Why not a Mobile Application? Addressing the Elephant in the Room!
Having worked with hotels for years, and having had several technology-related questions from hoteliers, I would actually like to address the elephant in the room and answer one of the more common questions: “Why are you not using a mobile application instead of providing a physical device in the room?”
It is a very good question, a question we asked ourselves multiple times when we started developing our solution.
At Portier Technologies, our ultimate goal and core business have always revolved around the notion to help hotels achieve 3 things:
Unparalleled Guest Experience
Incremental Revenue from Ancillary Services
Stronger Data Insights into Guest Behavior
We did not have any preconceived ideas and only focused on bringing the most exceptional results to our hotel partners.
So, why not the Mobile application?
If we had pursued the application route, the key advantage for us would have been the ease of deployment, as guests could have simply downloaded the hotel app powered by Portier from their respective app store. In turn, this would have removed the necessity for us to deal with suppliers of connectivity and smartphones.
Having said that, we quickly understood helping hotels reach unprecedented results in our 3 core areas of focus would have not been possible for the below reasons.
Unparalleled Guest Experience
The key factor here is usage. For guests to have a great experience with a solution, they actually have to be willing to use it.
According to Ron Harding (Hospitality Upgrade, 2018), “in-stay usage data for brand and hotel mobile apps is hard to come by, but the numbers estimated by several industry sources are in line with those often cited by solution providers – somewhere between 0.5 percent and 5 percent.”
In other words, even if we were extremely optimistic, a hotel app will only be used by five out of 100 guests.
In contrast, utilizing physical devices, we see an average guest usage rate of 80% across our portfolio of hotel partners; this translates to 80 out of 100 guests. This dramatic difference comes from the seamlessness of our user experience. Guests do not have to prepare in advance to find a sim card, do not have to download yet another application onto their personal phone - in many ways, apps have become like newsletter subscriptions - you have hundreds, but you only care for one or two.
Instead, the phone is available in their room and can be activated instantly without the need to provide any personal or sensitive information - the barrier to entry is at its lowest.
If this wasn’t convincing enough, and if we were to believe that mobile application usage numbers were to increase due to recent circumstances, maybe other barriers to success might be intriguing.
Generate Incremental Revenue
Generating higher revenue from guests staying at your hotel has become particularly key in a challenging market with lower occupancy rates. Our Chief Revenue Officer, Mike Pope actually covered this topic HERE by sharing some of the needed strategies when it comes to revenue recovery.
In order to generate incremental revenues from guests, you first require engagement with them. Engagement is a result of valuable content. To deliver this content, mobile applications and in-room device solutions leverage a feature called Push Messaging.
Upon downloading, mobile applications on both Android and Apple operating systems now require users to accept to receive push notifications. According to VWO Engage, the acceptance rate of push notifications of Mobile Applications for the Travel/Hospitality industry is only 10.08%. It means that out of the 5% of people actually downloading the Mobile application, only 10.08% will accept to receive a push notification. On top of this, according to a CleverTap report, the open rate of such notification is at a mere 2.24% for the Travel/Hospitality industry.
To put this bluntly, on average, push notifications sent to a hotel app will only be opened by 1 out of 10,000 guests!
In stark contrast, we actually developed our solution as an operating system directly encoded into the smartphone device allowing us to reach an 87% delivery and read rate and a click-through rate of 7%, 500 times as much as you can expect from an application - 500 times!
Data is king! Data helps to optimize overall results and create new opportunities for the hotels to improve their guest experience and generate incremental revenues.
An example of valuable data is Geolocation. Geo-data can help hotels understand where their guests are spending most of their time, on and off-property. Leveraging this data allows hotels to create more suitable content, to establish partnerships with local commercial partners, and trigger timely promotions based on behavior.
In contrast to a fully owned eco-system, mobile applications have always had a hard time with data insights.
First, fragmented geolocation data is a problem - since earlier Android and iOS generations, mobile applications can only retrieve their user's location updates only a few times each hour. Today, with Android 11 and iOS 13, users will actually have the choice to grant sensitive permissions on a one-time basis and reminders will be displayed on apps tracking their location in the background. Data is not yet available on this, however, we can surely expect to see the acceptance rate of geolocation dropping significantly.
At Portier, we understood those limitations very quickly and made the choice to not only offer a phone in the room but actually developed our own Portier Operating System, in order to break free from those constraints. This allowed us to bring hotel partners accurate data, without any limitations and without taking any personal data from guests.
I believe that the above provides a full picture on the limitations of mobile applications and as to why we decided to go for a full eco-system, including a physical smartphone with unlimited 4G data and international calls available in the hotel room, in addition to a cloud-based portal allowing hotel staff to manage the content and their marketing campaigns.
What about in-room tablets?
Given that going for a mobile application seems futile and would only be a solution that allows you to tick the "I have introduced technology" box, you might wonder: “Why not a tablet in the room instead?” As much as I could agree that tablets have higher usability than mobile applications, I will ask you this simple question: “How much time do you spend in your hotel room when you are not sleeping in it?”
According to a study published by The Express, Brits, for example, spend just three hours and 22 minutes a day in their rooms when they are on holiday. The average Brit sleep for 7.5 hours. That’s 13 hours spent outside of the hotel with no connection to the hotel or its staff.
In other words, tablets give you 3 hours and 22 minutes worth of opportunity to get your guests to look at your hotel offerings, while Portier Phones will capture 16.5 hours of their day.
Acta non verba!