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    Credit: TIM BOBKO

 

At the heart of recreation and aquatics is one very basic notion: Before any operation can bring in even $1 of revenue, it must successfully persuade customers to move.

“Being mobile” is the very nature of the business, yet the industry has been slow to tap into the rapid acceleration of mobile commerce.

The fact is, we’re in the midst of a mobile revolution that’s expected to have the same profound impact on commerce as the Internet has had.

By embracing the movement now, you’ll be on the cutting edge when it comes to reaching your patrons, and you’ll become the standard others will follow. Here’s why:

  • Half of the connections to the Internet today are made from mobile phones.
  • More than one-third (36 percent) of mobile Americans browsed the mobile Web last December, and 34 percent accessed information through an application (app).
  • Within five years, mobile Internet users will surpass desktop Internet users.

Armed with those statistics, it’s easy to understand why mobile commerce cannot be ignored. And if your organization is one that only recently mastered a comprehensive Internet presence and distribution strategy, take heart. There’s still time to stake your claim in the digital frontier.

WHERE TO START?

Begin with the basics. Today, aquatics operators have a few options to explore when it comes to defining a mobile strategy.

To ensure guests will be able to access the information they need before, during and after visiting your facility, you should at least have a mobile Website. When creating the site, there are three simple rules to keep in mind.

  • Mobile sites are all about utility, so keep it simple. Guests accessing your Website through their cell phones are most likely looking for basic information such as hours or directions.
  • Make sure the site is easy to navigate. Condense your content into a few targeted menu options and drill down from there. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everything on your main Website needs to display within your mobile site.
  • Design specifically for mobile. Don’t overburden your mobile site with heavy image files that may slow downloading. If it takes more than a few seconds to download all the content on a given page, you may need to go back and find ways to trim content or images.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

More than 10 billion iPhone apps have been downloaded to date, proving that apps are more than just a passing fad. They’ve become tools that allow people to more easily and conveniently access information, brands and experiences.

Apps are a natural extension for a venue such as an aquatics center, providing rich media content that further engages guests.

For example, with functionality such as GPS mapping, integration with social media platforms and push notifications, guests can more easily navigate a large waterpark. Other app functions might let them schedule their day prior to arriving, purchase tickets and learn more about featured events. This enhanced functionality allows you to extend your brand’s reach and enhance the guest experience. More importantly, a good mobile solution can directly impact a guest’s likelihood of returning or recommending — and it can positively impact your bottom line. 

Today, app development is roughly a three-year discipline, and with more companies looking for assistance, there are plenty of “experts” ready to offer their services. Many organizations can build an app, but not all have figured out how one should be leveraged to drive business results.

Here are a few important questions to consider when selecting and evaluating a company to develop your mobile solution:

  • What does the company’s business model look like? Does it generate revenue from advertising from within the app? If so, will you have input on which ads are displayed? Will you be able to share in any of the advertising revenue generated?
  • How will your app be supported after it is launched? Will the developers be able to provide a comprehensive content management system for administering content, or will they have to make each and every change?

With a number of proven solutions on the market today, a sound mobile strategy should not be undertaken as an R&D project.

Expertise in mobile development is vitally important when choosing a technology partner. Your guests have high expectations when it comes to the mobile application experience, and your app’s success depends on meeting and exceeding those expectations.