It’s no secret that mobile apps offer a bright future for hotel chains interested in building loyalty with their guests. This is especially true as millennials, the most technologically astute generation in history, move into their prime spending years and reshape the economy to their tastes.
In fact, a survey from J.D. Power says that guests who book directly with hotels using a mobile app are more likely to be satisfied with their stay than if they had used an online travel agency. But building an app that ensures guest satisfaction from booking through their stay is not necessarily easy.
“As mobile usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous for guests, the challenge for hotels becomes two-fold: First, they must persuade guests to book directly with them, and second, they must encourage easy utilization of this technology,” J.D. Power’s Rick Garlick said when the study was released.
In other words, an app or mobile site should not only offer cool features that make it fun to use, but should also make it easy for guests to quickly and reliably book a room. Paying attention to the fundamentals will help hotel operators give their guests what they really want—a loyalty-building experience.
When it comes to mobile commerce, the key to seizing an edge lies in the basic functionality—page load speeds, transaction speeds, and traffic capacity—all of which can be improved through a program of testing and optimization followed up with diligent monitoring.
First, test your website’s or app’s performance and capacity. Second, optimize it for the cloud. And third, put into place a program of 24/7 monitoring to ensure that it stays optimized.
The first two items—testing and optimization—go hand-in-hand. Like cars, websites and applications need a regular tune-up. Large photo files or other visual elements can be space hogs, and should certainly be slimmed down. But the real trouble and the real opportunity is usually under the hood.
In a nutshell, a site’s speed flows from its complexity. Reducing complexity improves download and transaction speeds. This is especially true when the user count goes up—around holidays or conventions, for instance. As more people try to access the site’s content through a complex system, the strain on the site goes up, often slowing the site to a crawl–or worse–with far fewer simultaneous users than expected.
Cloud features like elastic scaling, which automatically increases the amount of resources dedicated to a site, can keep the site responsive. If the site is poorly optimized, though, this feature can be very expensive. Professionally tested and well-optimized sites use fewer cloud resources, which can translate to huge savings on hosting costs.
Testing can identify the bottlenecks, and optimization is about fixing them.
For most organizations, the benefits of cloud hosting and elastic scaling are so big and so impressive that almost no one takes that next, relatively easy step of truly optimizing their site’s architecture to capture the real performance improvements.
Optimal architectures consider often-missed details like database queries, content caching, predictive fetches, load balancing, and similar functions–the bottlenecks that reduce traffic capacity. When these bottlenecks are left in place, the alternative is to throw hardware at the problem, which is what elastic scaling does. It’s like buying a tractor-trailer because a car doesn’t have space for golf clubs. It’s a solution, for sure, but there is a better solution available.
Finally, monitoring helps address issues before they become problems. Cloud-based web hosting companies usually offer a suite of generic “black box” monitoring tools that meet a broad set of needs. But these tools can’t see into the internal workings of the site and won’t see a problem coming. They can only alert the site’s operators based on external measurements and, by then, the problem has already happened. Elastic scaling is the only solution.
Custom “white box” tools monitor all of a system’s potential points of failure, both internal and external. These tools can help predict when, where, and how a site will reach its capacity, giving the operations team a chance to take corrective action before traffic slows and elastic scaling kicks in. Guests remain happy and surprise hosting charges become a thing of the past.
Hotel operators have much to gain from implementing a dedicated program of testing, optimization, and monitoring. These steps can simplify, accelerate, reduce errors, and increase the reliability of mobile commerce sites, increasing guest engagement and building loyalty. In addition, well-optimized applications use a smaller slice of the cloud and thus incur lower costs.
About the Author
Bill Tepper, founder and CEO of Provaré Technology, is an expert in the testing and optimization of mission-critical software, from websites, applications, and databases to aircraft avionics.