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

By Drew Patterson Co-Founder and CEO, CheckMate | February 28, 2016

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

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.