January 29, 2021 · Pete DiMaio

Five Reasons You Can Expect Hotel Apps To Be Required in 2021

We have talked about the 1st mobile tipping point and the 2nd mobile tipping point in past articles and episodes of the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast.  However, we have not spent much time talking about a potential 3rd tipping point.  When and how mobile apps can completely change how a hotelier operates.  Currently a potential hotel guest is forced to the web to shop, research, and book a vacation.  Even when they are part of your guest history, your customers will begin online and can often be lead astray by the OTAs or your competitors.
I had a conversation with the owner of a resort recently where he saw a long-time guest checking in for their annual vacation.  The receptionist was checking in the guest and made the comment, “oh, I see you booked on Expedia.” The property owner was taken aback and asked the guest why they didn’t book direct.  The response was surprising, the long-time guest replied, “Oh, I did?  I just clicked on your listing when I typed in your name.”
This is a common occurrence and one that is hard to prevent entirely, however having a near 100% impression share on your brand PPC campaign can help.  What can also help is providing guests with a property mobile app that will allow them to engage the property outside of the traditional web. I have a put together a list of the most compelling reasons to adopt a mobile app for your hotel in 2021, and yes… revenue is a big factor!

Improved Guest Relations & Convenience

Hotel owners and operators know that when you have happy guests, they tend to come back to see you more often.  Any amenity, marketing effort, or technology should work to serve that goal.  Implementing an app for your property is likely going to be the number one thing you can do in 2021 to improve your guests satisfaction and relationship with your property.  The convenience an app creates also leads to increased revenue for you, which we will discuss in a moment.
You can expect to see more smiles per guest and a higher level of convenience with an app and the below are just a small sampling of how you will be able to better connect with your guests:

  • A Personalized Experience: From the time a guest downloads and books their experience becomes personal to them.  Everything from personalized push messages to saved payment methods make the guest experience more one-to-one.
  • Touch-Free Convenience: We will cover the value of having a touch-free experience at your property in a moment.  However being able to bypass the check in line, using a phone as a key, or ordering up room service all gives your guests great convenience in a post-COVID world.
  • Easy Communication: Making it easy for a guest to communicate with your staff day and night is the best way to avoid guest frustration and give your team the ability to rapidly address any guest request, from a broken light in their room to more towels by the pool.
  • Insider Deals: Guests love getting something for a deal, and as hoteliers we love to make them feel exclusive.  A personalized push message for a bar discount or event alert will help you drive revenue and keep guests feeling like a VIP.
  • Eliminating The “Business” Of A Visit: The business of a visit are things like filling out a registration card, waiting in line, checking out, and anything else a guest has to do, but doesn’t necessarily want to do.  An app lets your guests check in in advance, check out remotely and even get in their room.  When all a guest has to do is enjoy their stay, you’ll see satisfaction (and your reviews) increase.

Drive More Incremental Revenue Per Guest

A savvy hotelier knows that the hotel room is not the only purchase a guest makes, it’s the “first” purchase a guest will make.  Leading the guest down a multiple-conversion path before, during, and after their stay will drive incremental revenue that will help you realize your largest possible RevPAR.  A mobile app can be an invaluable tool in driving that incremental revenue through push messaging, alerts, and in-app purchases.  These three tactics will help you drive the most revenue per guest as possible.  Our first hand data also shows that guests are happy to spend and upgrade their stay on a hotel app, for many properties to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Pre Arrival Upgrades: Your first opportunity to drive additional revenue after the booking (we’ve covered maxing revenue during booking in the past) is through room upgrades.  A typical guest will settle a bit more than they should when choosing a room.  The deluxe suite may only be $10 more per night than a standard room, but at check out that can seem like a lot. By sending a push message between booking and arrival that you have that deluxe suite for only $10 more becomes a more palatable expense.  This can also be used to drive stay enhancements such as flowers, valet service, and any other value added service your property provides.

On Property Purchase Opportunities: Once the guest arrives on property an app can provide several more triggers to spend money at the property.  This can be in the form of a push message/coupon for 20% off at the bar or convenience store.  It could also be in the form of in-room ordering and services.  Regardless of how you employ your app push messaging and alerts, they can be very effective.  However, this is only true for properties that dive in and actually use their tools to the fullest.  One of the biggest hurdles we have found is getting the front line staff to fully make use of app messaging to drive revenue.

