- Hotels with mobile apps get higher customer satisfaction ratings from their guests, making smartphone technology a key part of providing good service, according to a study by market researcher J.D. Power. Integrating mobile technology also makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.
- The percentage of online reservations made on mobile devices grew to 25% this year from 14% in 2014, the research found. People who make mobile reservations are more likely to be business travelers or younger consumers. Among guests who have a hotel's app on their mobile device, 38% never use it during their stay. Only 4% of check-ins and 1% of checkouts occur through mobile apps, but when they're used, they're associated with higher guest satisfaction.
- Guests who download and use a hotel's mobile app are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19% of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70% of rewards members have done so, the research found.
The message from J.D. Power's customer satisfaction survey for hotels is that they need to encourage guests to download and use their own branded mobile apps as much as possible for booking stays. When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app like Expedia or Travelocity instead of directly with the hotel, they're more likely to experience a problem and to be less satisfied with their stay, the research found.
Guests who describe their travel experiences on social media are generally more satisfied with their hotel, but 86% of people who experience a problem are likely to complain about it on social media. One difficulty in getting consumers to use a hotel's app is the lack of use of the app for those who don't travel on a monthly or weekly basis. If an app isn't needed often, some consumers may not feel the need to download it in the first place.
J.D. Power's findings confirm that mobile is an especially important channel for hotel loyalty programs. Three out of four hotel rewards members are likely to book directly with a hotel or on a loyalty member site, compared with only 47% of those who are not members — and their satisfaction is generally higher.
A key challenge is convincing smartphone-savvy millennials who generally have less experience with customer rewards than older consumers to sign up. About 86% of millennials don't participate in any hotel loyalty program, according to a survey by Software Advice, an organization that evaluates hotel management systems. The report also said the common perception that millennial travelers are less loyal to brands isn't entirely true. They're generally more discerning, similar to Gen Xers and baby boomers, because of the easy accessibility of online travel information and quick cost comparison.
Mobile travel sales in the U.S. will grow about 17% this year from 2016 to about $76 billion, comprising 40% of all digital travel sales, according to an eMarketer study released in June.