Living in the Native App Age
By Nur Hassan Director of Information Technology, Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills | January 11, 2015
We are living in a native app age. The apps downloaded have become native to our productivity [native apps] leading to have the same impact in today's businesses as websites did in 90's. Surveys have shown that users prefer native apps over mobile apps or websites; according to a survey by Flurry in 2014, "Time spent on a mobile device by the average US consumer has risen to 2 hrs and 42 minutes per day". As the trends continue, every business is trying to leverage native app technology to their organization's success.
There are multiple advantages of native apps over websites. With native apps one can use features such as location services. This feature is mostly utilized for customer interaction. Location services are similar to GPS technology by accurately identifying an individual's location from their mobile device. This feature is utilized by businesses to target customers based on their location and send push notifications; hence creating more brand interaction. Secondly, when a user downloads and creates a profile on a app, it starts gathering data based on the user's online habits which makes it easier for the businesses to collect data and use this information to enhance customer experience. Apps also have the ability to send notifications and reminders to users based on their geographical location. Another advantage of apps is that they can work in offline mode. Today we live in era where apps are becoming more central to the businesses as a result we are seeing all major business having Apps to support their customers or employees.
Similar to other businesses especially airline industries, hotels brands have realized the potential of native apps have to offer. They are putting a lot of resources to have their own custom brand app so they can take advantage of some the unique features app has to offer. Main focus is to build, user friendly app that can offer unique guest experience and guests can easily take advantage of Hotel amenities or services. Airlines were forefront when it comes to native app in travel industry. Mobile apps have given travelers all the resources to customize their travel plan. Travelers can book, change, self-check in, have boarding pass on the Phone, can upgrade and change seating's as well. Hotel brands are following same path; for example; The Four Seasons Hotel is releasing its native app that will have Geo-Proximately technology built into it. With the help of this technology, guests will be able to find nearest Four Seasons in their vicinity. Recently, Hilton hotels announced that guests will be able to check in, choose, and change the room type from their mobile app. Just as airlines do for assigning seats to the air traveler.
Meanwhile, SPG hotels announced that all of the W Hotels will have the ability to check into guest room using their mobile devices. Offering all these great tools and features to the guest through the app also has a big impact on daily operations. For Example, guest would not have to stand in line at front desk to get their room key. Room key information can easily be send via an APP. Guests can potentially check in through the app and go directly to the room and open their guest room with the phone; they will no longer have to stand in line at the front desk to check in for their room key. Some hotels are leveraging GPS technology to recognize guests have arrived at the hotel and start the check in process. Other Hotels allow guest services or concierge team to use FaceTime feature to interact with guests. Some hotels allow Guest to check out and pay final bill through app. Hotel brands are also moving very rapidly to integrate apple pay into their mobile app so guests can pay their bill via apple pay feature.
At Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, we had the opportunity to pilot guest services app. Our aim was to take guest experience to an unforeseen level. We wanted to empower guests to take advantage of all Hotel Amenities using easy to use mobile app. We designed the app to be user friendly and tailor it for their specific guest needs. This app enables guest to customize their experience even before arriving at the Hotel's location. Guests can go to the pre-arrival section in the app and request hotel amenities. At check in, they will find their requests already available in their room.
Once the Guest is checked in the hotel, they can virtually take advantage of all of the hotel amenities from their mobile devices. They don't even need to be physically in the hotel to request hotel amenities or services. As long as they are checked in the hotel, and have the app on their personnel device, they can order any hotel amenity provided they have internet connection. The native app allows all of the hotel information and amenities to be available and offered to our guests 24/7. Guests can order room service, spa services, bell services, valet services, housekeeping requests, concierge services, transportation, print boarding pass, look up local attractions in the city, make room reservations, read different news links and much more. On the back end, all of these requests go through the interface to HotSos, Point of sale system or property management system depending what the request is and is directed to the right team.
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