In the very near future, guests will use their phones to buy lift tickets anywhere on the property, make reservations for dinner, find the closest parking, locate the lift with the shortest lift lines, check which bathrooms are available, and Facetime with resort staff. Basically, guests will have meaningful ways to save time and get a fully personalized experience that enhances their visit.
We know that our customers are watching videos on mobile, they’re shopping on mobile, and they’re looking for answers on mobile. But could this channel be more than simply a place to entertain and inform? And, is mobile just another place to spend marketing dollars, or is it a unique opportunity to increase skier visits? These were just a few of the questions I asked of some of the top marketing minds in the ski industry.
The Current State of Mobile
Overall, it seems that the industry is still in the early stages of figuring out the best ways to use mobile technology. Which means most mobile sites and apps right now are organization-centric, focusing on a functional experience. Of the 46 mobile sites and apps I reviewed, I found a cookie-cutter approach to current offerings. Mobile websites just look to be condensed versions of regular websites, and apps seem to be extensions of mobile sites. There is not very much interaction with the resort or personalization for the guests. Instead, the focus is on trail maps, snow reports, weather conditions, webcams, resort social links, resort video and resort photos. Only a small handful have true mobile-centric eCommerce or mCommerce. And, even that has limited options for guests—usually just one or two products.
As the software offerings and mobile technology continue to improve, we should start to see resorts moving toward a customer-centric or emotional experience with guests. Only at that point will mobile help resorts realize the full potential and how it can effectively grow the bottom line.
But figuring out what would work best for each resort is paramount. Evan Reece, CEO of Liftopia, says that organizations should “be careful not to buy a solution before you define the problem.” Before adding a new mobile site or app, make sure you know what your goals are for it. Don’t offer a mobile site or app just because your competition does—figure out how mobile can benefit your guests, then find the technology solution.
There are some trendsetting examples in the industry already. Liftopia’s mCommerce experience is all about giving guests what they want, when they want it; Telluride, Colo., has developed a new site that can adapt to users; Wild Mountain, Minn., is capitalizing on mobile advertising; and Holiday Valley, N.Y., is working fast and furiously to keep up with the current demand for video. Each is detailed further on.
Taking it a step further, Copper has been developing a new app called Sherpa. It’s still in Beta, but it’s the first move toward a wearable technology using an audio intelligence and geo-location on the mountain to listen to insider tips, news, and more. Imagine a Siri tour guide alerted to talk to you by your location. You can check it out at www.coppercolorado.com/winter/sherpa.
And if you think this is only about fun, then check out the resort’s Ski Patrol Help button in the app. Find yourself in trouble somewhere on the mountain? With a simple touch of a button, the Patrol is immediately notified with your exact location using GPS within the app. Very smart.
When it comes to mCommerce, Liftopia is a major trendsetter in our industry. mCommerce is more than just being able to sell through a mobile site or app; it means the mobile sales site or app is optimized for any screen, quick to navigate, and secure for completing a purchase.
Liftopia’s mCommerce success can be attributed to its approach: The company has started taking a “mobile-first” philosophy to design and development—building for mobile first, then bringing that to the desktop. Why bypass the website and build for mobile first? According to Reece, “When you design for mobile you need to keep things simple. A simple mobile site will work with desktops, but a complicated website will not work with mobile.”
Mobile Site: Telluride
Telluride recently launched a new fully responsive and adaptive website that centralizes the content on one platform and provides a robust architecture. This allows the area to provide easy-to-find information that displays well on any platform—mobile, tablet, or desktop; use geographic targeting for different languages; and create more effective mobile ad campaigns.
Thad Quimby, interactive marketing manager, says, “We focus on what will provide value to our users. We keep the design simple and use video and imagery to engage. Our new website is a big step in the right direction. Right now we are evaluating other tools, like location-based messaging and apps. We also will work to make sure our mCommerce is dialed in and easier for the users to find products and complete the purchase process. It’s not quite there, yet.”
Mobile Ads: Wild Mountain
Wild Mountain believes that mobile advertising is different from traditional digital marketing, and it has developed a mobile advertising campaign using a three step process: 1) Watch analytics to determine what to advertise, to whom and when, 2) Have a fully optimized mobile site, and 3) Create targeted mobile ads. Targeting includes: hyperlocal geo-targeted ads, interactive mobile ads, segmented demographic ads, click-to-call, and site links. Finally, the resort keeps the information current by having both winter and summer campaigns.
Wild Mountain’s Amy Frischmon says, “Our goal is to have a well-rounded mobile marketing and advertising strategy. We work to integrate the mobile elements to reinforce our overall marketing plan. Just having a mobile site does not make a mobile campaign. It’s important to think about how mobile marketing fits in with your overall marketing program and how it will keep customers happy and coming back.”
Mobile Video: Holiday Valley
For the last four years, there has been a focus on video at Holiday Valley. As the popularity of video has grown, so has the number of videos produced and the related engagement. During the winter, the resort posts new videos five to six days a week. The videos focus on events, ski school, spa, snowshoeing, daycare, informative information for Moms, and terrain park videos for kids. The goal is to inform people about things they may not know about the resort and to create shareable content. New videos are added to Vimeo, Instagram and YouTube.
Ashley Baron, Holiday Valley’s videographer, says, “Although we didn’t start out producing video for mobile devices, we are taking advantage of its exploding popularity. I keep the videos short and sweet—perfect for watching on a small screen and keeping people engaged before, during, and after their visit.”
Mobile represents a tremendous opportunity for resorts. With expanded wireless coverage at resorts, improved location targeting, faster wireless networks, better devices, and software to support business goals, resorts will be able to reach the right customer, with the right message, in the right place. This new experience will bring value to guests by making interactions effortless and provide a unique experience that can build loyalty and, ultimately, the resort’s bottom line.
Success for the resort of the future will require patience and a customer-centered approach. By embracing innovation and designing an experience built around what guests want, these successes are achievable.