Driving Revenue Through Your Mobile App

By Tom O'Rourke President & CEO, O'Rourke Hospitality | September 30, 2012

With every passing day, the mobile market continues to evolve into a necessary marketing channel that guests have come to rely on. Mobile applications have seen constant evolution since they were introduced (arguably with the introduction of the iPhone) and now that they have been on the market for some time, hotels are seeing solid results that prove apps are worth their time and cost. Throughout this piece we will examine how hotels are increasing their revenue with their mobile applications through mobile bookings, in app room service orders, by highlighting on-property amenities, sending push notifications and the most successful tactic – simply being in the mobile space when guests are looking.

Mobile Bookings

In most cases, mobile bookings will be your biggest opportunity for increasing direct revenue. While many of your other opportunities for revenue generation rely on mobile bookings (spa or dinner reservations for example), this section will focus on mobile room bookings. First and foremost, before you can make money with your hotel mobile application you need to put it in the palm of your guests' hands. Increase app downloads with careful planning and strategic marketing tools, and you'll be well on your way to driving revenue through your mobile app. Here's an example:

One of our clients, WorldMark South Pacific Club, added a link to their app in their email signatures and created a feature on their website with "on the go" information promoting their app. These two very simple steps directly led to 216 app downloads during the month of April. They also dedicated a section of their email newsletter to information about the app which led to an additional 207 downloads. As you can see from the charts below, the very same day the email newsletter was sent, there was a significant increase in app downloads (right) and in the days following this, WorldMark South Pacific Club experienced a steady flow of mobile bookings.

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In addition to the spikes in downloads, mobile bookings and revenue our clients have seen from effective marketing, it is important to also recognize successes experienced by others. The InterContinental Hotels Group saw a nearly 1,000 percent increase in room night bookings from mobile devices in 2010 and 2011, because smart phone adoption rates had increased so significantly. The InterContinental Hotels Group also ramped up marketing efforts and increased their usage of push notifications during this time. However, as effective as good marketing can be, never under estimate the power of change. As smart phone adoption rates continue to climb, your app's downloads and mobile bookings will steadily climb as well.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.