In a world where we use our phones for almost everything, travel plans often start from the palms of our hands. In this mobile-first era, IHG Hotels & Resorts—with 17 diverse brands and more than 6,000 hotels around the world—knew an elevated app experience was the best way to connect with and inspire loyalty from both current and next-gen travelers.
IHG’s app is its primary digital interface for interacting with and taking care of guests—and where the hotel-guest relationship often starts. For this reason, IHG needed a refreshed mobile experience to compete with the expectations set by today’s tech-first world. Additionally, IHG needed to build this new mobile experience around two priority user groups:
Loyalty members: The IHG app is central to the new IHG One Rewards loyalty program, and members are the largest group of app users. But just like travel, the nature of loyalty has changed. IHG One Rewards is rooted in choice, flexibility, and rich rewards —and the app needed to support that.
Hotel owners: Owned digital channels drive revenue from bookings at the lowest cost and in the most loyalty-building way—compared to third-party travel sites that take a commission and control the experience. Because of this, app innovation is a critical point of focus as owners seek to expand revenue and create sustainable growth.
As travel started to pick up in 2021, there was an urgency to get to market quickly with both the new loyalty experience and the redesigned app, and it was a massive undertaking. IHG couldn’t just reskin its current app—outdated infrastructure would produce exponential tech debt and complexity down the road. Plus, the new app needed to work with both iOS and Android, be translated into 18 languages and work across IHG’s 17 global brands and 6,000+ hotels.
WHEN TECH MEETS HUMAN INGENUITY
Shared delivery, expert support
IHG tapped long-time partner Accenture to help, and the team worked side-by-side to envision and deliver a new app. With access to Accenture’s insights and intelligence around emerging trends and market demands, IHG was able to dream up new ideas and broaden the horizons of possibility.
A foundational component of the partnership was the flexible delivery model, or digital “factory”—a streamlined framework for creating and delivering digital products. The factory makes previously complicated development and delivery processes predictable, repeatable and reliable at scale, across IHG’s global properties. It allows the hotel group to bring new, innovative app features and experiences—like additional payment methods (WeChat Pay in China, for example) or digital check-in—to life faster.
The agility of scalable production allows IHG to ramp the factory up or down depending on business cycles or other strategic priorities, to launch multiple upgrades at the same time and to tap key specialized talent when needed. To that end, the model provides IHG with the back-end capabilities and a dedicated delivery team to create state-of-the-art app architecture and analytics. IHG is no longer limited to small groups of highly specialized resources—more people understand how to build and support this important digital asset, reducing risk and maximizing efficiency.
The new app was launched with an extensive beta process to ensure there was no impact to booking flow and functionality, and to gather valuable feedback before the full launch. The team released the app to an increasing pool of testers, starting with 12 users close to the program and eventually releasing to thousands of IHG employees and hotel owners, key partners and corporate customers globally. This process improved reliability and allowed the team to quickly address rare error combinations well before the actual launch.
Finally, the app was launched in phases, which allowed the team to pause and learn from feedback. By late May 2022, IHG fully launched the new IHG One Rewards App at its Americas Owners Conference In Las Vegas.
A VALUABLE DIFFERENCE
Making modern travel exceptional
The new app is sleek and seamless, providing an end-to-end personalized experience for booking, check-in, IHG One Rewards Loyalty Program benefit management and communication across all 17 brands. It also supports expanded property attributes and pricing offerings, with increased merchandising opportunities for hotels. Leveraging the digital factory, IHG improved the experience for customers with features like personalized home screens, sticky navigation and “add to wallet” functionality for reservations.
The app is the most efficient place for IHG One Rewards members to manage stays and track progress toward the newly launched Milestone Rewards—a program full of perks based on extensive research into what guests really want. Inside the app, travelers can find an account dashboard to track points and milestones, a chat-based digital concierge and the ability to add the IHG One Rewards card to their Apple or Google wallet, to name a few attributes.
Already, the app is seeing exceptional results—a key contributor to IHG’s growth and ongoing success. As of September 2022—compared to pre-pandemic metrics—revenue, usage and downloads are all up more than 20% and growing.
The app is also faster and has near-perfect, crash-free performance. And as a testament to usability, it has a 4.9-star rating in the iOS app store, making it a top-rated travel app. Customer reviews describe the app as “easy to navigate” with a “stunning new design.” One guest even wrote that they “couldn’t travel without it.”
The IHG mobile app is a big step forward in the company’s digital journey. It positions IHG as a leader in travel innovation, helping exceed guest expectations from travel planning to checkout.