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Hospitality loyalty apps: Top features which drive engagement

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

The team from Kumulos discuss the importance of loyalty apps within the hospitality industry and the key factors that these apps must address


Loyalty apps help companies to consistently engage with their customers. In today’s competitive world, brands need to do everything they can to boost loyalty and retain customers.

Hospitality companies in particular, need to entice customers with more than just discount rewards for loyalty points. They must get to the core of what users want from a loyalty program.

Brands with loyalty apps appeal to 85 per cent of people

Leading travel, hotel and restaurant brands already know that having a mobile app is one of the best ways to retain customers. In fact, 85 per cent of consumers are more likely to choose a venue which has a rewards scheme.

After all, people rely on apps to book transport, plan travel (just think Uber or Lyft), write reviews and more. Nowadays, the big brands like Marriott and Hilton are making their mobile apps work seamlessly to ensure users have a great travel experience from start to finish. In fact, Hilton even engages guests with a unique twist on the loyalty points model. Customers can pool their points with friends on the mobile app. This not only encourages people to plan trips together, but encourages people to frequently redeem their rewards.

Why are many hospitality loyalty apps poorly rated?

It’s not always easy for companies to get it right. App stores are full of loyalty apps which are either rarely downloaded, quickly uninstalled and poorly rated.

From sign-in issues to crashes and payment problems, there are many bad app reviews. Unfortunately, poorly executed push notifications often irritate app users. However, with a bit of planning, it’s easy to improve push notifications and send relevant, personalised messages instead.

User engagement and retention is important for every app, but even more so when it comes to hospitality loyalty apps. So, here at Kumulos, our team has a look at a few hospitality apps to highlight the top features which drive mobile-centric loyalty.

Key factors for mobile-centric loyalty

For a mobile-centric loyalty program to succeed, the mobile app needs a few key factors:

  • Ease of sign-up – then great onboarding
  • Convenience beyond loyalty points – with personalised notifications
  • It builds loyalty – while providing an engaging experience
  • Security features are evident – and trusted

Whether your mobile app is in the hospitality category or another, these tips can be applied to any loyalty app to boost engagement. You will see that by analysing app analytics and creating a user behaviour and location-based messaging strategy, it’s easy to drive engagement.

Ease of sign-up – then great onboarding

Downloading a loyalty app and signing up for a loyalty program should be easy. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. An awkward sign-up process can put users off using a loyalty app. The best loyalty apps have a great UX UI from the moment users sign up.

An app which has a very easy sign-up process and explanatory onboarding process is The Parking Spot App.

The Parking Spot is the largest near-airport parking company in the US, with around 40 convenient locations at many major airports. The industry-leading Spot Club loyalty program has useful integrations which provides convenience for travellers. For example, expense integration with Concur, Expensify, Certify and ChromeRiver which automatically sends parking receipts to an expense account.

So, after downloading the app and signing up to the Spot Club program, users can reserve parking, organise shuttles to and from the airport and it’s all completed with mobile payment – making parking entry and exit seamless.

Features like ‘find my shuttle’ let you see the Spot Club shuttles circulating around the airport. You’ll also see the shuttle Pick Up Area highlighted on the map. This loyalty app makes effective use of location sharing and certainly won’t have a problem obtaining location-opt-ins.

A recent Play Store review sums up the ease of The Parking Spot App. With similar reviews, The Parking Spot now has many brand ambassadors thanks to this good loyalty app.

Tim Gough, 3 November 2019:

Didn’t think I’d ever be writing a review for a parking app but this worked flawlessly. Made the entire parking process seamless. It enables you to reserve easily, scan in and out of the lot, even order a pickup from the terminal using GPS location.

In Canada, Second Cup Coffee Co has an engaging app which has an easy sign-up process with the added bonus of quirky UX UI features.

The free loyalty program and app is designed to enhance customers’ coffee experiences with personalised offers, rewards and digital payments.

One of the fun engaging features is the ‘tap to drop’ feature that responds to gravity and releases a drop of coffee into your Rewards cup!

Convenience beyond loyalty points – with personalised notifications

When it comes to travel, there is inevitably an element of stress when planning and making trips. Therefore, any app that helps eliminate stress along a journey is valuable. So, it’s important that it’s not only easy to sign-up for a travel loyalty program in the first place, but the features actually provide value and are of convenience to the user.

Moreover, when it comes to loyalty apps, users expect a degree of personalisation. Some of the best loyalty apps will adapt to each user’s unique experience.

For hospitality brands, a loyalty app that delivers a personalised user experience will keep customers coming back for more than ‘earn and use’ points. According to Business of Apps, 50 per cent of people prefer to choose brands which use personalised mobile messaging. In fact, their favourite loyalty programme activities include receiving rewards via messaging.

Marriott Bonvoy App not only has an easy sign-up process and guided onboarding, but the features of the app truly provide convenience for users.

