As more and more tourists are using their mobile devices passionately, hotels have the opportunity to improve the guest experience and increase revenue. We asked Jeremy Ward, the COO of iRiS Software Systems to share his thoughts on trends in mobility and the opportunities it brings to hotels and the hospitality industry in general.

Read this article to learn:

✔ How to increase direct bookings through mobile
✔ How to improve the guest experience with mobile
✔ How to get to know your guests

Jeremy Ward | LinkedIn
Chief Operating Officer
iRiS Software Systems Ltd

Ali Naqvi: How can a hotel marketer increase direct bookings through mobile?

Jeremy: Hotels must have a solution that is going to incentivize the guest to book through mobile. I think it’s always going to be a challenge to get first time guests to book through the hotel or the brand’s mobile device, but once the guest has arrived at the property, hotels should incentivize the guest to download its mobile app or use its mobile website. Guests can be persuaded to download a hotel’s app if that app is useful and persuade the guest to use the app for future bookings.

Ali Naqvi: Can you share some features and functionality that you believe help create an excellent guest experience?

Jeremy: A hotel app should provide a great user experience by allowing the guest to:

  • check-in in advance
  • choose a room
  • upgrade a room for a relatively low cost
  • be used as a room key
  • make payments for the F&B outlets throughout the hotel
  • order room service
  • control room environment (turning lights on and off, interacting with the TV, turning heating up and down etc.).

If the app has been successful in providing excellent guest experience, guests are more than likely to keep the app on their device for a future visit. Hotels can persuade guests to book their next stay by offering them incentives such as a $10 dollar voucher for the bar or a 20 percent discount on an F&B experience in the hotel.

If the app has been successful in providing excellent guest experience, guests are more than likely to keep the app on their device for a future visit.

Ali Naqvi: Some incentives might be more relevant or appealing to certain guests versus other guests. Does an independent hotel or a hotel chain need to incorporate an element of personalization to get to know the guests and be useful to them?

Jeremy: If the hotel can add some level of personalization, then yes, as it can be very relevant for the guests. However, it can get expensive and hotels may run into privacy data issues as there are data concerns around what information hotels can keep on a guest.

Also, hotels should realize that guests may change their behavior on their next visit. Just because a guest wanted something in one hotel, this doesn’t necessarily mean they want the same thing in the next hotel they book. That’s the problem with profiling guests.

For example, when I used to work for Kempinski Hotels, I used to travel to our hotels a lot. When I was in one of our hotels in Turkey, the hotel asked me which newspaper I would like. They didn’t have my first or second choice of newspaper so I ended up with my third choice, which ended up on my profile.  Every Kempinski hotel I went to after that would give me that newspaper, as they assumed that it was the one I wanted. If hotels are going to go to that level of personalization, they have to do it in a clever way. Guests should be able to update their information.

Ali Naqvi: Have you seen any hotel chain working actively on app development that you could assume are probably driving a lot of direct bookings?

Jeremy: I think Marriott does it very well with their Marriott Rewards app. Now they are obviously going to be combining SPG for guests into their portfolio. I know that they are adding more and more features and functionality to enhance the guest experience and it’s not always about booking.

Ali Naqvi: So what would you suggest is the first step that a chain would want to take in order to create a mobile experience that helps increase revenue? Where would they start?

Jeremy: First, I suggest talking to a company that has experience in creating mobile apps and understands that it’s not just about the booking. I think that a lot of hotel brands make that mistake on their own websites as well. It’s really about trying to enhance a customer journey pre-stay, in-stay and even post-stay.

Second, make sure the company you’re talking to has experience working with multiple hotel groups and can advise on the best way to build in an effective app. Many brands look for an app that is basically a marketing tool, telling guests about the hotel with pretty pictures and a booking link. Guests are just not going to download an app like that, or if they do, they’re going to delete it pretty quickly because it adds no value to them.

Ali Naqvi: What do guests really want from a hotel app?

Jeremy: What hotel guests want from an app is value while they are in the hotel. They want to contact the hotel perhaps through some form of two-way messaging, order room service from, order pool-side dining, and so on. For a hotel to do that, they need to understand operationally what they need from an app, but also what needs to change within the operations of the hotel. Essentially, adding concierge functionality into an app that’s going to enhance the guest’s stay is what hotels should strive for.

Essentially, adding concierge functionality into an app that’s going to enhance the guest’s stay is what hotels should strive for.

Ali Naqvi: Any concluding thoughts to share?

Jeremy: I think mobile has a long way to go in our industry. The more surveys I see, everything is still indicating that guests very much want to use their mobile devices – whether it’s on an airplane, in the terminal, on the train, or in a restaurant, there’s no reason why hotels should be any different.

There’s a huge opportunity for hotels to offer really killer apps that consider the whole guest journey, not just driving bookings. If hotels continue to offer apps designed solely for the purpose of booking, I don’t think they’re going to compete against the OTAs who are spending millions in marketing.

Jeremy Ward joined iRiS in September 2014 and brings more than 23 years of experience in the IT industry to the position, of which 13 have been in the hospitality sector as a senior level hotelier.
Prior to his appointment, he was the SVP for IT at Kempinski hotels and CIO for JJW Hotels and Resorts. At iRiS, Jeremy is tasked with managing all the operations including development, project management, implementation, support, delivery and customer success.
Jeremy sits on a number of external advisory panels related to the hospitality industry and is a former president and board member of Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) a trade organisation representing over 4 million hotel rooms.

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