Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is rolling out an upgrade to its mobile app, adding personal experiences, account management and gamification as incentives for guests to sign in and remain connected before, during and after their stays.
The upgraded app evolved from a gradual shift in the company’s digital priorities. “We knew we needed to be mobile-first,” said Jessica Davidson, SVP of digital at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “We recognized we can go beyond the transactional and really offer not only streamlined booking, but in-stay mode for on-property capability.”
The launch was particularly timely, Davidson added, given travelers’ increasing reliance on apps and technology, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic makes socially distant hotel stays a new normal. A spring study from McKinsey suggested digital usage has “vaulted five years forward in a matter of eight weeks,” she added. “We are all used to using apps. App Store usage and downloads are on the rise, and the timing of this coupled with what we're able to offer to our owners right now is really special for us.”
While many of the updated app’s features were years in development, many of them fit new needs that have emerged from the pandemic. Keeping in line with growing demand for minimal contact between hotel teams and guests, for example. the new app prioritizes low-contact in-stay features. Guests are already able to check in and check out through the app at nearly 300 hotels throughout the country. “We are looking to become the first hotel company to offer mobile check-in and check-out across nearly 6,000 hotels that are economy and midscale,” Davidson said. “These are our connected hotels, so there's no cost to owners, and we're able to essentially push out the update.”
The app’s Lightning Book functionality caters to new demands from roadtrippers. “We're coining it as the fastest way to book direct,” Davidson said. “You open the app home screen. There is a button that says, ‘Need a hotel nearby now?’ with a lightning bolt. Tap in and you'll get three selections within 15 miles of your current location.” Users can see how close they are to the hotel in real time and book with Wyndham Rewards points if they want. The feature, Davidson added, ties in with the company’s 10 Minutes from a Hotel by Wyndham marketing campaign.
In November, guests at some properties, including the Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek in Orlando and the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, will be able to use their phones as digital keys. The company expects to roll out the digital key feature over the next year.
To keep guests engaged, the app’s home screen changes within three days of a stay to share updates and start a text conversation with the front desk. The screen remains in this mode throughout the duration of the stay.
Following the trend of gamification, the app’s Passport feature lets guests track their engagements with stamps and animations when they achieve select in-app accomplishments like booking a stay or redeeming points. Guests can collect up to seven stamps, Davidson said.
While technology will continue to play an ever-increasing role in hotels, Davidson expects human connections to continue. “We’re still in the experience business,” she said. “We want our owners and operators to have the capabilities and flexibility to engage with guests how guests want, and [to give] them options—and that's what this foundation and platform enables.”