Native Mobile Applications Versus Mobile Web Apps: What to consider when going mobile

By Ryan Day Founding Partner, The Portal Live, LLC | February 26, 2012

Hotels no longer face the choice of whether or not to go mobile, as the necessity to implement a mobile strategy is well established. Now the question is what platform to develop on. There are many options, each posing unique advantages and disadvantages. We'll identify and address some key factors to help you decide which options best satisfy your unique needs, both short and long-term.

Properties should consider several factors when determining what ecosystem will provide the desired results. Some key elements include: cost, maintenance, functionality, exposure, distribution, and sustainability.

Web apps can offer a truly seamless multi-platform experience. Enabling guests to jump from one interface on a guest room TV to another interface for the same service on their tablet or Smartphone or PC. No matter which device guest's start on, they can pick up exactly where they left off on any other device. They can even switch mobile operating systems, iOS to Android, and their experience will remain consistent. Maintaining a unified user experience is very appealing to guests and encourages repeat usage on multiple platforms. If the goal is to achieve maximum exposure for promotional purposes, than reaching guests often is key. Every point of contact represents an opportunity to generate revenue or reinforce brand awareness.

However web apps have not yet been able to challenge native apps in delivering an immersive user experience. In most cases web apps feel utilitarian, stripped down to the bare essentials. Gone are the beautiful user interfaces, with animated transitions and interactivity. Leaving the experience of many web apps feeling boring and unengaging in comparison. The user experience is very important and should not be discounted. The goal while creating any app is to offer a great user interface. Apps should be attractive, easy to navigate, functional, and fast! Native apps currently offer significant advantages in both the graphic performance and feature functionality by taking full advantage of the built in hardware on mobile devices.

The challenge is to build apps that offer compelling native experiences across all devices. Consumers have come to expect and now demand very sophisticated user interfaces. The bar is set high, and hotels must be cognizant of the importance of creating a well-balanced app offering usability, functionality, and user engagement.

Here are a few options to gain maximum exposure. First is the Facebook model. Develop native apps for each mobile platform and device: E.G. iPhone and iPad, and the various Android devices. Then complement these native apps with a PC version that is accessible to everyone on the web. That's a lot of apps to build and can be very expensive. You will need to hire separate developers to create and manage each unique platform, as they all use different code and tech stacks.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.