Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 3210 - April 2017 Woodall’s Campground Management SMART OPERATIONS Peter Pelland IntheearlydaysoftheInternet,many campground websites were deservedly tagged with the “brochureware” moniker. It was not a compliment. While people were still exploring the potential of this new marketing behe- moth, they sensed that they needed to “be there,” and initial efforts often consistedoflittlemorethanconverting their printed brochure to HTML text and photos. In fairness, back in those days,Amazon.comwaslittlemorethan an online bookseller. Fast-forward to today. According to data released in February 2017 by the U.S. Department of Commerce, e- commerce accounted for 9.5% of retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 14.3%increasefromthesameperiodin the previous year — a remarkable rate of growth — all while more and more brick-and-mortar retailers are shuttering stores. There are many reasons for the growth in online sales. These include the reach of the Internet and the con- venience of buying with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. The near- est Target store may be 25 miles away, its store hours may not be in sync with your own schedule and the item you want to purchase may be out of stock, but the phone in your pocket is a com- parison-shopping tool with immediate access to every store in the world. Whenyourbusinessisonline,toone extent or another, its business is e-commerce. The main objective of a campground website is not to show pretty pictures of camping scenes but togeneratereservations.Simplystated, that is its e-commerce.To help to make your efforts in this regard more successful, it is useful to emulate some of the tools that have proven successful for big online retailers. To that end, here are my camp- ground-centric suggestions for you: •Nobodywantstosearchforincen- tives. If you have an upcoming special, accompanied by available inventory, provide that information “above the fold” — toward the top of your site’s home page, linked to your reservation engine. Better yet, offer a limited-time incentive. Just be certain to update that offer on a regular basis in order to keep it credible. • Create a sense of urgency. When you purchase airline tickets online, you will often see notices like “only two seats left at this price.” When you visit an eBay store, you will often see “16 sold in the last 24 hours,” and when you want to buy tickets for an event, they will go on sale at a specific date and time, sometimes with earlier sale dates available for special customers. If you have two cabins and six campsites available for any particular weekend, it would be ideal to capitalize upon your scarcity of inventory.This involves one software application or another that manages real-time inventory. • Time is running out. “Order by Dec.20toguaranteedeliverybyChrist- mas” or“Order by Feb. 10 to guarantee delivery onValentine’s Day” both work to encourage sales. It can work for RV parks and campgrounds, too. Some parks stagger the dates when they make seasonal inventory available, with the opening of reservations for specific ranges of dates promoted both on their sites and in e-mail newsletters. The Objective of a Park Website is to Generate Reservations add-ons? (Refer back to the “create a sense of urgency” bullet point.) If you provide golf-cart rentals, canoe and kayak livery services, recreation wrist- bands or tickets for a food event, offer them at the time of reservation. Imagine the disappointed family that cannot be part of your big chicken barbecue because they were not told that they needed to reserve tickets a week in advance. We all make purchases online. My advice is to start making online purchases with one eye toward watch- ing what encourages you to buy and another eye toward what stops you dead in your tracks. Take heed and incorporate what works best into your own park’s online marketing strategy. PeterPellandistheCEOofPelland Advertising, a company that he founded in 1980 and that has been serving the family camping industry for more than 30 years.His company specializes in building fully respon- sive websites,along with producing a full range of four-color process print advertising for clients from coast to coast.Learn more about PellandAd- vertising at WCM • Discourage shopping-cart aban- donment. Anything that interferes with the flow, functionality and intuitive nature of your website can frustrate visitors to such a degree that they leave. This includes broken links, non-intuitive navigation, slow-loading graphics and no clear call to action. One too many nonessential questions asked during the checkout process can also drive customers away, as will any questions in their own minds that you have left unanswered. Big online retailers do everything possible to recover customers who failed to finalize their transactions. They also do everything possible to resell to customers who have made a successfulpurchase.Thereisnoreason to wait until after guests have stayed at your park before you encourage them to book another stay later in the season. • Nobody likes surprises, particu- larly hidden costs. Online retailers know that the best way to increase sales is to offer free shipping. Make any fees clear and up-front at the time of reservation. Is there a damage deposit, gate card fee, pet fee or a transaction feeinvolved?Ifso,disclosethoseadded fees as early in the reservation process as practical. The trend toward charging so-called “convenience” or transaction fees is particularly ill-advised. Rather than looking at event ticket sales and ration- alizing that“they get away with it,” look toward online retailers who under- stand the tremendous value of free shipping, building shipping costs into their pricing or absorbing them as a cost of doing business. • Encourage add-on sales during the reservation process. When guests make reservations to stay at your park, are they encouraged to commit to Manufacturers of Quality Recreation FUNniture 1-800-376-7897 2061 Sulphur Springs Rd Morristown, TN 37813 CaliforniaCampgroundsFinding Success with Rental Options A growing numbers of California campgrounds offer fully furnished cabins, park model RVs, vintage Airstream trailers and other rental accommodations, including safari tents, tipis, yurts and covered wagons. “Campgrounds are making it harder and harder for people to say ‘no’ to camping,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC). “More than half of California’s privately owned and operated campgrounds now have rental accommodations, and many parks are continuing to add to their inventory in response to consumer demand.” One reason is convenience. Campground operators have learned that if they can provide a turnkey camp- ing experience in a furnished cabin, tipi, safari tent or park model RV, more people will give camping a try, especially those who do not already own camping equip- ment. In the long run, however, many of those campers who start off in a rental unit eventually purchase a tent or RV of their own, according to CalARVC. WCM