Marketing Travel/Hotel Apps: Best Practices

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Hotel Rewards Program Apps - Best Practices

Top players in Hotel Loyalty/Rewards were reviewed in terms of best practices for marketing hotel rewards program apps to business travelers. A best practices list was created based on commonalities among the top players and which were supported by additional sources. Based on a 2018 Bond Loyalty Report, the top players identified in the hotel app space were Hilton Honors and Marriott Rewards.

MARKETING HOTEL REWARDS PROGRAM APPS TO BUSINESS TRAVELERS

BEST PRACTICES

1. Drive Engagement with the Loyalty Program and through Experiential Rewards.

  • One best practice is to drive engagement with Exclusive or Limited Time Redemption Options. Driving engagement or generating excitement with targeted campaigns to encourage major point redemption is practiced by top players in Hotel Loyalty programs (such as Hilton), in which they offer "unique, experiential opportunities that reinforce the exclusivity of the brand and program membership."
  • Hilton Honors offers unique reward options targeted towards high value members, which include business travelers. Rewards include VIP travel packages and tours.
  • The Hilton Honors app significantly increased the brand’s ability to provide better hospitality, which is important to consumers.
  • Hilton’s app allows its "66 million members to find and book rooms at more than 5,000 Hilton hotels worldwide, including straight from in-app promotions. Guests can also view their past activity, assemble their travel information, get access to free Wi-Fi and earn 500 extra Hilton Honors Points for booking from the app."
  • Engagement can also be created by offering more experiential rewards, which is valued by modern travelers. In the case of Marriott, they have expanded experiential offerings on Moments. Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members can also earn points every time they purchase one of the new experiences, such as destination tours, day trips, and unique events.

2. Create more Customer Convenience through App Innovations and Rewards Programs.

  • Hilton has also made innovations with their app by implementing a “digital key” function, which allows guests to open their room doors with their smartphones, without the need to check in before entering their rooms.
  • Gartner L2 found that hotel mobile apps with "multiple functions do better than those with just one purpose when it comes to rankings on the Apple App Store."
  • In the travel category of the Apple App Store, the Hilton Honors app and Marriott’s app were the only ones to rank in the top 30. Based on this, marketing a hotel rewards app with multiple functions can be of benefit to business travelers who enjoy seamless (27%) and personalized experiences (20%).
  • Hilton's “digital key” function also creates more convenience for guests. This feature allows Hilton employees to concentrate on other guests’ experiences and provide more hospitality instead of simply being transactional.
  • A 2018 survey from Avencia found that "convenience and control are the most important aspects of a travel policy to a business traveler." Travelers most value "convenient travel times and hotel locations, along with direct flights, over personal comforts or benefits; such as flying business class or earning loyalty points."
  • Thirty-one percent of business travelers also prefer hotel options in convenient and safe locations. Corporate diligence came next, with 23% stating that their top priority is booking a hotel that is in policy, while 14% of business travelers appreciate getting a good deal or price.
  • Additionally, 48% of respondents say the most important element of a travel program is the ability to control bookings themselves, emphasizing the importance of empowering travelers and providing easy to use travel management tools. This was followed by specialized customer support at 15%.
  • This is further supported by a 2018 study in the Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, which found that "perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use are effective factors in influencing both business and leisure travelers to adopt mobile technology in their hotel stays. However, business travelers are more influenced by reliability and privacy factors of the technology when deciding to use mobile hotel apps."
  • Based on these findings, it appears creating and marketing convenience for Business travelers through Rewards programs in easy to use apps is a recommended practice.

OTHER HELPFUL FINDINGS:

  • In the Asia-Pacific region, "69% of loyalty members say they are more likely to participate in a program if there is a mobile app."
  • In Europe, monetary perks tend to be preferred more than non-monetary ones and mobile apps are less often used by retail loyalty program members.
  • In the Middle East and Africa, recognition as a preferred customer and personalized products and experiences, or similar non-monetary perks, are important to many consumers.
  • Forty-four percent (44%) of Latin American online respondents said they belong to one or more loyalty programs, which leaves room for development.
  • The most valued reward are rebates or cash back in North America, followed by free products in Canada and product discounts in the US.
  • "Three in ten business travelers are happy to sacrifice safety for hotel loyalty and rewards incentives. Travelers in the Americas are likeliest to do so (39%), followed by Europeans (34%) and travelers from Asia Pacific (28%)."
  • Business travelers prioritize special status/treatment for members (64%), easy to redeem rewards (61%), easy to earn awards (51 %), upgrades (46%), consistency (seamless experiences) (27%), and personalized experiences (knows your preferences) (20%).

RESEARCH STRATEGY:

We first started reviewing several sources that included best practices for marketing hotel rewards program apps to business travelers, including Code Broker and Travel Pulse but we were unable to find any best practices from industry experts or a sufficient list that covered this topic. However, we came across customer insights on global rewards programs, which included information on marketing hotel rewards program in general.

We then looked for consumer surveys, research publications, and case studies on hotels or business travelers in order to find insights on best practices for marketing hotel rewards programs. We searched through Okta, Skift, and Taylor & Francis Online, and were able to identify some information on what business travelers look for in terms of Rewards and Loyalty programs.

We also tried identifying any information relevant to creating a customer journey that addresses how business travelers use hotel reward program apps, when they use apps, stages in their decision process, and future predictions of how hotel rewards program apps will evolve. We were able to find some industry reports, such as Bond, Customer Insight Group, and Marketing Land which gave insights relevant to how business travelers use Loyalty programs and what they look for in Rewards programs, which are listed as helpful findings.

Finally, we reviewed top players in Hotel Loyalty and Rewards to identify what they do in terms of marketing hotel rewards apps and created a list of best practices based on what they do. A 2018 Bond Loyalty Report, indicated that the top players in hotel rewards program apps were Hilton Honors and Marriott Rewards. Best practices were compiled based on the different findings identified. A 2018 report by Okta, also found that the most-used travel apps by business travelers are traditional hotel apps, especially the Marriott-branded hotel apps.

Sources
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