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Hospitality strategy? It’s NOT all about mobile apps!

This article was written for LinkedIn on April 27 2018. View it in its original format here.

Okay, given that I first set out with the goal of building QikServe as a mobile app company, this headline might sound a little odd. But the times they are a-changing, and recent developments have also seen us change the way we view the purpose and value of native apps versus web apps.

I’m sure that you will all have downloaded mobile apps for one purpose and then never used them again. Only recently, I was traveling on an airline I had never flown before and had to download their app in order to receive a mobile boarding pass. Sure, everything worked as expected, but I have since deleted the app as it was cluttering up my phone and I’m unlikely to use that airline again in the near future. Sound familiar? That’s not a good mobile strategy!

Frequency is King!

Of course there are certain native apps that are very successful, or “sticky”. An app’s stickiness normally depends on its use becoming habit-forming, and is typically something that we use on a daily or at least weekly basis – think banking, coffee shop and travel booking apps.

But studies show that a quarter of all apps get used once in the first six months of ownershipand two thirds of apps fail to reach 1000 users in the first year. Add to that the high cost of user acquisition, and you really wonder why brands continue to invest hundreds of thousands in developing apps that people probably won’t use. It’s still amazing to me how often at QikServe we are only ever asked about native apps when discussing a new customer’s mobile strategy.

Reduce friction to boost engagement

The native mobile app model is relatively “high friction” – requiring you to download an app and register your details, when most of the time you just want to do something quick and simple. Most brands simply don’t command the kind of regular customer interaction to allow their apps to become sticky – people download their app because they need something immediate – whether a boarding pass, travel ticket, or to order and pay for food and drinks.

In these situations, the web is fast becoming a better way to deliver what users want. With recent developments in Progressive Web Apps and Android Instant Apps– plus the ability to leverage near field communications and/or Bluetooth to establish a local connection with a brand – the technology now exists to leverage web apps to create a smoother, faster and more valuable user experience.

For example, at QikServe, we are increasingly working on solutions where customers can connect to a brand via a range of different methods, including low-friction options where there is no app to download or registration required. The customer simply connects via a web page to connect them with their information in the point of sale system.

This approach is less focused on user acquisition or capturing customer data and concentrates instead on providing a digital service that customers will adopt on a large scale. The fact is – most apps fail because they don’t get engagement, but by providing a lower-friction option, you increase chances of engagement. And you can still put in place strategies to collect customer data, such as offering options for those who want to collect loyalty rewards or take advantage of special promotions and offers, for example.

A better option

I believe that the adoption of web apps over native apps is increasingly a better option for on-location services like ordering and payment, especially when paired with Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Much like the hospitality sector, in the retail sector customers are often faced with long lines, when they could instead shop online or pay via a web app. Or how about the travel sector – airports are ideal locations for web apps to thrive – catering to the crowds of travellers, pressed for time and eager to spend.

Ultimately, people need to stop thinking about mobile strategy solely in terms of mobile apps. Yes, there is still a place for native apps (in certain circumstances) but you’d better have a strong brand and high frequency usage. By leveraging the power of web apps, your mobile strategy can become less about how to drive customer acquisition for your app and more about how to deliver a compelling and valuable customer experience.

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