Late Check Out and Extended Stays: What’s it worth to be able to sleep in an extra hour on check out day?  For a guest, that can easily be $10 or $20.  One effective tool an app can provide is an alert a few hours before check out offering a one-click late check out, or even extended stay. Best of all, this system can be largely automated and integrate with your PMS to know what rooms will be available for late check out and which guests should be offered the amenity.
Driving more incremental revenue is not difficult, though it does take time to setup and manage. However once setup, your automation systems can largely manage the sales on a day-to-day basis.  These three ideas are just a few ways you can drive more revenue, brainstorm with your team and you’re sure to develop additional tactics for driving incremental revenue.

Direct Revenue From Advance Bookings

One of the most common objections we at Fuel hear related to mobile apps for independent hotels is that it doesn’t make sense for a guest to download a property for just a few nights. The guest is just going to delete the app as soon as they leave. Well, with multiple years of data we can definitively say, “FALSE!”
Properties that have rolled out an app are seeing approximately $100,000 in passive annual bookings.  These are bookings that have come in simply from a guest having the app on their phone.  Properties that are proactively communicating with guests are seeing significantly more annual revenue.  2020 was a very difficult year, and despite this we have seen direct app revenue grow year over year.
With a mobile app you’re able to be at a competitive advantage in your market as well as offer great convenience to your guests. A short list of advantages that lead to more direct bookings include:

  • Ability for a guest to book direct at your property without ever seeing your competitors on the web.
  • Ability to push a message directly to the guest’s phone suggesting a return visit.  This can be completely automated based on their behavior.
  • Simple one-click purchasing with saved payment options.
  • App-exclusive rates that are not published and create an incentive to always book.

Hotel Mobile Apps Are A ``Touch Free`` Solution

Touch free and contactless have been hot buttons for all of 2020 and the demand by guests to limit person-to-person contact is not going away any time soon.  Just like grocery pickup, working from home, and streaming new movies; we all have found out how awesome it is to bypass the check in line and go right to our hotel rooms.
Touch free from a hotel app perspective surrounds two primary points of contact, the check in and the door access.

  • Express Check In: Skipping the check in line on a busy day has always been a great benefit to guests as well as hotels.  Beyond just offering a guest convenience it offers the hotels a way to automate a process and let staff focus on being welcoming, not just checking in.  One valuable tip when you roll out your app is to discuss needs from an operational perspective as well as a marketing one.  For instance, you will want to have a full registration card as part of the process including guest names, license plate numbers, and all city-required information.  From an accounting perspective you will want the ability to have a digital guest signature on file should any credit card disputes arise.
  • Digital Key: Bypassing the check in line is great, but if the guest still has to wait around for a key it’s not as convenient as it can be.  Nearly all phones today are compatible with the software needed to remotely unlock a door.  In fact the Fuel Mobile App & Digital Key seamlessly interfaces with the major lock manufactures such as ASSA ABLOY, Onity and others.

A Hotel App Allows You to Entirely Bypass The ``Web``

In summary, one of the most valuable aspects of an app is that it is outside of the typical web experience meaning you can engage with guests on a more personal level and ways that would never be possible online.
In the example here for a resort using the Fuel Mobile App & Digital Key, you can see a brand search, which has the property’s paid ad, a VRBO ad, Google Hotel Rates for Expedia, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, and Agoda… and we have not even gotten to the organic listings including additional competitors.  What is interesting in this example is this is a property that does their marketing right.  They have a great paid, meta, and organic positions, yet there are no less than 9 competitors fighting for the click.  The app option has the user opening the app and seeing (and only seeing) the property, effectively bypassing all those competitors and expensive paid clicks.
Beyond the advantages of avoiding the SERP (search engine results page), an app is able to remember a guest’s preferences to make booking again easy and hassle-free.  A typical guest could receive a push message when they are likely to re-book, which would lead them to the app with their preferred room already selected.  This guest would possibly chat with an agent through the resort’s existing chat system before getting to the booking engine and finding all their payment information pre-populated.  A perfect example of the goal is to create an app experience that is as frictionless as Amazon.
A hotel's app creates a walled garden for the guest

Digital Keys For Hotels By Fuel Travel

The World's #1 Mobile App For Independent Hotels & Resorts

Looking for new ways to keep your hotel’s guests and staff safe? The Fuel Mobile App & Digital Key offers contactless check-in, check-out and keyless entry to help minimize direct contact between staff and guests while adding a level of convenience that will set your hotel apart from the competition.

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