SPEAK-OUT :: THE E-COMMERCE CHALLENGE
In response to “The eCommerce Wait Problem” (SAM, March 2015), I'd like to suggest that there's only so much we can do to simplify our product offerings and thus speed the growth of eCommerce. But it's true that we must do what we can to make purchasing easier for our guests.
Remember, it's still early in the game. Technology is evolving at a dizzying pace, with mobile driving the conversation. But it has only been since the advent of the smartphone, at a publicly accessible price, that mobile has been relevant. According to Pew Research, Americans' smartphone ownership just crossed the 50 percent mark less than 2 years ago.
Maybe I am in the group of managers that needs, as the article says, a change of attitude—because I believe our industry does have unique challenges that make simplification of eCommerce difficult. Most of our complex products exist to accommodate choosy, high-expectation, less-tolerant, more-
demanding customers. The challenges are real, and some that Amazon, Disney, and Expedia do not face.
That's not to say we shouldn't aim for excellence. We do have to compete with them for our customers, after all.
One more observation. The tools of technology are only as useful as the hands in which they are placed. Some examples cited in the article were not the fault of the software, but due to an incomplete configuration, fairly easily fixed.
Fortunately, we have a deep pool of peers who excel in the eCommerce arena, including mobile, and we can all learn from them. For example, The Fairbank Group has a brilliant eCommerce solution using Siriusware paired with Axess gates. A guest purchases a ticket that allows RFID access to the lifts. Prior to subsequent visits, the guest can reload the ticket through Jiminy's eCommerce portal, which allows direct-to-lift access. This eliminates ticket window lines, creates purchasing efficiencies, and can be processed at the guest's leisure.
Great examples of mobile also exist in similar industries—amusement, water park, and attractions. I frequent King's Island, Newport Aquarium, and the Cincinnati Zoo with my family. I stay in touch with their current promotions, make my ticket purchases, and find my way around the attraction through each of their respective apps. (Their common thread…mobile and ticketing driven by accesso.)
Doing nothing isn't an option. That will lure more third parties to offer platforms that sell our wares on our behalf—in exchange for a percent of the sales—when we could keep that revenue for ourselves. The tools exist and are available for us to leverage now. Although our guests might experience occasional minor inconveniences while we figure out this digital arena, the benefits outweigh the risks.
It's too bad that the article's sources requested anonymity; we need an open and honest dialogue among vendors and resorts for our mutual benefit. Let's continue the conversation with more examples of eCommerce excellence, from within our industry or from other similar ones.