that's regularly discovered, downloaded and used.

According to a recent study, a grand total of zero hotel offerings appeared on the list of 25 most downloaded travel apps. The top travel performers are typically online travel agencies (OTAs), and with good reason. Mobile is well suited to OTAs' strengths, such as search, exploration and price aggregation.

Post-App Economy Plays to Hotels' Strengths

I've been developing and introducing technology solutions for the hospitality industry for almost 20 years. For the most part, each evolution--launch of the OTA, birth of metasearch, introduction of private sales--has meant higher cost and lower control of product, pricing and guest for the hotel. Let's just say I've heard the term "necessary evil" more than I care to mention. BUT, the post-app economy does not follow this anti-hotel trend. While apps are expensive to build and market and require continuous updates, the post-app economy plays to hotels' core strengths, works within existing frameworks, and requires fewer financial and technological resources.

Forward-Looking Hotel Brands, Take Note

  1. Stop wasting resources on new and "improved" apps that, in all likelihood, are doomed to become just another bit of noise that's easily tuned out.

  2. Under no circumstances should downloads of your mobile app be considered a measure of success. Better to see mobile technology for exactly what it is: a useful tool to help increase traditional benchmarks like occupancy, guest satisfaction and brand awareness.

  3. Focus on personalizing communication with guests in their preferred mode of communication.

What is the Post-App Economy?

The post-app economy consists of rapidly growing messaging channels that provide brands and businesses with real-time opportunities to interact with customers. This economy includes both established channels like SMS and web chat as well as new platforms like WeChat and Facebook Messenger (which announced 800 million users at the end of 2015). Oh, and a little company called Google will launch a messaging app in 2016. All of these channels allow for real-time, one-to-one communication, providing an alternative model for the development and distribution of a mobile experience.

SMS Capability is Like Breathing, Everyone Can do it

I often hear hotel executives ask, "But is this just a Millennial trend?" and my answer is an emphatic no! According to a Pew Research Survey on U.S. smartphone use in 2015, texting is the most popular feature and 98 percent of all SMS messages are opened/read. And while 100 percent of Millennials are texting, so are 98 percent of people 30-49 and 96 percent of people 50-plus.

The post-app economy is marked by an embrace of existing messaging channels that provide brands and businesses with real-time ways to interact with their customers.

These messaging platforms, already preferred by consumers, provide an appealing alternative for all parties involved. The post-app economy is beneficial to consumers, sure, and it's also a boon to hoteliers. Why? Because it actually plays to the industry's focus on personalization and customer service through five benefits:

  1. Convenient for Guests

    Messaging services of the post-app economy enable easier discovery and use than standalone apps. Messaging services are present on every user's phone, and daily interactions with friends and family have habituated consumers to these communication channels. By contrast, separate hotel apps are hard to find in a Top 10-oriented app store, take up scarce space on a user's phone and are often forgotten in the moment.

  2. Real-Time Interaction

    Messaging services demand high relevancy. The ping of a new message pulls a hotel guest away from his or her day and into the phone. These are one-to-one, real-time interactions, as opposed to apps that often sit ignored on the back screen of a user's phone.

    A real-time interaction demands immediate responses to consumers' requests and timely updates with new information. The conversation focuses on what's most important to guests during their stay-things like room assignments, amenity requests, room-service updates and noise complaints. These interactions don't replace human interaction; rather, they enhance it because they require real human beings to take action and provide service. This is a welcome change from the previous paradigm, when hotels relied on app developers with little insight into the hospitality business to address communications needs.

  3. Opportunity for Service Recovery In-Stay

    Messaging enables hotels to check in on guests early in their stay. Guests tell us they love this communication and often mention it in their online reviews. The guests that appreciate the communication the most are the ones experiencing early issues--from that musty smell to a leaky shower head. By systematically gathering in-stay guest feedback, hoteliers can identify and resolve service recovery opportunities in real time to avoid hearing about it later on TripAdvisor.

  4. Faster, More Efficient Service

    Interacting with guests via SMS means more than a speedy and efficient response to a request for extra towels or room service. It follows the old marketing advice to "meet consumers where they are" for seamless, intuitive communication. If your VIP guest is, for example, a globe-trotting entrepreneur who spends half her day messaging her team and family, why would you ask her to download and familiarize herself with a new mobile app? Or, as is still the custom in many hotels: why would you ask her to use a landline-that relic rarely found outside hotel rooms-to order a late-night snack? Communicating with guests using the platforms they're already comfortable with is the best kind of personalization: the kind that doesn't require extra effort from an already overwhelmed consumer.

