Marriott looks to the moment as it upgrades mobile app

Marriott International has revamped its mobile application in a bid try and be more relevant to guests… at the right time.

Developments include design improvements, personalisation and better tie-in to the loyalty programme which is being updated to enable easier ways to spend points.

George Corbin, the hotel giant’s senior vice president of digital, provided Tnooz with the what and why of the developments as well as a view on more general digital trends.

On… disruption and the changing customer

The industry is undergoing a lot of disruption. The customer is changing. A combination of Gen X and Gen Y is going to be three-quarters of room nights in 2018.

When we look at Gen Y, we see they want to travel more than the boomer audience by a factor of 2:1. They will make up 50% of spend by 2020 and experiences matter more to them.

Digital has become central to the travel experience – 75% of all “stayed and paid guests” used one of our digital channels during their stay. Mobile has become indispensable before during and after the stay.

In addition, the number of travellers is set to double by 2030 so we are contending with these big disruptional changes and our customers are challenging us to keep up so we’re changing our product.

On… loyalty

The other area where we are making changes is the loyalty programme and our approach is to move to instant gratification – more earnable, instant events.

The concept of loyalty has changed.

We are moving on from the delayed gratification business model. We want to build more stickiness into more moments throughout the journey such as earning points by using your mobile key and using your points to pay for a coffee during your stay.

The app becomes something of more value at more instances throughout and beyond your trip.

On.. app engagement

Mobile allows us to change how we deliver service, to simplify delivery and to remove friction.

Marriott has done extensive research and the way we approach it is to reach out to travellers to ask what they’re going through, what they’re trying to achieve and how easy or difficult it is?

We collection information from hundreds of data points and we came up with 50 common issues – it could be their flight is cancelled or their room is not ready… Then we went out and asked how important these things are to them and it became our Magna Carta.

There are a number of things we could use the app for that would drive up engagement. If we are more relevant and more useful then they will use it.

On… what’s new

It has a different design as we move to a new usage pattern as well as new services, new ways of search and booking and personalisation.

On the design side, it will be the first reflection of Marriott and Starwood. Starwood found a way to create a better connection with SPG users.

One aspect we have learned through observing travellers is what we are euphemistically calling the “one button”.

In just a tap you can cycle through all the things you are likely to need such as information about rewards, bookings or about your stay.

Mobile Request, our chat service was expanded in December, and it’s going to be brought more to the front.

In addition, the home screen changes according to whether you have an upcoming stay or not.

We hope to increase engagement by being more relevant at moments when the customer is likely to need it.

On… personalisation and artificial intelligence

We’re looking at data coming in from a variety of sources.

The app is used almost exclusively used by reward customers so you need to be logged in. We want to tie the user’s profile information to behaviour information and apply that to future interactions.

AI is at an early stage and we’re starting off with experimenting with what is working and what we can start automating.

We also want to tie together our own data with third party data to get a better profile and perspective on the guests.

It’s about being proactive and promoting services but not crossing the line into creepy.

For example, we already have beacons at 480 properties at the front desk, lobby and fitness centre.

We want to know if people are open to us providing messages in the moment. Most companies look first and foremost to the marketing opportunity but we, don’t want the app to become a spam canon.


Corbin adds that Marriott will now go through a three-step process to test all new features in the app.

It will assess whether they are something customers will use and if not, why not – not interested, poor design etc.

The company will also look at how scaleable new features are across its 6,000 hotels and, whether they work for the hotels on an operational level.

The loyalty aspects of the app are interesting especially given moves from other hotel companies such as Hilton to revamp their loyalty schemes.

How the personalisation elements bear fruit will also be something to watch as hotels and other travel companies strive to keep that balance between genuinely relevant and creepy.

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