The secret to first-rate mobile apps for customers? Iterate, iterate, iterate

Mary K. Pratt

Hilton staff built the software almost entirely in-house, working with software vendor Lokion to help with the floor plan aspect of the project, Sloser says. An upcoming addition will allow guests to not only choose their room, but also have a digital key loaded onto their smartphones, allowing them to bypass the reception desk and go straight to their rooms.

Sloser says Hilton has had more than 5 million digital check-ins via the app, which is growing in popularity. He says app downloads hit 1 million in about 200 days, and just 60 days later reached the 2 million mark.

American Express: Digital Pay with Points

American Express' Digital Pay with Points application allows cardholders to use reward points for products or services at the point of sale at participating vendors, rather than only online.

Digital Pay with Points was built on the company's data assets and advanced APIs that integrate with vendors through the Amex digital platform.

"We're trying to bring the value of our brand and all the services and assets the customers expect and bring them to life on new types of digital platforms so we can go where our customers are," says David Wolf, vice president of digital partnerships and development. The company first started building out developer-facing APIs that could enable unique customer experiences on third-party platforms in 2011, he says.

"We can track your spend against an offer, and we can send a real-time statement and your reward through a statement credit -- no coupons or codes -- everything happens completely behind the scenes," Wolf says.

The Membership Rewards program is one of Amex's flagship assets and one of the largest loyalty currency programs in the world, Wolf says.

Historically, most customers saved up points for big purchases, he says. "But we know through research that they were looking for new ways to engage with this program and to extract value from this program," Wolf says. "So with this technology we were able to deploy a real-time loyalty redemption program directly at the point of sale."

Wolf says the Pay with Points application builds on other functionalities that Amex has developed, such as allowing customers to connect to their accounts within Twitter by tweeting a special hashtag to load an offer to their card. The company has introduced a similar capability within Facebook, too.

Sastry Durvasula, senior vice president of enterprise information management and digital partnerships at Amex, says the company engineers its functions with the goal of providing "that seamless, slick, native experience for the consumer." That starts with the API platform that Amex developed and [shares with] third parties.

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