  5. Personalized, One-on-One Relationships

    As Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, stated at Luxury Interactive Europe 2015 on Oct. 26, "The human element is going to be the top differentiator among luxury brands going forward. As consumers increasingly experience the world through screens, they will come to crave the now-rare human connection. Here is where luxury brands can help themselves stand apart by outperforming their peers at relationship building and delivering a worthwhile personal touch."

    Because hotels provide such personal services-making a guest's bed or shining shoes, for example-they have the potential to build incredibly strong relationships. But that's only if hoteliers respect their guests' privacy and space. In the post-app economy, the main challenge is to limit interaction to communication that's relevant and helpful to each guest. Start bombarding customers with too many promotions and special offers, and you risk losing their all-important trust

What Would an Effective Mobile Communication Strategy Look Like?

Below are some tenets of an effective mobile communication strategy:

  1. Make it multi-channel. Multi-channel mobile communication creates far more guest engagement. The combination of SMS, email, and OTT messaging (such as WhatsApp) will get more guests to interact compared to a native app.
  2. Empower your team with a single, shared inbox. Employees must be able to collaborate when communicating with customers. A single shared inbox for guest-facing staff enables employees to tap into the collective intelligence of your team.
  3. Capture interactions in a searchable, shared database. When employees start a new shift and hear from Room 872, they can simply review the interaction history and pick up where their colleague left off rather than force guests to explain over and over again.
  4. Review guest interaction and response time. Mobile communication gives you better insight into your operations. Hoteliers can review responses by employee, shift, hotel, requests, etc. to identify problem areas and reward stars.

The post-app economy is a terrific opportunity for enterprising hotel companies to get smarter, faster and more personalized in their day-to-day guest interactions. By interacting directly with through pre-existing channels already a part of their customers' daily lives, hoteliers can spend their time and budget where it belongs: on creating and maintaining a best-in-class guest experience.

Drew Patterson is the co-founder and CEO of CheckMate the leading travel technology company building hotel communications tools to deliver a better guest experience. From before check-in through departure, CheckMate’s tools enable hotels and their guests to have a two-way conversation through any means of communication - email, text, or a native app. CheckMate’s mobile tools improve every facet of the guest experience – from a mobile check-in that avoids a wait at the front desk and deals on room upgrades to alerts when one’s room is ready. Through partnerships with hotels, OTAs and TMCs, CheckMate has improved the travel experience of over 500,000 travelers staying at over 51,000 hotels. Mr. Patterson can be contacted at 415-849-3537 or drew@checkmate.io Please visit checkmate.io for more information. Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data

Gary Isenberg

Hotel room night inventory is the hotel industry’s most precious commodity. Hotel revenue management has evolved into a complex and fragmented process. Today’s onsite revenue manager is influenced greatly by four competing forces, each armed with their own set of revenue goals and objectives -- as if there are virtually four individual revenue managers, each with its own distinct interests. So many divergent purposes oftentimes leading to conflicts that, if left unchecked, can significantly damper hotel revenues and profits. READ MORE

Jon Higbie

For years, hotels have housed their Revenue Management systems on their premises. This was possible because data sets were huge but manageable, and required large but not overwhelming amounts of computing power. However, these on-premise systems are a thing of the past. In the era of Big Data, the cost of building and maintaining an extensive computing infrastructure is incredibly expensive. The solution – cloud computing. The cloud allows hotels to create innovative Revenue Management applications that deliver revenue uplift and customized guest experiences. Without the cloud, hotels risk remaining handcuffed to their current Revenue Management solutions – and falling behind competitors. READ MORE

Jenna Smith

You do not have to be a hospitality professional to recognize the influx and impact of new technologies in the hotel industry. Guests are becoming familiar with using virtual room keys on their smartphones to check in, and online resources like review sites and online travel agencies (OTAs) continue to shape the way consumers make decisions and book rooms. Behind the scenes, sales and marketing professionals are using new tools to communicate with guests, enhance operational efficiencies, and improve service by addressing guests’ needs and solving problems quickly and with a minimum of disruption. READ MORE

Yatish Nathraj

Technology is becoming an ever more growing part of the hospitality industry and it has helped us increase efficiency for guest check-inn, simplified the night audit process and now has the opportunity to increase our revenue production. These systems need hands on calibration to ensure they are optimized for your operations. As a manager you need to understand how these systems work and what kind of return on investment your business is getting. Although some of these systems maybe mistaken as a “set it and forget it” product, these highly sophisticated tools need local expert like you and your team to analysis the data it gives you and input new data requirements. READ MORE

Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, it’s that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort – one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms – they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.