Integrating Mobile into your Overall Business Strategy, from Marketing to Operations and Beyond
By Matthew Allard Chief Executive Officer & Founder, Runtiz | January 15, 2012
There is no question that mobile is the most game changing technology to affect business over the past decade and is the fastest growing technology ever. The tough question is, with all the clutter of "apps" out there, how do you approach your mobile strategy to improve your business and keep your customers happy and engaged. The common mistake businesses make is to take an app they see out in the marketplace and try to adapt it to their business, instead of taking their business and developing a mobile strategy around that. The first important thing to remember is that an "app" is not a mobile strategy. Outsourcing a company to create an iPhone app is one piece of the puzzle, however creating an effective mobile strategy revolves around the way you can leverage mobile adoption to communicate and engage your customer like never before.
In a hotel environment, hotel guests are not only carrying one smart device, but often two or three. The best way to leverage these devices is to provide guests with a fun, convenient, and engaging way to use those devices to improve their experience while traveling, including pre- and during their stay, and whether on or off property.. When thinking about your guest's hotel experience, how can you incorporate what you know about them with what you know about mobile to achieve a mobile strategy that meets and exceeds their expectations? I have broken the mobile experience into three themes: convenience, context and fun. These three themes will help guide your strategy to exceed your guests' expectations and to decide who at the hotel needs to be an active participant to achieve success with your mobile experience. Keep in mind that a true mobile strategy touches pretty much everyone in the hotel and is not something that you want to leave to a marketing intern. Virtually every department from Sales, Marketing, Operations, F&B, Spa, Front Desk and Events probably has something useful that they can add to the mobile experience, and every one of those departments sees different needs from your guests.
The first mobile strategy theme is convenience. If there is one thing that is valuable to all guests at any brand of hotel it is their time. Time is one thing that guests can never get back, and if you can figure out a way to save them time, then you are giving them a priceless amenity that they will always remember. One way to leverage mobile to achieve convenience is to provide services that allow guests to get things done easier and faster. That could be researching and booking a dinner reservation, a ride from the airport, or a shaving kit brought to their room before they arrive. Many guests have downtime while they are traveling to a destination, and not so much when they actually arrive at a hotel. Therefore if you engage guests through mobile before they arrive at the hotel by providing them useful content while they are en route, then you are giving them a valuable service that they will appreciate. This will also give guests more opportunity to book a spa appointment, upgrade their room, or request that last minute amenity they forgot, all while giving the hotel the opportunity to fulfill without making the guest wait. Also giving guests the ability to provide real-time feedback, good or bad, that the hotel can process while the guest is still in house is an invaluable tool that can help turn negative experiences into positive. The last thing a guest wants to do after a negative experience is to wait to speak to a manager and complain, not to mention that the last thing a hotel wants is someone screaming at the front desk! Give your guests the ability to quickly, easily and privately give you feedback that will help the hotel improve their overall service and make that guest feel appreciated.
The second theme is context. Just like a good friend, your mobile app should be there for your guests with just the right thing when they need it most. 30% of all Google searches are for local information, and for guests to see true value in your mobile app, there must be information on there that they can actually use when they travel. In addition to hotel information, offer relevant activities to do in the local area. Guests will associate their overall experience at your hotel not only with what they do on property, but also with the local attractions you suggest they experience. Whether guests are traveling for business or pleasure, a good place to eat or drink that is close by is not always easy to find. Don't risk having your guests find out where to eat or drink from Yelp or Google where there is so much information that is not relevant to your guests. Instead provide them with relevant information knowing your guest's demographic and what likely appeals to them. This will ensure a better overall experience and guests will be appreciative that they were "in the know" while traveling thanks to you.
The third theme that is commonly overlooked is fun! To build and retain quality relationships, you need to do things that continue to surprise and wow your guests. It is not just about allowing guests to book and purchase your hotel's stay related services, but offering them fun incentives that help change the way they experience your hotel. Leveraging mobile to communicate in real time with your guests allows you to dramatically alter their experience, whether they are in the hotel, out between meetings, or shopping around the city. The fact that every guest has their mobile device with them everywhere opens up a whole new world of opportunity to communicate with them differently and more efficiently. Now a concierge can send a message to guests telling them about a cool event going on that evening, and even offer to arrange transportation for them to get there. A spa manager can send last minute offers and incentives to come get a massage and the Director of Rooms can offer guests to extend their stay if occupancy is low. Gone are the days of the red flashing light on the phone in the room telling guests they have a message, now you can communicate with them 24/7 when they are outside the four walls of the hotel.
Now that we have those main themes knocked out, the next thing to think about is marketing. Mobile has not been around long enough for guests to walk into your hotel and ask if you have a mobile app. I would say that the most important part of your mobile strategy is how you market it to guests. You can do all the aforementioned things, and do them really well, but if none of your guests know that you offer a mobile experience, your strategy cannot be successful. When looking at marketing it is not just about the medium but more about the message, and it is important to think like a guest. A lot of guests may think it is cool that you have an "app", but what is in it for them that will make them want to put it on their phone and continue to use it during their stay. We have seen different incentives work really well such as free wifi if guests use the app, discounted room service and spa treatments, or a free or discounted drink coupon to give an incentive to guests to download and explore. Also a mention in pre-arrival emails and on the hotel's website so that guests may access your app and educate themselves on your offerings in and around the hotel while they are killing time during a layover.