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

By Drew Patterson Co-Founder & 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

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.