There is an app for just about everything these days and it's easy to see why, as more and more guests expect to be able to interact with their favorite brands using mobile devices. In fact, Gartner (www.gartner.com
) predicts that by 2013, more people will access the Web through their mobile phones than through PCs.
Navigating the mobile world is exciting and can generate revenue and guest engagement, if done right. Conversely, a bad app can trigger disappointing reviews and frustrated guests. MGM Resorts International (www.mgmresorts.com) has launched a number of apps in the past few months, including the augmented reality app, Vegas Reality, Entertainment of Las Vegas, CityCenter Fine Art Collection and apps for its resorts including ARIA Resort & Casino, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. These have racked up tens of thousands of downloads. Presented here are just a few of the lessons learned along the way.
A good app is never complete
Mobile changes fast. An app that was great six months ago doesn't necessarily take advantage of today's new features and hot social media technologies, such as Foursquare and GPS possibilities. MGM Resorts works closely with app-design companies MacroView Labs (www.macroviewlabs.com
) and Resort Technology Partners (www.rtp.com
) to constantly add new functionality, new user interfaces and other improvements every few weeks so that apps continue to evolve.
Offers, news, show schedules, and other content also need to stay fresh. MGM Resorts uses a content management system that enables editing of anything in the apps within seconds. Geo tagging is also used, so that unlike a traditional website's CMS, a piece of content only appears when a guest is standing in a certain geographic area or is viewable by certain subsets of users.
Don't just try to sell rooms
Quite a few hospitality apps out there are essentially 'brochure apps' that show some glossy photos and then include a booking area. That's a good start, but not fundamentally different than the experience someone has on a website. The beauty of apps is that a person can have a wealth of location-based information and features at their fingertips. If a guest is at ARIA and using the ARIA app, they can find out what's available at the moment. They can order room service from the pool, get directions to where their car is parked, view conference center materials on-the-fly, or preview a show and Tweet about it.
Another example is the MGM Grand app, offering hundreds of pages of content telling guests how to play casino games, where to get a cab, and what to see and do around Vegas. Users are given these tools in an effort to increase the likelihood that they will use the app and book a room, spa treatment, restaurant reservation and more.
Avoid initial data collection
It's natural to want to collect guest information immediately in order to serve up a more customized experience and build your database. However, this is a sure way to dissuade first-time users because guests generally evaluate the quality of the app in just a few seconds. Putting up an early obstacle will dramatically reduce users and bookings.
Listen to your users
Feedback not only helps improve the app, it can improve the guest experience by highlighting how guests are rating rooms, staff, meetings and more. A good app allows guests to comment on everything happening at the property, acting as a 24/7 focus group. If someone at a restaurant has a bad experience with the waiter, through the app, management can find out immediately and take action before the guest goes home.
The mobile future is still in its infancy and companies are still discovering what's possible. One thing is clear though: this is a trend that isn't going anyway any time soon. As the world becomes more tech savvy there is certainly a bright future ahead. These apps, and other like it, are true win-wins for both hospitality companies and their guests.