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Hotel App Development: Top Features Every Hotel App Must Have to Transform the Guest Experience

February 17, 2017

The hospitality industry has continuously evolved to keep up with current trends. And in the process, technology has not only caught up to these trends but also disrupted the entire industry. If you now want to provide your guests with an experience they will want to repeat, your hotel’s digital driveway needs to be every bit as smooth and swanky as the one that leads to your foyer. Among other things, this means you need to bring an unmatched level of personalization and location context to your digital offerings.

09 Sep 2013, Calgary, Alberta, Canada --- Businesswoman using smart phone in hotel room --- Image by © Hero Images/Corbis

If you’re a luxury establishment with centuries of history behind it or have a chain of hotels, your guests will want to check-in, check-out, access their rooms, order room service, change the TV channel or the temperature of their rooms, and interact with the hotel staff — all through their smartphones. No one wants to trudge down to the reception desk for anything anymore.

Chances are that any guest who walks through your front door – or who walks right past it – has looked up their chosen accommodation online, before they even bought their plane ticket. If reserving a room at any of your partner hotels is confusing or difficult or if you haven’t upped your digital game, they will simply click their way to one of your competitors.

Designing a bespoke and holistic mobile experience for your chain of hotels is not a trivial exercise, so it pays handsomely to have an exact specification before the programmers start doing their thing. Here, we present a few lessons from the industry to guide your thinking.

Before, During, After

Your customers will need to be able to communicate their special requests before they even arrive, reach a hotel representative at any time while they’re staying, and be able to provide feedback even after they’ve left. Do not think that developing a personalized hotel app is a wasted effort because there are already so many booking aggregators providing booking capabilities. Because a well done and integrated mobile experience is not just an app, it’s a potent marketing tool, which removes all points of friction for your guests and connects them directly to you. A one-stop solution for all their needs.

This may seem ridiculously demanding, but it amounts to doing what you already should be, only in an easier way. You should be able to provide a holistic digital experience and not just an app that only allows guests to book a room, because then, you are obviously not getting the most out of what the technology has to offer.

Integrated Loyalty Programs

You can leverage your in-hotel WiFi to provide your guests with a captive portal experience.

Proximity based notifications can spring little surprises on your loyal guests and keep them engaged. Small gestures like complimentary breakfasts or discounts on concert tickets can make a huge difference in a guest’s experience, so make the most of location based technologies.

Placing beacons near strategic points of interest — reception desks, restaurants, spas — can generate excitement in your guests and provide them with a dynamic experience. If they happen to pass by any of these places, they’ll receive personalized offers suited to their context. Now, who wouldn’t like being greeted with the Chef’s special on their smartphone the moment they step into a restaurant or being informed about the new Swedish massage when they’re close to the hotel’s spa!

By using a customer engagement platform, you can gain enormous amounts of information on regular patrons and their habits, so do not neglect the possibilities for marketing yourself to them. This is especially important in the context of a hotel chain, but make sure the process does not take any effort on the part of the client.

Go on, let your in-hotel WiFi tell your loyal patron, “Welcome Bob, we value your Platinum membership with us! Your drinks are on the house today. Have a great evening!”

Keyless Check-In and Wireless Access Control

Somebody who’s jet-lagged, dehydrated and generally annoyed after a day of travel probably does not want to hang around the front desk until somebody decides to hand them a key. With a properly designed hotelier app, this is no longer necessary.

Allow your guests to use their phones as keys because the convenience factor is superb. This way you can give your guests more control over their stay and help them streamline their check-in process. 275 Hilton properties offer digital keys to their guests. It’s time for you to up your game too and eliminate the hassle for the guests staying at your hotel.

Concierge Services

There’s a good chance that your guests don’t want to spend all of their time inside your hotel, so their smartphone should be able to help them explore their surroundings. Depending on where you are located, you might have easy access to a wealth of information about local tourist attractions. This information is not difficult to integrate with Google Maps, and you can easily strike deals with local restaurants, tour operators, performance venues and other third parties to offer your clientele the best that your city has to offer.

At a minimum, your hotel should enable your guests to book an Uber or another reliable taxi service, or at least get in contact with a real concierge. Foreign visitors, especially, will appreciate the care you take with their comfort and safety.

Emphasize Your Brand

When you are designing your app, don’t neglect the marketing opportunities it offers. Use your corporate colors, keep your logo in one corner of the screen, and listen to your chosen app development studio’s suggestions.

There are limits to what you should do, of course, but keep in mind that hotel guests using your app are a captive audience. As long as it’s not intrusive, there’s no reason not to remind them of your off-season rates, or any special offers your sister hotels happen to be offering. Something as simple as sending a client an email asking what aspects of his stay they enjoyed, a week or so after they check out, can help them to remember the positive aspects of their time with you, and increase the chance of them coming back.

Don’t Forget The Personal Touch

From a guest’s perspective, staying in an average hotel with friendly staff is often preferable to sleeping in a clinically perfect facility where they’re treated like livestock. Your app has to reflect this: facilitating pre-arrival communication can make first-time visitors feel much more comfortable by the time they step onto the premises.

Guests will appreciate the human aspect, while having front-desk personnel monitor digital contacts can actually make their job easier, not more difficult. While technology facilitates these interactions, there is no excuse for not involving a staff member in digital communications.

Make an Impression

It’s a tough industry, not yet fully recovered from the years of 2009 and onward. Aside from ensuring that the basics are in place – top notch property, well-trained staff, a world-class restaurant or bar, and a million other things – what do you do to be successful?

There is no single answer, but the trend towards having a credible digital offering is undeniable. If you do not have a dedicated, well-designed app for your establishment, you are going to be left behind regardless of the quality you offer.

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