Julia Vander Ploeg, SVP and global head of digital at Hyatt, shares insights on how her company revamped and relaunched its mobile app to meet the needs of guests.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The use of smartphones for daily tasks continues to rise, and the hotel industry is putting in work to make mobile app experiences more seamless for guests.
According to 2019 research from the Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own a cellphone, while 81% own smartphones. One in five adult Americans use a smartphones as their only means of internet access, meaning they don’t have traditional broadband service at home.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation is one industry example of a company that’s working on a mobile app evolution.
The company relaunched its World of Hyatt mobile app in August, and the revamped app is “built to enable a more personalized and seamless experience for our members throughout the stages of their travel journey,” Julia Vander Ploeg, SVP and global head of digital at Hyatt, said in an email interview.
App users can search and book at Hyatt properties and access account information through the app, and at some Hyatt hotels, guests can “stream preferred apps to the in-room TV, utilize Hyatt mobile entry, engage in real-time chat and request commonly forgotten items,” she said.
To create more personalized experiences for guests through the app, Vander Ploeg* said the company aims to seamlessly integrate the app with Hyatt’s hotel systems.
The design of the app is optimized to display content based on where guests are in their journey, she said.
“Prior to a stay, the app’s homepage lists the next reservation, and during the stay, the homepage shifts to guestroom information and a one-tap navigation bar for different actions,” she said.
How it works
The app was built using “sophisticated (application program interfaces), designed by an in-house development team with deep-rooted expertise in native applications to seamlessly connect information from the property management systems that power our hotels to the content members see in the World of Hyatt app,” Vander Ploeg said.
Guests are always elevating their expectations for mobile app capabilities and digital experiences, which makes real-time data from Hyatt APIs “increasingly essential to give World of Hyatt members the desired flexibility over their stay,” she added.
Hyatt invested in its app as a native application because it was the best way to exceed guest expectations for a mobile app, Vander Ploeg said.
“Users expect our mobile app to be fast, responsive, intuitive and rich in features that minimize friction at every step to give them time back in their days,” she said. “Having a native application can enable us to utilize robust platform APIs to support rich functionality.
One example of this is the use of location services through the app at participating properties, which allows guests using the app to “access the fitness center and return to their guestroom without having to worry about bringing their key card with them,” she said.
The World of Hyatt app also gives guests the option to engage with hotels in different ways, Vander Ploeg said.
“The Hyatt Concierge Twitter account, Facebook Messenger and new real-time chat feature rolling out to select properties via the World of Hyatt mobile app are all examples of channels that facilitate superior levels of care for our guests but come with their own technological requirements and user expectations,” she said.
Digital search functions
Hyatt is also making enhancements to its website and is looking into new ways to “elevate the search experience,” Vander Ploeg said.
“We’re currently experimenting with ways to help guests discover new destinations, ranging from interactive quizzes to intuitive location maps, serving up information about our hotels that is authentic and often written by members,” she said.
*Correction, 13 February 2020: This article was updated to include Vander Ploeg's full last name.