Can Hotel Apps Build Instant Brand Loyalty?

If there’s one word we’re all concerned about in the hospitality industry, it’s brand loyalty – and how to get more of it from our guests. We roll out the red carpet (figuratively and sometimes literally), try to give impeccable service, anticipate demands before they’re even made; yet we’re all still struggling with brand loyalty.

Are native hotel apps the solution to finally cracking the brand loyalty problem, once and for all?

First, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of native hotel apps (the ones many hotel brands have such as Starwood, Marriott, Mandarin, etc.):


Pros and Cons of Native Hotel Apps

  • Pro: Customizable for your brand
  • Pro: Controlled user experience
  • Pro: Gain access to data and information on users
  • Pro: Integrated with your PMS and booking engine
  • Pro: Hospitality-specific features (like mobile check-in)
  • Con: Expensive to build and maintain
  • Con: Requires different versions for different mobile devices
  • Con: Requires commitment – users have to download the app (vs. accessing a mobile website for example)


The Loyalty Debate

When we talk about web-based apps that many hotels use to communicate with their guests, enable instant requests and check-in or check-out, the pros and cons that come to mind are:

  • Pro: Easier to build and maintain
  • Pro: More cost-effective
  • Pro: Compatible for any mobile device
  • Pro: No commitment for the user (no download required)
  • Con: Fewer customizable features
  • Con: No control over user experience


What if we add another item to the list – how do web-based apps vs. native apps affect brand loyalty?  

What happens when someone downloads an app on their phone? They’re literally saying out of the limited space they have on that 12 GB device (who hasn’t gotten a warning that their iPhone is low on storage and you must – gasp – delete photos or apps?), they think your product is worth the GB, the time it takes to download and update, and the home screen space the little icon takes up.

It also means every single time they use their phone – 46 times a day, according to Time, or several times an hour, accordingly to Gallup – they’re looking at your app.

And it may not mean they’re accessing it nearly that many times but subconsciously, it’s there, on their most treasured device.

That’s all great, of course, but the problem then becomes: how do I get guests to download it in the first place?


That’s where loyalty from web-based apps comes in. Yes, guests may download your hotel app – but they also may uninstall it after their stay (after all, the space is precious). In fact, a 2013 study found that 80-90% of all downloaded apps are used once and deleted. Relying on guests downloading your app to build loyalty isn’t enough.

What is enough is providing a seamless customer experience – and building brand awareness by providing the best service anyone has ever seen. That may mean you encourage guests to download your hotel app – or it may not. For many hoteliers, having a web-based app is easier to maintain, requires less time and effort to produce and is not asking for a commitment from your guests – all while being able to communicate with your guests through instant messaging on their existing channels (Facebook messenger, email, SMS etc.)

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better,” said Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.

I’ll take a leaf out of his book to finally put the native hotel apps vs. web-based apps argument to rest: focus on the channel that allows you to provide the best customer experience. That’s how you build guest loyalty.