Lessons from Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Growing the SPG app in 100 countries

Tip 1. Meet users on their preferred platform

China is an important market for the SPG app. Over 20% of their bookings and revenues come from the Chinese market. One of the platforms they considered from the beginning was WeChat since it has 750 million monthly active users in China alone.

They built out and highlighted features that they knew were really important for that audience and that target market. For example, they know their food and beverage loyalty program is super popular in China, and they have seen great engagement with this feature on the WeChat platform.

Tip 2. Don’t just translate content when adding another language

Make sure you understand different user needs and preferences.

When adding the Chinese language to their app, they did a lot of user testing and user research. They found out that Chinese users didn’t like the experience of being able to fill out a form typing in double-byte characters into the search field when looking for hotels in a specific locale.  They preferred a drop down experience that allowed them to select that city. They integrated that feature on the app and as a result, the booking path is different from the English version.

It is also important to keep in mind that icons can be interpreted differently depending on where you are going.

Tip 3. Test, iterate and test again before finalizing global launch

Do pilot testing, do an alpha-beta test in that market to make sure your product works and to get feedback.

One example of this. The SPG app has a keyless feature that allows the user to check in without stopping at the front desk. Before rolling out that feature at a global level, they designed a pilot program where they selected hotels from each significant geographical region (Middle Est, Europe, Central and South America, Asia), and did a lot of testing.

In China, they encounter a roadblock since the Chinese government requires that all the guests present their ID at check-ins. There was no way around this government regulation, so they had to change their launch marketing plan and also in-app communication to users.

Tip 4. Connect data points globally to ensure a 360 view of your users

As a hospitality company, their goal is to make any guest feel special and welcome always. In order to do that, they need to collect data about your preferences and SPG collects two types of data: data in the app about what the users are doing inside the app (research destinations, booking, what have you use your points to redeem for in the app)

And, data about the user experience inside the hotel (room delivery service, dining, and spa offers you took advantage of, service issues you had).

Some KPIs they track by country, brand, and language:

  • Keyless take rate
  • Associate and guest satisfaction index
  • Request types
  • Preferences
  • Points redemption
  • Rate preferences
  • Promos and partnerships

Tip 5. Be proactive when you are doing your product development

Proactively create opportunities for brands and marketing to customize their offerings according to each market.

For the SPG app, they had to think through where to find some areas in the app where they could give brand teams and marketing teams the flexibility to customize the content and the promotions they wanted to show.

Lessons from Steve Young – Appmasters

Strategies to drive massive app downloads on a budget

Price Drop campaign

If you have a paid app, you can make it free for a couple of days, get press and drive thousands of downloads.
If you have a free app, you can make any of your in-app purchases free, or remove ads.

Steps you have to take to implement a paid to free campaign:

You make your app free and contact sites like AppAdvice so you can get press coverage. This part is important if you want to get thousands of downloads instead of hundreds.

You can give the exclusive to a big site (iMore, AppAdvice, TechCrunch, BGR). These sites like to cover things that are exclusive to them. They might want to see that you have good reviews on the App Store (4 to 5 stars reviews).

Once you have secured the exclusive, go to iTunes or Google Play and schedule the dates that you are going to be free (two to three days). Then, spread the word once the post goes live on the big site so you can continue driving downloads.

Collect email during this campaign with a specific goal in mind (engagement, let them know about other apps you have, get feedback)

Advantages of a paid-to-free campaign:

  • Drives thousands of downloads
  • You can do cross promotion. Organically all your other apps increase downloads. If you have multiple apps consider running this campaign every time you launch a new app.
  • An increase in sales. Since you increase the number of downloads from other apps you have, you can see an increase in sales coming from these apps. Also, when the campaign finishes and your app is paid again, you’ll see an increase of your in-app purchases.
  • Increase in keyword ranking

If you want to hit the top charts, use the paid to free campaign in conjunction with a paid user acquisition campaign. Day one and two, you let your paid-to-free campaign run, and day three and four you use the paid user acquisition campaign.

Sites to get press coverage
Apps Gone Free
Apps on Sale


Maximize your ASO efforts doing the following:

Use Search Ads in conjunction with your ASO strategy  (see how ASO and Search Ads can work nicely together)

Double your keywords strategy. Apple indexes more than one set of localized keywords in each App Store territory. Understanding which localizations are used in each country is paramount in improving your ASO efforts. Steve Young talked about the US App Store indexing the Spanish (Mexico) localization. If you place English terms in the App name and in the keywords field, you are literally doubling the number of terms you are targeting. The keywords you place in the Spanish (Mexico) fields won’t show up in the Apple App Store unless you have Spanish (Mexico) as the default language in your app store.

Sensor Tower published a blog post showing all the localizations that each country indexes. You could use this strategy in other countries you are targeting. In some cases, like in Spain, you can triple the number of English terms you are targeting.

ASO reviews. As we know, reviews play an important role on how well you rank (link to my post). If you can have your targeted terms within users’ reviews, you could see an increase your rankings and downloads.

iOS keyword localization – SensorTower
Ranking Tapaso tool    Tool to see historical of keywords that are trending

Influencer marketing

An example of a campaign using the social network musical.ly. This social network targets people ages between 13 to 22 years old. It can be perfect to promote a casual game. They spend about $2000 and work with 9 to 10 influencers that reach a total of 9 million followers. Results – around 7,000 downloads with a $0.29 CPI.

For this campaign, Appmasters spend about $2000 and work with 9 to 10 influencers that reach a total of 9 million followers. Results – around 7,000 downloads with a $0.29 CPI.

The best day to make the campaign is on Saturdays, this is the day when that network has more activity.

To find influencers in musical.ly. Go to search> leaderboard. Check the profile, look for the business email and send them one email with your request.

In order to make app promotion on musical.ly, there are a couple of things you need to consider first.

1) You have to be number 1 in the app store for the search term. If your app name is a popular term, then make sure you are number 1 for that term before running the campaign. The reason is that in musical.ly the influencer will basically show a screenshot of your app and tell you to go and search for the app. You want to be the first app people see when they start searching.

2) You need a minimum of $2000 budget. It’s better if you work with a small pool of influencers. This way you can have three or four people showing your app the same day to their followers, so you will likely get more downloads.

3) Stack campaigns. Run a paid to free campaign one day, and then another day the musical.ly campaign, and after that maybe a paid user acquisition campaign. Stacking your campaigns increases the time you stay in the top charts.

App promotion musical.ly 3 things you must know
How to find musical.ly influencers
How to run an app gone free campaign