In recent years, digital capabilities have become much more affordable without losing their effectiveness. What does this mean for tourist parks?
Businesses of all sizes across a range of industries are currently facing significant pressure to go digital. It's for good reason, as the digital world can offer significant improvements to several aspects of tourist park operations.
However, for smaller enterprises the prospect of investing in digital capabilities can seem daunting. The idea that digital strategies are limited to larger companies with significant resources is something of a misconception. As the use of digital services has increased, the price of entry has dropped significantly – which is helping small businesses close the gap on their larger counterparts.
The key challenge for tourist parks is to match their digital services with the unique demands of their stakeholders (staff, customers & owners). Any changes they make with regard to their digital capabilities needs to be part of a wider strategy to improve the customer experience and enhance the organisation's performance.
David takes on Goliath
As little as five years ago, there was a significant digital divide in the industry. Major players had access to fully integrated solutions, which required significant investment, while others were left to basic solutions and a series of spreadsheets.
Now, there are a range of solutions that can offer the same degree of functionality with a much lower initial setup cost. This includes services such as Xero and its add-on ecosystem that lets businesses pick and choose the solutions they require. Cloud solutions such as software as a service (SaaS) are another vital extension of this, and further reinforce the idea that, just by having internet access, any tourist park can utilise a range of exciting and innovative products.
These tools can go a long way to maximising efficiency within a business for a much lower price than just five years ago.
Before the industrial revolution we knew and trusted those people in our village. As we industrialised we could no longer trust an individual (there were too many of us), so we placed our trust in corporations, brands and known institutions.
Technology is fundamentally shifting this paradigm once again. When eBay started in 1995 society began buying from, selling and sending money to individuals (not institutions) around the world who they did not know. Now it is common place to jump into a car with a complete stranger (Uber), stay in a stranger’s house (AirBnB), go on a date with someone we’ve never spoken to (Tinder) - the list goes on.
Peer reviews, ratings and feedback are quickly becoming society’s new currency of trust. It allows us to trust the individual once again. Tourist parks need to be aware of this, as digitally literate potential customers will be looking for positive online feedback above all else.
Learn to focus on the customer experience
While there may be a greater focus on the digital elements of a business, tourist park owners need to ensure that these changes are actually helping them to create a stronger connection with current and future customers. There can be enormous efficiencies available internally as well, but ultimately the key goal for most businesses we have helped with their digital strategy is getting more people on site.
Tourist parks operate across a diverse range of clientele, and it's up to owners to acknowledge what digital investments may mean for each unique group. Although older clients may be willing to continue to book places through traditional means such as phone bookings, younger generations expect much more flexibility in the way they interact.
The solution is an omni-channel one, which means providing both digital and traditional opportunities for customer engagement, allowing businesses to focus on a range of different target markets. To do this, business owners need to be able to map the typical customer journey and how digital services can make this better.
This means having more than just a website and a social media presence, as these need to serve a greater purpose than just advertising the park in question. For example, the website needs to evolve in line with customer expectations. If the "contact us" button links to an email enquiry form that promises contact within three days, then it's not maximising a park's digital presence.
Instead, if consumers are able to book and pay online, it can facilitate more conversions from site visits into sales, especially for younger generations who want to do as much online as they can. Although tourist parks are part of the hospitality industry, which was founded on face-to-face interaction, the concept of what it means to be hospitable has changed and expanded.
How to approach a digital strategy
While the barriers to entry are now much lower, this doesn't mean tourist park owners can start investing in digital capabilities without a strong plan of attack. To ensure they're getting the most out of their investment, it's important that business owners have a digital strategy that can inform the direction they will take.
There are two main ways for them to do this, both of which are centred around the theme of meeting current and future needs with effective digital solutions.
The first approach could be a broad document that loosely maps out the future. It may not have a significant effect on the day-to-day running of the park, but it does provide valuable long-term direction.
Alternatively, the strategy can be represented in practical and detailed terms that set specific days and dates for managers to follow. For example, day one of the strategy might involve an audit of a tourist park's website functionality and how this could better integrate with sales, marketing and social media efforts.
Tourist parks should be asking themselves "How do our customers (external & internal) want to interact with us?" and then building a digital strategy around these answers. It's important they are able to plan for the future and understand how digital investments will improve their operations, perhaps even document a business case for digital investment.
Assessing effectiveness & ongoing maintenance
As with any investment, a digital investment needs ongoing love and care. You wouldn’t leave a cabin out in the weather for a year and not do any upkeep, and digital assets are no different.
In your original planning or strategy, you would have made note of some reasons why you were going to invest in digital assets. Why not summarise these into KPIs and measure your progress? If the strategy isn’t achieving the desired result, it may be time for a change.
Maintenance also needs to include security of information and protection from those people that are forever trying to access secure information. Cyber security is a very modern issue and one that will only become more prominent – you can even get insurance for it these days.
BDO’s digital services team would be more than happy to discuss any digital opportunities you may have. Please contact Talis Evans or Angus Strachan, BDO Adelaide, (08) 7324 6000.