Survey: Does Your Hotel’s Mobile App Have These Top Features?June 20, 2014 by Taylor Short
Hotel mobile apps have existed for some time now, but the impetus for brands to develop one has never been more compelling: 60 percent of travelers will download a new app for their upcoming trip, and U.S. mobile device users spend 81 percent of their time using apps versus browsers.
Given this, Software Advice conducted an online survey of of 2,126 randomly selected U.S. travelers to discover what features of a hotel’s mobile app travelers want most—so that hotel marketing managers can make better decisions on how to engage guests and boost revenue. Here, we highlight the key takeaways.
Majority of Travelers Would Use Interactive Maps Most Often
To start, we asked travelers which of the most common types of hotel mobile app features they were most likely to use.
Preferred Feature Category
A majority (36 percent) say they would use interactive maps to help them get around the area, and 27 percent say local coupons or discounts would be used most often. Fewer respondents (23 percent) say a hotel mobile app’s room service function would be used most frequently, as would a loyalty program dashboard (14 percent).
Alex Zaltsman is the CEO of InnoviMobile, which develops mobile applications for many industries, including hospitality. In order to be most effective, Zaltsman says, maps should be specific to certain travel segments, such as business travelers or families. This means hotels must collect some sort of intelligence on what kinds of travelers their most frequent guests are.
Creating a whole system of maps for multiple hotel locations could also be a costly task that may not be worth the investment for many hotel brands. But, Zaltsman explains, by using a collaborative mapping system that could be customized by location and used across multiple hotel brands—such as custom Google Maps—the investment would be much less for hotels, while still delivering a useful service to guests.
Digging deeper, we also asked survey-takers what specific features they would like to see within each of the above-listed categories.
Half Would Use Interactive Map With Top Restaurants
Eating out while on vacation is a common activity for travelers, but searching through dining options in an unknown city can be tedious. In the clearest results yet, we found that exactly half (50 percent) of respondents would use a pre-made map of top local restaurants to help them hasten their search.
Preferred Interactive Map Feature
The ability to create your own maps isn’t quite as popular with travelers, at 22 percent. Even fewer (17 percent) say directions to transportation options like buses, airports or train stations would be frequently used, and the ability to call a taxi or town car from the app itself would only be used by 11 percent of respondents.
Hotels’ first and foremost interest is in promoting their own restaurants, and they are often reluctant to introduce travelers to outside, non-partner restaurants, Zaltsman says. Marriott’s Renaissance Hotels have paper documents, created by the concierge, listing top bars and restaurants in the area that are available to guests—and Zaltsman feels this is a more trustworthy system.
While promoting partner bars and restaurants can be a way to drive extra revenue, including a “concierge’s favorite” list of restaurants in your hotel’s app can convey to guests that the recommendations are based on quality instead of on partnerships, which can help drive guest engagement.
Hotel App Users Want Discounts for Local Dining Options
In keeping with the dining theme, if a hotel offered discounts to mobile-app users, 52 percent of respondents say they would most prefer discounts to local restaurants or bars, while 29 percent would rather be offered discounts to the hotel’s own restaurant or bar.
Preferred Local-Discount Feature
Discounts on local entertainment (12 percent) and transportation options (7 percent) failed to gain the same support as discounts for food and drink.
Again, while hotels may have a priority to only offer discounts to their own restaurants, Zaltsman says, guests strongly prefer to have outside options, as well. Including a mixture of partner businesses and those that are popular with locals can offer guests a fair selection of quality establishments.
Detailed, Visual Menu Most Important Room-Service Feature
When ordering room service from a hotel’s mobile app, respondents reported that information about the dishes with accompanying photos would be the most-used aspect of the app’s functionality, at 35 percent. Another 25 percent say the ability to pay for the order through the app would be used most often.
Preferred Room-Service Feature
The ability to add special requests (23 percent) and a timer for when the delivery should be expected to arrive (17 percent) ranked as the aspects least likely to be used by travelers.
Zaltsman says our findings are in line with his experience: He’s worked on apps that offer guests menus, allow them to place an order in the app itself and notify the guest when the order arrives, which have all proven popular with guests. And studies show that using videos and images can increase sales online, both in store windows and elsewhere. In fact, a study from hotel digital marketing company buuteeq shows that hotels with mobile apps report an increase in room service sales of 17 percent.
Travelers Want List of Items Redeemable with Loyalty Points
Loyalty programs give guests incentives to stay with and purchase from the same brand—so giving them mobile access to their loyalty program account can increase engagement and, potentially, revenue. To that end, most respondents (41 percent) would use a menu of items that could be redeemed with loyalty points.
Preferred Loyalty-Program Feature
Another 25 percent say they would also use a loyalty program dashboard to view their account details. A list of immediate mobile rewards—such as music or e-book downloads—and the ability to use the app to donate points to benefit a charity fell at the bottom, with 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
A loyalty points dashboard is pretty common, Zaltsman says, which shows the guest their balance of points. The other loyalty-program features are less common, he says, but could still provide valuable services for guests that benefit the hotel.
Loylogic’s 2010 Frequent Traveler Survey revealed that 20 percent of travelers would prefer to use a mobile device to earn, redeem or check loyalty points, second only to an Internet browser. As mobile use continues to rise, hotels can expect to see more guests using their mobile devices for more and more services and activities, both on- and off-property.
Most Would Use Mobile App as Remote Control for TV
Beyond room service, some hotels also offer mobile-app controls that allow guests to manipulate certain functions in the room itself, such as setting up lighting and temperature for their arrival or even what items are made available in the bathrooms. One emerging feature is the ability to control the in-room television through the app—and 43 percent of our respondents say they would use that function the most.
Preferred Room-Control Feature
In a distant second place, with 24 percent, is controlling the temperature of the room. Remote lighting controls and choice of bathroom amenities came in last, with 16 percent each.
Many hotel mobile apps already allow for guests to control their TVs, and this function has become more common within the last couple years, Zaltsman says. This preference could be the result of an increase in awareness of hotel cleanliness, based on online review sites and media coverage. Indeed, some hotel brands have even begun to offer an antibacterial remote control made to be easily cleanable.
The results show that travelers most want to use features that give them as much information as possible, as well as the ability to make their own choices from a hotel’s mobile app. In past surveys, we found that food and drinks are some of the most effective incentives for hotel guests, and here, the same trends follow—guests want a detailed menu with photos, a list of top restaurants recommended by the concierge and discounts to local eateries and bars. These findings can help hotels shape their mobile apps into highly useful amenities that boost guest satisfaction and revenue.
To find the data in this report, we conducted a three-day online survey. We collected about 385 responses to each of six questions from randomly selected travelers within the United States, giving us a total of 2,126 respondents. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.
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