So, if your property hasn’t already gone mobile, what are you waiting for? Perhaps Ð as is the case with many hoteliers who haven’t Ð you are wondering whether it is better for you to invest in mobile websites, apps, or both. So let’s examine the pros and cons of both mediums so that you can decide which would be most useful for your property.
First, let’s examine mobile websites
Mobile websites are great because they are easily accessed by anyone in the world with a mobile device and a network connection. You simply open a mobile browser, enter a URL, and experience all the site has to offer. Unlike apps, there is no need to download anything and there are no restrictions on what device you use. Even the least tech savvy consumers know how to access a website. As such, your property will reach more people with a mobile website than with mobile apps, although the customer’s engagement will be different Ð and have a much different outcome (we’ll examine this further in the next article on apps).
One of the reasons that mobile websites are more popular with the average hotelier is the (perceived) low development cost associated and the shorter turnaround time to get it into the hands of consumers. While the former isn’t always true (in next week’s article about mobile apps, I’ll give you a way to cut your app development costs if you decide its needed for your property/brand), it is often true that mobile websites are quicker to launch, from start-to-finish. In fact, some mobile websites require no extra work on the part of hoteliers because many website developers utilize a responsive design approach that combines the mobile and desktop versions of the website into one. As such, responsive websites are the solution that most hoteliers choose and, mistakenly, assume it will be sufficient to fulfill their mobile needs.
But is quicker always better? Like with most things in life, the answer is Òno!Ó Here’s whyÉ
To be responsive, a website automatically shifts, shrinks and changes the layout of the desktop site to suit whichever mobile device it is being viewed on. Responsive sites work well when a potential guest is simply browsing; however, when browsing turns to buying, the problems can begin. In most cases, responsive websites only reposition the website’s content to be more easily viewed on a mobile device; they rarely change the booking engine at all, which can hinder the booking process and really frustrate your potential guest. As such, having a responsive website may help to significantly increase your mobile traffic, but it will rarely increase your mobile conversions, as many guests will abandon the purchase before it is completed.
In addition, to be able to make all elements of your website responsive, you may need to limit the design and functionality of your desktop site, which could be a disadvantage to your property or brand’s long-term marketing strategy for desktop users.
So how can you make a mobile website that increases both website traffic and conversions?
The solution might be a new website philosophy called ÒAdaptive DesignÓ, which is another approach that produces a website optimized for mobile users. This philosophy says that mobile websites should be more purposeful and streamlined than desktop sites, and just repositioning desktop content (as happens in responsive sites) does not provide an optimal mobile experience. Adaptive mobile websites focus on the key functionality and design elements from your desktop site but provide a more effective experience for mobile users with smaller screen sizes and shorter attention spans. They basically zero-in on the essentials of a great mobile experience and leave out all the bells and whistles that don’t contribute to the experience.
An adaptive strategy also factors the booking engine into its design, making sure that the fast, easy-to-use browsing experience a potential guest has on your mobile website, continues throughout the completion of the booking. As such, adaptive websites may be the BEST mobile website solution because they increase both your website traffic and boost your mobile conversion rate.
Finally, let’s talk mobile appsÉ
A mobile app is a much better way to increase brand engagement and customer loyalty. They provide a more immersive and effective user experience than mobile websites, which in turn gives you a stronger bond with high-value guests. This helps to cultivate loyal customers and reward those guests that stay with your property over-and-over again. With a mobile app, you are literally putting your brand in your guest’s pocket and establishing a direct connection with them. When done correctly, provides a more efficient way to increase revenue and reduce the costs and risks of digital marketing. And when an app includes messaging and chat, it becomes an immediate feedback loop that allows guests to respond with questions and/or inform you of their interests so you can more effectively engage them. This means that you don’t have to wait for them to come to you.
It is true there can be extra effort required to produce a mobile app (vs. a website), but that should be expected with a more powerful tool, and we’ll cover costs a bit more below. You also need to ensure the app is feature-rich, frequently updated and that your guests find it simple and useful, as the most common reason that apps are abandoned are their limited functionality and/or a bad user experience. Mobile users want speed, efficiency, and utility. If your app fails on these points, your customers will abandon the app and will be extremely hard to win back, even if you fix the issues at a later date.
But, if you are willing and able to produce a mobile app (and do it right the first time), you will be rewarded with an ongoing communication channel with guests that enables a whole new world of revenue and service opportunities that can’t be matched by a mobile website or any other customer channel.
Need additional proof?
A recent JD Power study showed that Òguests who download and use a hotel’s mobile app are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19% of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70% of rewards members have done so.Ó
In addition, it’s been shown that Òapps drive a larger percentage of shoppers down the purchase funnel and convert atÊthree timesÊthe rate of mobile web,Ó demonstrating just how much you can increase your revenue when you invest in a mobile app.
So it’s obvious that apps can improve guest loyalty, which in turn produces more revenue and higher margins over the long-term; that sounds like a winning value proposition in and of itself but the benefits of mobile apps don’t end there.
Apps are also incredibly beneficial as a guest experience medium because of the functionality they offer to hoteliers. Unlike websites, apps provide a quick and secure means of enabling on-property services like concierge, in-room climate and entertainment controls, in-room dining orders, local guides, door locks, check-in/-out, etc., etc. While only a small percentage of guests are currently using these features, those who do are more likely to report higher satisfaction with their stay so, once again, it’s a win/win for hoteliers.
(TripCraft Tip: Wondering what services you should add to your brand’s app? A Phocuswright survey on mobile, showed that Ò49% of travelers expressed the desire to use their mobile devices for check-in and check-out, while 32% wanted to manage and make their own bookings and 16% would like to chat and text with the hotel staff.Ó).
