Mobile Strategy: It's Not All About the AppsBy Tony Kontzer Print
Preferred Hotels & Resorts has chosen to implement responsive Website design rather than cranking out mobile apps, and that approach may be the smart choice.
To his point, the most popular hotel-related applications are aggregation apps like Expedia, Orbitz or Booking.com. Not many people reserve space on their phones for apps from companies like Hilton, Starwood or Intercontinental.
That said, Zieres and his team did find one opportunity for an app that made sense. Each year, the company hosts three conferences around the globe that bring together hoteliers, Preferred's sales and marketing staff, and other partners and suppliers. All of them attend sessions, network and brainstorm ways to make their businesses stronger together.
Preferred created a secure private app specifically to support those meetings by keeping attendees informed and engaged with each other. It's used to push content to attendees, serve as an on-site social platform, and enable attendees to continue their conversations in a convenient format after the events end.
Next, the company would like to add a tool that would let users build a conference schedule, including sessions, one-on-on meetings and any other conference happenings.
"We're constantly trying ways to keep hoteliers coming back to the application," says Vincent Newman, manager of group sales technology. "Engagement is more difficult after the event, but we're working on that."
Zieres and Newman remain open to additional apps for things such as the iPrefer loyalty program the company rolled out a couple of years ago, as well as a brand directory that would act as a sort of mobile brochure. But they will face the same level of scrutiny that has doomed many other suggested apps.
For instance, when the group sales team asked for an app to manage contacts, Zieres pointed them toward existing third-party apps from Salesforce.com, Microsoft and the like. And when IT was pitched on building an app that would aggregate premium news content for guests from sources like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Zieres turned it down, even though he liked the idea. "It sounded fantastic, but the cost of implementation just wasn't worth it," he says.
For other companies that may be following the crowd by preparing to crank out mobile apps, Gigaom's Simnett recommends they pause and consider following Preferred's circumspect lead.
"Think about what you are trying to do on mobile," he advises. "Unless you really need a phone capability or are likely to be an everyday use case for that specific app, then a mobile Web approach may well be better."
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