We are now spending an increasing amount of our time on mobile devices, performing such tasks as checking emails, reading the news and – importantly for hotel owners – making travel plans. According to Statistic Brain, 65 per cent of people who are booking rooms for travel within the next 24 hours are using mobile, but we also take to tablets and smartphones for research and every other stage in the booking process.
While browsing websites is the norm, studies have shown that 60 per cent of travellers will download a new app for their upcoming trip – and that could represent a new opportunity for engagement for anyone with a property to market. After all, consumers spend around 27 per cent of their time engaging with retail apps, according to The Next Web, and you need a mobile presence to get their attention. Why not try marketing via an app in order to get it?
However, it’s not good enough to simply crank out an app and hope for the best. Pocket Your Shop found that 13 per cent of travellers will stop using branded apps and sites altogether if they have a poor mobile experience, meaning you could be shooting yourself in the foot if your efforts are half-hearted. For successful hotel mobile apps development, you need to start by carefully considering who your desired users are, what you anticipate them using your app to achieve, what the app needs to achieve to be successful and how you are going to manage the app (or have it managed for you).
Bear in mind that, done properly, hotel apps can teach guests about their surroundings, help them stay connected, act as a mobile concierge and equate to a fun and convenient way of enhancing guests’ experience.
To help you out, here are a few pointers that may guide your app design:
1. The must-haves One of the most essential features your app should have is a display of contact details so that anyone who wants to can quickly get in touch with your front desk, whether that’s on the phone, on email or via instant messaging. It’s also a good idea to offer social media connectivity, so put buttons for all of the sites you cover in one place.
2. There should also be details of your amenities such as restaurants, gyms, spas, conference rooms and other popular attractions, including things like opening times and meal options. For miscellaneous details, a ‘frequently asked questions’ page is always handy, as travellers often have similar queries and it saves them having to get in touch individually.
3. Finally, it’s essential to have your app linked to analytics tools (although this is for your use rather than your guests’) so that you can gain data on how it is being used and whether it is working as efficiently as you’d like.
Other Great Features
There are lots of excellent features you can add to your apps, with landing page screens designed specifically for your program being one idea. We’ve covered this before under the topic of mobile web design, but the same applies for apps: keep everything simple and as pared down as possible, and add a landing page for each separate ‘layer’ to help people who are browsing on the go and don’t want to have to wade through reams of details to find what they need.
You can also add a plethora of interactive aspects to your hotel app, including pictures of the layout of your rooms and interactive maps of the surrounding area to give would-be guests an idea of where you are located in relation to well-known resorts.
Other ideas include transport guides (and perhaps even links to booking facilities), coupons for local restaurants that you can partner with and details of local events that might persuade people to make a reservation with you.
On top of the essentials and other ideas above, you can also add extra features that really take your app to the next level. For example, if you have the software, you could provide mobile booking so that would-be guests can go all the way through to paying for a room on your app.
There are also options for during the stay, such as mobile room controls for facilities including air conditioning and room service ordering that can make guests’ stay and even more pleasurable experience.
Adding the ability to write reviews is always a good idea for engagement and sharing, while exclusive rates and loyalty programme functionality might help tempt people back who have already visited you. And don’t forget to offer the chance to check in and out on mobile devices, which can really appeal to guests who hate or don’t have the time for queuing at a busy front desk Marriott Hotels does this on their app and it has proven hugely popular in recent years.
What To Avoid In Your Apps
Like mobile websites, apps must work quickly and efficiently if you are to prevent would-be guests downloading them and just as quickly deleting them again. It’s therefore vital to avoid at all costs putting anything on there that has large file sizes, as they won’t open and are just going to annoy people. On the flip side though, don’t be tempted to scrimp and put really low-res images on there because it will appear unprofessional – you need the Goldilocks zone that’s the just right balance in between.
Always check for links that don’t work or have broken for some reason and opt for the best designers you can afford if you can’t do this yourself so that everything fits with your existing branding as opposed to looking like something completely unrelated.
Finally, don’t be tempted to put things like games on your hotel app, as it only wastes space and isn’t relevant for your guests, who will have other apps for that type of thing. Done well, hotel apps can help you better engage with your guests, boost brand loyalty and improve your bottom line using technology that already exists. They might be worth a try for your property.
For more information on hotel web design, check out World Hotel Marketing.