App-use for travel is on the rise
We all know by now that smartphones are everywhere, more people coming across from older mobile phones all the time, intrigued by email, scheduling, multimedia chatting, and other apps to entertain and expedite daily life functions.
But how are people using them?
People are definitely downloading booking and travel apps, but it can be difficult to extrapolate meaningful data on what makes any given app successful. OTA apps like booking.com have appeal in that one can choose to book and, in many cases, check-in, from thousands of properties. Branded apps, by contrast, are limited in location and property choice, but they have proven to be effective in many cases: for example, local transit providers like taxi and rideshare apps.
Within the city, these apps are in frequent use, but when it comes to travel outside of home territory people still gravitate toward websites and OTAs. Let’s look at some differences between local and distance travel.
Within the city, people:
- Often have a destination fixed beforehand
- Need to make trip adjustments on the fly
- Have their smartphones in hand
- Need to coordinate and communicate at the same time
When travelling outside of their city, people:
- Research during downtime at home or work
- Like to daydream while checking prices and images
- Like to easily cross-reference weather with travel dates
- Like to share the research with someone near them
- Prefer a keyboard to input data on forms
The preferences people have for sitting at a computer when researching travel appear habitual, but that is not an entire answer. The trouble is that branded apps can lead to feelings of being trapped within one brand for airlines, one brand for hotels and so on. This disconnect causes many consumers to start their research on the computer and then transfer to the app for when they are in transit. This jump from computer to smartphone can make some consumers feel that branded apps are superfluous and disposable.
So then why should any hotel consider an app?
The truth is that building an app can be an expensive undertaking, and if it doesn’t have strong name recognition, it can disappear in the app stores. Having said that, app use and cross-platform activities are on the rise, opening space for many hotels to consider a mobile strategy. So try and think about the following questions to determine if developing an app is right for you:
- Is your property in a city with high visitor numbers?
- Is this city tech-forward? Are ride-shares and other apps in wide use?
- Are you thinking of attracting the millennial traveler?
- Do you already offer amenities commiserate with a tech-forward approach?
- Is your hotel full-service or self-service oriented?
These questions are of course simply a guide; the important thing to consider is that apps function best as an amenity rather than as an incentive or upselling program. A strong mobile strategy needs to embrace a guest-centric service (self-service) and tech-forward approach and, perhaps most importantly, it needs to stand at the centre of a long-term plan to attract and retain both new guests and existing ones.