And here’s our answer: For independent hotels and boutique brands, a mobile-optimized website takes top priority.
There’s no denying the key role a mobile strategy should play in your hotel’s marketing plan; as Google pointed out in a 2012 study, 57 percent of business travelers and 38 percent of leisure travelers researched travel information on mobile devices last year. Hoteliers must go with the mobile movement or lose a significant (and ever growing) market share to hotels that do offer travelers the mobility they demand. Unfortunately, confusion about how to go mobile is causing many hoteliers to delay this crucial move. It’s easy to get caught up in the app fad — there’s an app for everything, right? But that doesn’t mean there should be. We think a well-designed responsive (mobile-optimized) website is a more effective marketing strategy (and revenue booster) for independent properties, and here are three good reasons why:
- A responsive website is easier for your customers to find than an app among 900,000+ other apps (in the iPhone App Store alone). While mobile apps make sense for large, well-established hotel brands with millions of loyalty program members (like InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Hotels), independent properties lack the brand recognition required for their apps to be easily discovered by prospective guests. A responsive website built with a good SEO (search engine optimization) approach will appear at the user’s fingertips when browsing hotels online.
- Travelers prefer to book hotels via mobile websites over mobile apps. According to the abovementioned Google research, 40 percent of leisure travelers prefer booking accommodation on a mobile website versus 12 percent via an app, and 36 percent of business travelers prefer booking on mobile websites versus 17 percent with apps.
- A well-designed responsive website is more cost effective than a custom mobile app. Rather than paying to develop and host both a website and an app and then having to maintain both separately, a single responsive website covers all devices at once (from desktop computer to tablet to cell phone) and costs approximately the same to develop and host as a non-responsive website. Any updates (content or cosmetic) to the one responsive website are instantly viewable on any mobile device.
When choosing a place to stay, travelers on the go are using their cell phones to browse hotels online, not download gimmicky apps. They want to see your hotel’s location, rates, availability, property photos and reviews, and they want to be able to make an online reservation quickly and easily—everything your responsive website can give them, optimized for a streamlined mobile user experience. So what did you need an app for?