Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts’ new global smartphone and tablet application, which the luxury brand launched earlier this week, isn’t revolutionary compared to other apps from rivals such as Starwood (which offers keyless entry) or Hilton’s HHonors app (which lets guests select their own rooms).
Instead the Four Seasons app finds a way to be compelling by focusing on the guest experience at the property rather than being an extension of a brand’s loyalty program. Which is good because Four Seasons doesn’t really have one.
“When we first sat down to decide what the guest’s priorities are with a mobile app, we determined they are check-in, check-out, and room service,” says Elizabeth Pizzinato, a Four Seasons spokesperson.
“These are the likely scenarios when guests would be most willing to not interact with a human. They want to get into their room as fast as possible and leave as fast as possible if they’re in a rush. Plus our app also gives our business traveler guests the option to email their folios to themselves which helps with their expense reporting.”
Within the app guests can customize their pillows, request blankets and ear plugs, arrange a car service, order room service, and anything else they’d otherwise call the front desk for.
Adding Local Recommendations
Sharing local information is something the brand did before apps, as Four Seasons already differentiated itself through an embrace of content, whether it be through websites targeted along demographic lines, in-room magazines, or social media from employees at the property.
It wouldn’t be a new hotel product if there wasn’t some promise of connecting guests with the local experience, which is what the Four Seasons Recommends feature is about. The app’s feature is a curated list from hotel’s staff of things to do that will get updated seasonally and asks guests to choose what they’re in the mood for be it shopping, dining or exploring.
Within the app, a concierge feature shows a headshot of each concierge accompanied by their typical “day in the life of” and brief recommendations for what guests must see to get a taste of their destination. At this point there’s still a lack of specificity in the recommendations, and doesn’t distinguish between, say, business and leisure travelers. There is, however, a Near Me icon showing places of interest in the guest’s vicinity.
The Small Chain Advantage
With just 94 properties worldwide, it’s arguably easier for a smaller brand like Four Seasons to launch an app with an array of offerings such as requesting nearly anything imaginable, making restaurant reservations via OpenTable, Google Maps integration, and access to content from news publications relevant to a hotel’s location.
“Rather than saying ‘there’s an app for that,’ we like to say ‘there’s a human for that’ and we’re still not sure how this app will work for our brand since interaction with guests is our priority,” said Pizzinato. “We know our guests are all different and our Simplified Chinese app experience, for example, will be completely different than our app in the rest of the world. Mobile is the main way many of our Chinese guests access us online so we’re using things like QR codes and WeChat, which are both hugely popular in China, to make it easier for them to interact with us.”
The types of recommendations for things to do also vary from property to property. For example, a Four Seasons in Paris would obviously focus more on pastries and French cuisine than another property in Thailand.
“Our competition could do what we’re doing if they wanted to. I think the biggest differentiator is the time we took to roll this out,” said Marco Trecroce, CIO of Four Seasons.
Currently available for iPhone, iPad and Android, Four Seasons plans to release its Apple Watch app during the fourth quarter. Below is a demonstration of what guests can get out of the app: