Mobile First

A one-content-fits-all strategy won’t work when trying to create mobile apps, according to Chinmai Sharma, CRO, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces

By Vinita Bhatia

A couple of years ago, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces realised it had some amazing properties, great heritage, fantastic brand recall and superior services. All it needed was to weave this into a story that could be succinctly and repeatedly told to digital natives.
This was already being done on its traditional websites, but they were not mobile responsive, while their audience had rapidly shifted to the mobile platform. “Hence, for the past two and a half years, we’ve spent more than a few million dollars enhancing our digital platform. We moved our desktop website to a new age platform using content delivery network so that irrespective of where our users are globally, the content is rendered faster,” revealed Chinmai Sharma, chief revenue officer, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces.
The company also created plenty of new content, leveraging visual intelligence, like cinemagraphs, to attract visitors. Given the heritage properties in its portfolio, it invested in creating some scenic reality shots of few of its palaces and resorts. “The only way we could show the expanse of these places was by using drones and the effect was awe-inspiring,” Sharma added. All this visually engaging content is continually uploaded on the websites and other digital channels, eliciting great response.

While scrutinising digital data analytics, Taj realised that nearly half of its online traffic was coming through mobile devices. Prompted by this insight the company introduced its hybrid app in January 2017 as phase one of its mobile strategy. This app makes it easier for Taj’s loyalty members to browse and book rooms online and by December 2017, the hotel plans to introduce more features to the app.
“In the current version, guests can see their loyalty points, make online reservations at some restaurants and hotels easily. In the next version, they can even order room service, check their bill online, and we are also trying to integrate some payment solutions, like Paytm, within it,” Sharma revealed.
One mistake that companies fall for is uploading all the content from the desktop on to mobile. In Taj’s case, its desktop site is home to over 10,000 pages, while its app has just a fraction of it so that the browsing experience is light. “We use Adobe Experience Manager, a content management system that makes it easy for us to decide what should go on a desktop versus mobile. In the mobile environment, the one-strategy-fits-all concept does not work and that’s where a lot of hotels face problems. If they try to cram the whole desktop into the mobile site, then that’s a failed strategy,” Sharma advised.

mobile APP VS webSITE
In his opinion, the overall strategy for a company, depending on the scale of their business and need, should be to have both – a mobile-responsive site and an engaging and informative app. “While people will use mobile browsers to search for destinations like they do on desktop, if you lack a good mobile site, it will not result in conversion. If the user engages on a mobile site you can prompt them onto the app,” he said.
Often hoteliers shy from investing in apps because of the design, implementation and maintenance cost involved. Sharma feels that independent properties should focus on adaptive and dynamic websites, while midsized or big chains with several hotels in multiple destinations across different geographies and a loyalty program can opt for apps instead.
In the end, it is better to focus on doing few things and doing it well, rather than spreading oneself thin. While technology can be a great business enabler, given the chatter taking place especially on digital platforms, it can also work as a distraction, unless hotels know how to mine the data and put it to good use.

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