More and more I’ve been seeing companies trying to promote the idea that mobile apps are pointless for hotels to consider as part of their marketing strategies. At O’Rourke Hospitality we categorically disagree with this point of view. Mobile apps present a new and unique channel that all hotels must consider if they are serious about a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy. Apps provide a channel that you can use to shift share, capture more demand, create loyalty and differentiate yourself. This post will clear up many of the myths that exist out there and that are incorrectly spreading through the hospitality industry.
Myth #1 – Apps are expensive
This is completely false. If you were to try and build an app from scratch, on your own, through a company that doesn’t have a lot of app experience, then yes that would be expensive. But that is not your only option. There are plenty of options out there for you to get an app for a nominal setup fee and an ongoing monthly fee costing roughly the equivalent of 1 incremental roomnight per month. One option (our offering) is Mobile Media Applications. I believe that many companies are trying to tell you that you don’t need an app because they don’t have an app solution. Yes, we have an app solution so we are going to do the exact opposite, but we would rather give hotels all the relevant information and let them decide what they need rather than spread ideas that are untrue.
Myth #2 – You need to build a separate app for each mobile platform
This is another myth that we see frequently and this is not the case. There are technologies out there that allow developers to build an app once and it is created for both iPhone and most Android versions, which is all that you should be worried about because combined they represent 91% of the mobile OS market share. You can build it once and address 91% of the market.
Myth # 3 – If you have a mobile website you don’t need an app
Are you familiar with the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)? You should be. It is a study that highlights the evolving customer research journey and reinforces the fact that consumers are in control. In today’s world consumers are going to use whatever channel and whatever device they want. The ZMOT study reports that the average travel shopper uses 10.2 sources before buying. Obviously, more and more of those sources are mobile, everyone is talking about this. However, what is being ignored is that some of those sources are mobile apps. The ZMOT study highlights that, in the US, the average smartphone user has 23 apps installed and has used 10 of them within the last 30 days. There is an app audience in addition to the mobile web audience. Our recommendation is that, if you want to properly address all of the channels that consumers are using for research, you need BOTH a mobile website and a mobile app. *
Myth #4 – Customers don’t use or want to use apps
First, see the data from Myth #3. Second see this data from the Dailymail.co.uk…
It might not be the biggest consumer channel, but people are using apps, and if you want to get in front of all potential consumers then an app is an opportunity to do that. Why would you ignore any percentage of potential customers?
Myth #5 – Marketing your app is expensive
Could you spend a ton of money marketing your app? Sure. Do you need to? No. There are plenty of simple, grassroots methods that can be used to market your app. Here are 15 ideas, that cost little to nothing, on places and channels where you could promote your mobile app – a banner on your website homepage, a Facebook post, a Twitter post, an email blast, a press release, a YouTube video, your email signature, guest confirmation emails, post stay emails, folio printouts, a lobby poster, an elevator poster, an in-room tent card, a message on the HSIA login screen, coasters in F&B outlets. We just did a webinar the other day called “How To Market Your Hotel App” if you want to learn more about all the possibilities to market an app.
Myth # 6 – For branded hotels, the brand has you covered
I’ve seen some people write that if you are a branded hotel that you don’t need to worry about an app because the brand will be taking care of that. As any franchisee will attest, the brands never have the best interest of every individual hotel in mind. The brands have the best interest of the brand in mind. Meaning that they are interested in driving more revenue to the brand overall, not in driving revenue for a particular property. As a owner/operator an app is another opportunity for you to focus on driving more revenue for your property.
Myth #7 – All this mobile stuff is easy
I’ve not really seen anybody say this exactly but I often get the sense that people in the industry are trying to oversimplify a very complex concept. This mobile stuff is not at all easy. There are many options out there and it is not a “one size fits all” solution. Work with your vendor or agency to figure out what you need based on your specific situation.
Other App Benefits
In addition to the Myths above I want to take an opportunity to highlight some of the things that apps bring to the table that mobile websites don’t or that people sometimes incorrectly assume about apps.
Content management – Your app can have a content management system (CMS) the same way your website does. You can easily manage text, photos and links on your own through an easy to use interface. If you have the right app solution, you don’t need to work with a developer every time you want to update your app.
Push notifications – One of the benefits of an app is push notifications. These are the popup messages/updates that you get on your smartphone from apps. With our solution a push notification is as easy as logging into the CMS, typing in your message and clicking send. These push notifications are a great way to keep your hotel top of mind with consumers, promote exclusive specials & deals and drive revenue.
Native – Apps can be native to the smartphone. What this means is that they can be built so that they don’t require a data connection and they are always available. This is different than a mobile website, which can only be used and accessed if the consumer has access to the Internet. So if I’m on the plane (without Wi-Fi) I can still open the app and use 95% of the functionality. Or if I’m traveling from a foreign country and I don’t want to pay for expensive cellular data connections I can still use the app.
User experience – Apps present a stronger user experience than mobile websites. They are built to work specifically for the device and operating system, which allows an app to use the built-in functions of the phone. For example swipe functionality, the phone’s camera and GPS. With a mobile website you can do some of these things but you can’t be assured that they will work properly or work for everyone, with an app you can.
Analytics – Apps can have analytics packages the same way a website does. Our app solution uses Google Analytics which allows us and our clients to see overall usage, consumer data and goal conversions. This allows hotels to get a true understanding of the ROI on an investment in a mobile app.
*ZMOT is part of a larger Google research effort called Think With Google, which is where several of the above stats come from.
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