How to Actually Use Your Hotel App to Make Money

In-app spending has risen to previously unimaginable heights—so why do some properties struggle to see ROI from their mobile investments?

If there’s one thing all hotel app vendors agree on, it’s that mobile apps can become a key revenue-driver for properties. According to preliminary Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data from 2020, global consumer spending in mobile apps reached a record-setting $111 billion last year, marking a 30% year over year growth. Bottom line, everyone agrees apps are here to stay, and they’re an untapped resource for many properties and brands.

But on the flipside, many vendors tend to share a common weakness. They’re great at telling you that apps can be a great source of revenue, but skip the explanation on how exactly you can make that happen. So here’s a head start for you—the simplest breakdown of how to position yourself and your app for success both before and after implementation. In essence, here’s how you actually make money.

First, if an app doesn’t integrate with your Point of Sale (POS) system, don’t buy it.

It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not. Integrations are one of the single most overlooked factors when it comes to using technology successfully. If you’re hoping your hotel app will engage guests and encourage them to spend more during their stay, you’ll need a simple, fast way to facilitate purchases. And frankly, there’s nothing worse or more confusing for staff than having two systems for orders and purchases to go through. Do your homework on which vendor can meet your needs when it comes to building a tech stack that truly works together. You won’t regret it.

Next step: train staff on how to use and talk about the app. Then, build your user base.

Truly successful app purchases all start in the same place, with top-down buy-in at the property or brand. Without buy-in from first your management team and then your staff, you can’t expect to see revenue rise. As soon as the app is in place, hold a training session for staff members, teaching them how to use it and what guests can do with it. Then, make it a part of standard processes to have staff, especially front desk and concierge staff, recommend the app to your guests. Word of mouth has been the greatest advertisement since the dawn of time.

Beyond word of mouth, there are numerous places where you can direct guests to the app. To name just a few: your website, your OTA profiles, pre-arrival emails, and digital and physical signage at your property. As Fairmont Miramar’s Director of Sales and Marketing emphasized in an interview with us last summer, if you tell guests about the technology and ask them to use it, they will. But if they don’t know about it and you don’t direct them to it at every opportunity, your download numbers will never reach their full potential.

Finally, let your marketing team loose.

With an app that can support purchases and a user base that’s ready to engage, you’re 2/3rds of the way to a strong revenue strategy. Whether your marketing team is one person or an entire group, it’s critical that they’re involved with building out the content of the app, keeping it up-to-date, and utilizing whatever marketing features it has to offer. An app is not a “set it and forget it” tool. It works best when you’re utilizing its full suite of capabilities. Add in your in-room and takeout dining menu items, your gift shop items, any upcoming events, and your available amenities—whatever on-property purchases and activities that contribute to your bottom line should be included. Once they’re in place, it’s time to market to guests before and during their stay using special in-app promotions, push notifications, personalized messages, and more.

It sounds like a huge task, but in reality, it’s a few hours of work a week, and incredibly scalable based on what you want to market and how much time you have to dedicate to it. However, the power of a well-timed promotion for your restaurant right before dinner time or a special offer for your spa services as soon as weekender guests arrive can’t be overstated.

So how do you make money with a hotel app? You select an app that can facilitate purchases and work with your current systems, encourage adoption and build up your user base, and then market to your guests. When you follow that simple formula, you’ll see a marked difference in your ancillary revenue.

Looking for ways to boost revenue at your property? See how the INTELITY platform’s Guest Marketing features create endless opportunities to reach your audiences with the right offer at the right moment.

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