Since the introduction of mobile check-in in July 2013, Marriott's industry-leading mobile app has continued to develop at a rapid pace. As innovation follows innovation, we look into what makes the app so unique, and what other hotel brands can learn from Marriott's new brand of high technology.

Your own 24/7 concierge

As of May this year the Marriott app has enabled guests to instantly communicate with the hotel’s concierge before, during and after their stay, all with just a tap on their smartphone.

Mobile requests are only available in a selection of Marriott hotels for now but the potential of a feature such as this is clear. As can be seen by the rise of Airbnb, today's travellers are looking for a unique, tailored experience, and this personal touch is something that Marriott customers can now get on demand.  The concierge is making a comeback: something we learnt from the Viceroy group earlier this year.

Wireless convenience

Other major benefits of the app include keyless check-in and remote check-out, which allow guests to easily and conveniently access their room using their smartphone.

Following in the same vein, earlier this year Marriott integrated Apple Pay for mobile payments whilst checking in, allowing guests to simply scan their phones to make a payment. There are also plans to integrate Marriott Rewards credit cards to Apple Pay, so guests can earn loyalty points through mobile payments – another incentive to book direct.

These little bonuses can make a huge difference for frequent travellers seeking to take the hassle out of hotel bookings. It's something that other brands have caught hold of as well: the new Four Seasons app also offers remote check-in as well as an instant concierge service.

How can hotel apps encourage direct bookings?

In theory, by getting a guest to download an app for added benefits during their stay, the app should stay on their phone. If that app can take bookings too, guests are then much more likely to use it in the future rather than going through a third party. This is particularly true if hotels can introduce app booking incentives.

In short, well-structured apps can give hotel brands a valuable foothold with former guests, even if they initially booked through a third party. It’s then up to the brand to leverage this advantage with targeted emails and incentives, but most of the hard work has already been done.

Other app benefits

OTA apps are designed to secure a booking, but provide very little after-care and this is where hotel apps can come into their own.

Once a guest has booked a hotel stay, they can contact a concierge through the app to ensure they have everything they need for their arrival, whether that’s extra pillows or a bottle of Champagne on ice in their room. They can make all their restaurants reservations via text, rather than having to contact an OTA call centre or make last-minute plans in person when they arrive.

All these perks will help to streamline the guest experience, create a relationship between the hotel and the guest and hopefully, encourage further bookings. Apps that make the traveller feel like an individual, rather than a number, are a key selling point and something that is much harder for one-size-fits-all OTAs to achieve.