OK, now for some of the real (and perceived) challenges of developing mobile apps…
Problem: the most common complaint about mobile apps is the effort and cost involved in developing one (when compared to that of a mobile website). Hoteliers are also worried about the development headaches associated with requiring different versions designed to suit different device operating systems. Fear not! Today, there are many new design tools to simplify the process and more app developers to take on the projects, decreasing the cost and effort of developing an app significantly. Surprised? In fact, the cost of both mobile websites and apps are now much more aligned than they were just a few years ago!
Solution: the best approach to managing development costs of both apps and websites is to work with a vendor that uses a platform to provide efficiency and scale. Unlike typical agencies and developers that build one-off solutions that can be expensive and quickly become obsolete, platform vendors leverage the reusability and extensibility of their platforms to reduce costs and avoid obsolescence. They avoid starting from scratch every time they build or enhance an app, and they can reuse modules of their platform for both apps and websites. This approach enables these vendors to repurpose design and technology building blocks to make mobile solutions much more affordable and extensible. So choosing your mobile vendor carefully will reduce development costs and provide a long-term strategy for growth and change.
Marketing the app
Problem: many hoteliers worry how their potential guests will find their app amongst all the other apps on the app store Ð and, with no marketing on the hotel’s part, unfortunately, they won’t.
Solution: you need to lead customers to your app! Promote your property’s app through your emails, loyalty programs, all on- and offline advertising/marketing, at your front desk and every other medium that is available to you. Social media, in particular, is an ideal medium to advertise your app, as most users are using them on their cell phone Ð the same device on which they will download your app.
How to compete with the competition’s apps
Problem: many hoteliers worry that customers won’t keep the app on their phone because storage space on their device is valuable. They wonder how they can compete with other properties apps. I always like to respond this way: ÒIsn’t that a bit like saying that customers aren’t going to stay at your hotel when they can stay at all the other hotels in the city?!Ó *Mic drop!*
Solution: when designing your app, think about what your app can provide that will turn customers into loyal guests Ð and keep them engaged with the app, long after they’ve checked out. Some options include extra services or features that they can’t get elsewhere, private access to deals and perks on future bookings or even unique, on-site mobile services (i.e. check-in or mobile room keys)? Your app’s success is only limited by your imagination; because there are so many features and benefits available on mobile apps, it is easy to earn a positive ROI on your development costs, especially when you factor in the benefit of cultivating repeat guests.
This was the case with The Standard Hotel Group when they launched their One Night Standard app; the app generated enough revenue to pay for itself in the first three months of use. With the app, the company increased RevPAR by 3% and achieved a 58:1 ROI on the development cost. (Learn more about this very cool app, here.)
I realize you’ve been on the receiving end of lots of info in this two-part series on mobile websites and apps and probably want to cut to the chase: which mobile medium is better for hoteliers to implement if they want to boost bookings and revenue?
While some hoteliers or mobile experts will have a preference one way or the other, we believe that both mobile websites and apps, used together, will give your property the most effective mobile strategy and will generate the most revenue over the short- and long-term – especially since the new generation (Millennials!) has grown up using mobile devices and expects to engage with brands via mobile.
If you only have limited budget, a mobile website should be your first choice; however, if you have the resources, having both a website and an app will enable you to reach a broader audience and develop a loyal following with high-value guests who will become repeat customers.
(TripCraft tip: As we mentioned earlier, look for a vendor who can develop both your mobile website and app more cost-effectively using a platform-based system.)
Mobile is the future of travel booking, so now is the time to launch your mobile strategy so that you can harness the power of the future TODAY! If you have any questions about mobile websites or apps, feel free to contact me by email at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TripCraft was founded with a simple mission: to mobilize hospitality. In 2010, TripCraft developed the hospitality industry’s first mobile commerce platform that enables hotels to capitalize on the substantial business opportunities that mobile provides. Our platform and capabilities are offered in a SaaS model so hotels don’t need to expend resources on developing their own technologies and applications. The platform consists of five key components that create an all-in-one suite of tools to help hotels achieve any business goal. This includes mobile booking, mobile marketing, social media monitoring & influence, guest services/communications, and systems integration.
We differentiate ourselves from other vendors with industry expertise, a single enterprise mobile solution, incredible user experiences, seamless integration with brand systems, and a special focus on the valuable millennial market. We cater to innovative hotel brands that are looking to boost their mobile capabilities and revenue from a new generation of travelers. For more information about TripCraft, visit www.tripcraft.com.
About the author
Mike Murray is co-founder of TripCraft, a mobile technology company offering an innovative mCommerce platform for hospitality. At TripCraft, Mike oversees product development, technology, and business strategy while remaining a hands-on developer and architect of the company’s products. Mike has been developing innovative travel and technology solutions for over 25 years and his innovative thinking and systems can be seen powering some of the travel industry’s biggest names. Mike is founder ofÊVir.al, the new inspiration/hotel booking app/website.ÊVir.alÊis a new hotel booking app and website that capitalizes on today’s social media phenomenon to bring hotels and the valuable Millennial travel demographic together. Using curated, experience-based, destination-specific content, Vir.al enables users to create unique travel experiences, not just book a hotel room in which to sleep, and incentivizes them to increase their social media score in exchange for perks, promotions and status. Hoteliers can use the app’s back-end, which identifies socially active potential guests who are planning a trip to their destination, enables hoteliers to offer incentives to book and, as a result, boost their brand’s online visibility with and appeal to Millennials.
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