Customers equipped with Marriott’s loyalty-focused app can check-in to hotels before they even arrive, avoiding long check-in queues. What’s more, once at the hotel, they can use the mobile app to scan into their bedroom without an actual room key. They can even request room service, housekeeping and other hotel services from within the app.

Marriott is also a prime example of a brand which has mastered personalisation within the app. Messaging is adjusted based on each individual traveller journey: whether they’re just planning their trip, departing on their flight or arriving at the hotel. The app’s features also change with the customer’s experience. By personalising the journey, Marriott positions itself as a trusted travel companion, increasing customer engagement with its personalised loyalty program.

So, from sign-up, through onboarding to true convenience, the Marriott app is engaging with its users.

It actually builds loyalty -while providing an engaging experience

Traditionally, consumers are familiar with the hospitality loyalty model: earn points for each purchase and eventually redeem those points for a reward.

But there lies the problem. This isn’t terribly exciting or engaging.

A transactional approach means that users only interact with the app when it’s time to book a stay or purchase a coffee, or use up their loyalty points. Hospitality apps need to provide value beyond the transaction.

United Airlines mobile app is a prime example of a loyalty program that drives long-term engagement.

Beyond the digital boarding pass, the app provides a virtual travel assistant which updates users about weather, flight status and more. Also, United offers complimentary in-app video streaming when connected to airplane WIFI. So, you can see that this app, in addition to building loyalty points, is providing an engaging experience.

What’s great about United, is that they use their analytics data effectively. They analyse screen views etc to understand which features are most important to customers. This has led to frequent development and design updates.

For example, the home screen is designed for use on-the-go. Testing was done to optimise the screen layout to enable use of the app by a customer pulling their suitcase through the airport – while using the app with one hand.

Engaging customers goes beyond the actual flight ticket. Passport scanning via the United app means customers are able to scan their passport to complete their check-in through the app. What’s more, customers are also able to view Uber services through the United app which engages users beyond the flight itself.

The app makes good use of push notifications and in the event of a cancelled flight or delay, the app provides specific messaging to customers.

Security features are evident – and trusted

Despite the uptake in loyalty app usage, according to Business of Apps, when it comes to consumers opting for mobile wallets, adoption is slow. In 2018, 22 per cent of their survey respondents were happy to use mobile wallets. In 2019, this only grew to 28 per cent.

Adoption is slow, partly due to 65 per cent of app users saying they have security concerns. It’s no wonder with headlines like “Rewards apps on your phone are a prime target for hackers”, that users are cautious. Therefore, it is vital that your app security features are evident.

With the Panera Bread app, earning MyPanera points and seeing rewards is easy. Users can save their favourites for faster and easier ordering next time, making it easy to order and pay for take-out or delivery.

Panera saw the need to develop a separate ordering and payment process to meet the specific needs of take-out customers. With this process, they built-in their loyalty integration to the payment function so as users can earn and redeem MyPanera loyalty points.

Panera Bread’s role as Apple’s initial launch partner for Apple Pay was a game-changer. Over 70 per cent of their customers are now using Apple Pay. Their mobile strategy has also grown the restaurant’s loyalty base to 30m users.

The user base is very loyal to the app, leaving reviews like this:

Sarah Jones, 25 October 2019:

First time using this app was a breeze! Customisation of your order is easy, and I really like that it shows the price of each item as you browse (not just on the order summary tab after you’ve already added to your cart like some other restaurant apps). Payment was also super easy, as it automatically linked to my Google pay account. Will definitely be using this app more!

Adrienne Alexander, 22 September 2019:

It’s always fast and I never feel insecure about having my payment method saved! It’s one of the easiest apps I’ve ever used!

How to implement the key factors for mobile-centric loyalty

Whether your app is in the hospitality sector, or not, you can easily implement these key factors to boost engagement with your app and loyalty program.

Firstly, you need a mobile messaging platform which allows you to create intelligent messaging to engage your users. If you can reach the right user at the right time with user, behaviour and location-based segmentation and targeting, you will undoubtedly increase engagement.

Secondly, you need to put thought into combining push notifications and in-app messaging to create effective onboarding, retention and engagement campaigns. Not only do you need to think about the actual text, but think about using rich media for your personalised, targeted messages.

Thirdly, you need to use analytics to increase the impact of your campaigns. With full visibility of the technical and commercial performance of your app, you can use data to inform your future marketing and development decisions.

About Kumulos mobile user engagement platform

Kumulos offers a number of features to assist app developers in engaging users through mobile messaging and measuring engagement analytics. To learn more about driving engagement, take a look at our push notifications and in-app messaging feature guide.

Kumulos platform provides app analytics so you can measure campaign results then improve your next campaign. Moreover, Kumulos gives you everything you need to make an app successful. In one dashboard, you can also benefit from the App Store Optimization feature to help increase downloads.

And, when it comes to the technical performance of the app, there’s crash reporting and API Endpoint Monitoring. Contact us for a product tour, or start your free trial today.

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