The first question you should be asking is do I need a mobile strategy? The simple answer is 100% yes. But does that mean you need a mobile website or an app?
Full answer to this question published to Quora on 10/29/2015.
Answer: There is no one answer to whether you need an app or what it costs for an app. But...
An app is just a mobile access point into your business and how deep you let that access point go, whether it is just a marketing tool or is truly operational will completely change the depth of your app and thus as I stated earlier there is no one cost and one answer to whether you need it. So let’s look at a few of the realities that we are seeing when it comes to hotels asking us this question.
The first question you should be asking is do I need a mobile strategy? The simple answer is 100% yes. Mobile has become the dominant access point for guests when using the web. Businesses today that are looking to be around tomorrow are not looking at their online strategy as a web strategy any more. Tomorrow’s web is mobile first, desktop second and the question we are all asking is whether we need a web strategy. Now, does that mean you need a mobile website or an app?
This answer depends on what you want to achieve from your mobile strategy. According to ComScore stats, the mobile web browser audience is currently 2x larger than the app audience and it is growing at a faster pace. This makes sense... we all browse the internet on our phones without downloading an app to find information and so if your goal is for guests to be able to discover your hotel and book direct, then a mobile booking website is a necessity.
Now if you would like to improve the guest experience, to be able to service guests in new ways and compete in today’s service on demand economy (turn your hotel experience into an Uber-like experience), then an app is an interesting route for your hotel. As, while apps do incur the periodic delay of downloading new versions, they provide features unavailable in mobile web, such as two-way messaging, notifications, iBeacon integration, Apple Pay, keyless entry, and improved performance (to name a few). Apps allow your hotel to offer “do things that could not be done before.” These extra features serve repeat customers nicely in increasing both customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Right now, every time a guest asks for something, they have no way of accessing the state of their request. They often have to call down twice and today we are impatient travelers. Domino’s Pizza lets you see when your food is being cooked. Why can’t hotels show you when your room is being cleaned? Or even better, when I use the app one time, but my next request happens in person, apps that have a back-end infrastructure in the hotel can now reflect all my activity on my itinerary… not just the ones I made from the app. That is a truly enhanced guest experience.
So now to the cost. I have read a few quotes in this thread about a cost of $10,000 and upwards. We feel this is not a fair way to look at the cost of technology. The one constant when its comes to technology is change. New devices come out with new operating systems. New pieces of technology are released that can improve the experience. Hotel companies are not technology companies and would be much better served in the long run by partnering with a technology company to build, maintain and continuously push the boundaries on new possibilities to enhance the guest experience. Additionally, you won’t really know exactly how your guests use your app until you release it. So what might seem a fixed cost must be a constant project as guest experience is continuously evolving and so must the tools. This sounds expensive but it does not need to be. We have a base price ourselves of $250/month. As do others. Then we have clients that want us to integrate the experience into our staff back-end, to integrate with the POS and PMS and to continuously improve the guest experience, they may be double that, triple, possibly more… it really depends on how operationally integrated you want your mobile experience to be.
Can you think of other reasons your hotel might want an app? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the discussion on Quora.