Marriott launched a newly redesigned mobile app for iOS users today, with an update for Android coming soon. They’re touting it heavily (“the new Marriott Mobile app breaks the mold of typical hospitality apps”), but reading through the press release I wasn’t sure what was really new so I spoke with Marriott’s VP of Global Loyalty Thom Kozik.
New Features and Improved Functionality in the App
The lede is that the app prioritizes content based on whether you’ve got an upcoming stay, are in the midst of a stay, just completed one — or don’t have anything booked at all. They’re going to show you what’s most relevant to you rather than having the same static information in the same places.
[T]he typical “never-changing” home screen has been replaced with four dynamic, swipe-able screens triggered by what travelers may need at a specific point in their journey. For example, members leaving on their trip will see Mobile Check-in and Mobile Requests when they open the app. Whereas the app will greet members with future travels with their Marriott Rewards account information and personalized destination content from Traveler based on preferences and data.
Marriott points out that the app allows members to “request room upgrades and receive notification it has been fulfilled before they arrive.”
The app also lets you “request a late check-out in the app, which is guaranteed for Gold and Platinum Elite Members.”
They say over 500 hotels will soon let you use your phone as your room key, though of course there are challenges, this isn’t a good option when traveling with someone because only one phone at a time can hold a room key.
The ‘Mobile Request’ chat function doesn’t just have you make a request to Marriott which forwards it to someone at the hotel in a game of telephone with two cups and a string. Their messenger tool interacts directly with the property cutting out the middle man, and hopefully making it more likely that the request will be fulfilled.
What the New App Means for Marriott Rewards
The app has a new design and some new features, but Thom Kozik described it as the platform that’s going to allow them to become more personalized and deliver more benefits.
I was interested in the ‘request an upgrade’ feature, with notification that you’ve been upgrade. Years ago Starwood used to put sticky notes on your key packet with “You’ve Been Upgraded!” and that was the surest way to know you hadn’t been upgraded. My rule of thumb is that if a hotel has to tell you that your room constitutes an upgrade (if you wouldn’t even notice the difference on your own) then it isn’t a real upgrade.
And of course one of the big challenges that Marriott Rewards has with integrating Starwood is that the Starwood Preferred Guest program is known for suite upgrades — standard suites subject to availability at check-in for Platinum members, and prioritized in advance with “Suite Night Awads” for Platinums who stay 50 or more nights per year.
Renaissance Boca Raton
Thom described upgrades now being a “surprise and delight” and thet the “number of upgrades delivered via app is increasing.” He values the ability to know when a member is specifically asking for the upgrade, signaling that “this particular trip is important to me” and that actually making the request could “be a tie breaker” although since there’s no limit to the number of times a member using the app could make the request, “every request may not be an important signal.”
Upgrades aren’t managed centrally by Marriott at this point, but a priority report for upgrades is given to the property to use in assigning rooms.
The new technology is the rails on which they plan to learn about members, personalize experiences, and deliver new benefits — even ones that haven’t been officially rolled out yet. Or as Thom explains,
Every day of the year they’re a member even when they’re not staying with us. Their needs change from managing their account, looking for recommendations on an upcoming trip, or making a booking. When and how you use the app provides a lens on you as a member.
..A surprising number of members check their account balance… If no stay is in process, the app is elevating the primacy of that information since it’s the most relevant. Over time we’ll use the approach of contextual information to service members more, present information for a local city, which to some travelers would be very important.
Current service requests you can make for your reservation are a static list (“feather-free pillows, extra water, extra towels, but now we’ll see what people ask for and over time present you with the options based on your past requests and customized to the stay for instance Fairfields don’t have room service”).
They’re in the infancy of personalization (“It’s still a glimmer in the eye about how much the hotel knows when you walk in the door”) and they haven’t turned on full capabilities yet to message members based on their location on-property.
What Works and What Comes Next
I do like the new “one-button” design they’re promoting, the ability to use the app while walking and carrying your phone in one hand — tap the app with your thumb to get the information you need (what city am I in? oh yeah, which hotel did I reserve? How do I get there?).
The product roadmap includes ‘recognition and offers at the right time and place for Marriott Rewards members throughout their stays’ starting next year — beacon-enabled and personalized content like hotel fitness center hours and location for customers who typically work out during their stay, ordering restaurant items and room service delivered anywhere on property, or specials at the spa.
They also have it as part of the roadmap to offer the ability for members to make “specific room requests” which is something that Hilton rolled out last year. (Hilton also introduced beacon-enabled messaging.)
The app is available in English, Chinese, Spanish, French and German — of course Marriott with its Starwood acquisition is increasingly global.
Since I’m an Android guy I haven’t tested the new app yet. My one request compared to the older app is not to have to log in as frequently, none of my other travel apps require it as frequently as Marriott has. And you can’t do that with just your thumb.