Industry Update
Opinion Article 6 June 2019

How Are Micro Apps Revolutionizing the Hospitality Industry?

Guests expect mobile solutions for their hospitality experience, but digital applications can take serious time and money to build. Are micro apps a better way?

By Praveen Kanyadi, Co-founder and VP Products at SpotCues

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Smartphones have dramatically changed the way consumers behave in almost every aspect of their lives, from booking travel to finding the best nearby restaurants. This leaves very few industries exempt from making mobile technology a big part of their investment strategies, and the hospitality sector is no exception.

Industry trends show that mobile is now the most important method for hotels to reach and engage guests. Based on a recent survey, 55% of guests prefer to check in online, 72% use smartphones to research hotels or reserve rooms, and 67% of travelers use smartphones to figure out their itinerary.

Convenience is king

As the hospitality industry embraces technology to improve the guest experience, convenience is a critical part of its strategy.

Large hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott already offer mobile check-in as well as keyless entry to their rooms via their mobile apps. Additionally, their chatbot-based digital concierge enables guests to conveniently place requests or reserve services with just a few taps on their phones. Not only does it spare guests the long wait time to speak to the front desk, but it's also fast, personalized, discreet, and available 24/7.

The challenges facing hospitality tech

Although the benefits of investing in this technology are clear and compelling, several challenges stand in the way of making this experience mainstream for all hotels.

  1. Multiple systems and vendors: The technology landscape of a typical hotel is very complex and could include multiple systems such as a property management systems (PMS), accounting systems, point of sale systems (POS), food and beverage management (F&B), payment platforms, and more. Often, numerous vendors offer these tools, and some are only available on-premise. This disparate tech landscape can make it difficult to provide guests with an integrated and seamless experience.
  2. Point solutions: Midsize hotels and chains, independent hotels, and boutique hotels don't necessarily have the infrastructure or budget to pull off proprietary solutions so they will use third-party vendors, a.k.a. point solutions, to offer keyless entry, guest communication, and guest engagement. These third party vendors require guests or staff to log in to their systems independently while some require the downloading of a separate app, which can seem like a burdensome extra step for guests.
  3. Backend operations: The success of this technology will also depend on how well it works in tandem with backend operations. Automated and self-service options implicitly increase guest expectations for faster service. They will also lead to changes in existing processes. While these solutions could ultimately streamline backend operations and reduce workload for staff, hotels will also need to make a significant upfront investment in providing better tools and training for their employees.

A micro transformation solution

There is a new technology approach that enables rapid innovation, faster time to market, and incremental investment while providing an integrated and seamless experience for both guests and staff: micro apps.

Micro apps are essentially a collection of mini applications that perform a single function. For example, a tee time micro app enables guests to look up available tee time slots and reserve one, while a smart key micro app allows guests to unlock their room with their phone.

Here's how the micro application approach helps address the challenges listed above.

Keeping it light

Micro apps are lightweight single-purpose apps with a very limited scope, which dramatically reduces their complexity. They enable hotels to build customized experiences for guests by creating lightweight wrapper apps that connect to existing systems or third-party services. These apps can be built using HTML5, which makes them easy to develop and able to work cross-platform.

Bundling up

Even though each micro app is an independent app that offers a specific functionality, they can be bundled within a single application. Bundling allows hotels to provide an integrated and seamless experience for their guests while keeping their complex infrastructure safely behind the curtain.

A little goes a long way

Each micro app can be dynamically added to the main app without requiring users to update or go through app store approval. This enables properties to incrementally provide new features and capabilities rather than having to do major rollouts.

More conversational

Some micro app platforms also provide an AI-enabled search experience. Guests can search in conversational language, such as typing in "I want some coffee," and the platform will automatically present the guest with the concierge app to place a request for coffee.

Getting personal

The micro app technology allows users to view apps configured for their persona. In other words, guests may or may not see certain apps based on their preferences or historical data. Additionally, a chain hotel may have a universal container app for all their properties, but then show different micro apps depending on the location or amenities of that property. Personalization also allows properties to offer productivity applications for their staff via the same app, but keep it visible only for employees.

Why go micro?

In short, micro apps are a collection of individual functions that can be assembled into a seamless, integrated experience. Features such as search and role-based provisioning create a highly personalized and engaging user experience that has hospitality executives talking.

This technology addresses the challenges for properties to conceal the complexity of their infrastructure from guests while offering them a smooth, modernized experience. Hotels can start rolling out mobile-based guest solutions with a small footprint and the most essential features. Then, when ready, they can add more features to continually enhance and evolve the apps over time without breaking the bank.

Praveen Kanyadi

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