Archive for June, 2010

Phocuswright - Reasons Why Consumers Book Lesure Travel Offline

An Argument for “Live Chat” on Travel Sites.

A recent Phocuswright report titled, “On Again, Off Again: Why Online Travelers Book Offline” shows that the biggest reason that consumer book offline is due to wanting personal service:

Phocuswright - Reasons Why Consumers Book Lesure Travel Offline

Certainly the growing popularity of using social media in the sphere of customer service should help drop this number, but does this not also show the potential for putting live chat prominently on booking sites to try to keep clients from leaving the web and transferring their shopping to a more labor intensive call center? I would argue that the next two reasons would be smoothed via online chat as well in that a company could assure their shoppers that there aren’t better deals available by calling and that customer service is just as good online as it is offline. Certainly this all assumes that a companies customer service is at an even level across all channels. Having dealt with a variety of travel companies I know that this is definitely not the case. Perhaps the solution is to simply concentrate on and ensure the same quality of customer service no matter how a consumer reaches the company, thoughts?

Whistler Peak2Peak Gondola

Intrawest Pulling an ASC?

Whistler Peak2Peak GondolaAccording to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Intrawest is now exploring the sale of Whistler Blackcomb, it’s crown jewel, just a few short months after the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were hosted there. Not many years ago, the now defunct American Ski Company, sold off property after property until it consisted of just The Canyons, which was what ASC considered to be it’s flagship resort. In recent months, Intrawest has renegotiated it’s mammoth debt and sold off numerous properties including:

Including Whistler Blackcomb, Intrawest still has full, or partial ownership of seven mountain resorts, heli skiing operations, a beach property in Sandestin, Florida as well as the private resort club called Club Intrawest. Without Whistler Blackcomb in it’s portfolio, it would seem financially the company should be in better financial shape, but without a key property to be it’s headliner. It will be interesting to see if Intrawest fares better than ASC did.

(Resort ownership information was pulled from the Wikipedia Intrawest article.)

Photo credit: Flick user Tim in Sydney via Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution license
Mt Ruapehu Lift Tower

Great Response by a Ski Resort to a “Twisted” Situation

Mt Ruapehu Lift TowerI came across the initial posting of a lift tower issue at Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand on Skilifts.org forum section about a week or so ago. But, I hadn’t had the chance to head over to the resort’s website until just recently. It’s rather obvious from the photo at right that the issue at hand is a lift tower that’s out of commission.

There is a listing of ‘Headlines‘ on the resort’s website in which there are already four updates on how the resort is rapidly dealing with the replacement of the tower (I guess this happened just prior to the resort’s opening day). With that in mind, there’s a line in the first post about this incident in which someone writes, “The good news is the snow cover for this time of the year is excellent as illustrated in attached photos taken today around the site of the damaged tower.” You have to admire whoever wrote that for trying their best to accentuate the positives! 😉 In any case, I think it’s pretty amazing that it now sounds like they may have this lift back up in another week (for well under three weeks total repair). So, in addition to the excellent work by their maintenance team, the marketing group has done a fine job communicating the issue and resolution steps as well – great job!

Photo credit: Mt Ruapehu

Creating Video Content? Do you have a Video Sitemap? You should.

HT to ReelSEO.com for posting this video featuring Matt Cutts from Google discussing how anyone publishing online video should be sure to create and submit a Google video sitemap to ensure optimal indexing of their video content (notice how he mentions, “this Fall and into the future” – kind of important for those of us with content we want highly visible around that time frame).

iMac

A Look at the Rapid Evolution of Technology

iMacThose of us involved in the tech world are probably familiar with Moore’s Law, which states that the number of processors that can be placed on an integrated circuit will double every two years. It’s pretty amazing that this is something that has held true since 1965, 45 years and still no signs of it running it’s course. Hooray for that, because I can’t wait for smaller and faster devices, and if to demonstrate what that has meant for devices over the past 10 years, here’s a comparison of a 2000 iMac to a 2010 iPhone (from arstechnica.com’s forum):

2000
iMac
Operating System – Mac OS 9.0.4
Processor – 500 MHz PowerPC G3 CPU, 128MB Memory
Graphics – ATI Rage 128 Pro, 8MB of memory (8 million triangles)
Screen – 786K pixels
Data Transfer Speeds – 1.3-12.5 MB/s (DVD-ROM-1/100 Ethernet)
Storage – 30GB Hard Drive
Dimensions – 15.0 x 15.0 x 17.1 inches
Weight – 34.7 pounds

2010
iPhone 4
Operating System – iOS 4.0
Processor – 1 Ghz ARM A4 CPU, 512MB Memory
Graphics – PowerVR SGX 535, uses system memory (28 million triangles)
Screen – 614K pixels
Data Transfer Speeds – .04-20MB/s (3G-WiFi)
Storage – 32GB Flash Drive
Dimensions – 4.5 x 2.31 x .31 inches
Weight – 4.8 ounces

Faster processors, smaller devices, more storage…I can’t wait to see what we’ll have to play with in five let alone another ten years!

Photo credit: Flickr user Marcin Wichary via CC 2.0 license
Caucasas, Russia Ski Resort

A Ski Resort to Help Build Peace in Russia?

Caucasas, Russia Ski ResortAccording to reports, Russia is planning to spend up to $15.5 billion to develop a whole network of ski resorts in the volatile North Caucasus region over the next 10 years. I’ve always liked to believe that skiing can help to bond and bring people together – I’d certainly love to see that happen on a larger scale. The one thing that I wonder about is how many investment banks and private investors will still be willing to put significant sums of money into ski area development, based up on the recent success, or lack thereof, of new resorts (at least here on the North American Continent).

The Montreal Gazette writes:

MOSCOW – Russia aims to build a $15.5 billion ski resort complex in its mainly Muslim North Caucasus region, where an Islamist insurgency claimed the lives of almost 1,000 people last year, a business forum said on Friday.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/

It’s pretty cool, in my opinion, to see a country like Russia pushing ski resort development as a way to stimulate economic growth. Is this something that the US should be looking at, or is it the wrong move at the wrong time, after the failure of Tamarack and the stumbling of Intrawest?

Photo Credit: Flickr user acidka via CC attribution 2.0 license

EricinParkCity.com Google Analytics Graph

What do Ski Resorts Want from their Websites?

Every business that has any sort of a web presence should always be asking – “What do we want our visitors to do?” We know what we would do and we all probably think that we know what most of our visitors will do, but do we really?

Most ski resorts probably want their websites to help them sell lift tickets. Pretty simple, but how do they tell how well they’re succeeding at that? Probably by tracking their online sales and ideally even trying to tie offline sales to online actions – a basic way to do this is via customer surveys. The problem with this is that all of this is readily able to be tracked via analytics, probably even more accurately and in greater detail than most of us would imagine. Most of us have probably installed Google Analytics on our site and others may even have Omniture or another analytics package, but how many are holding ourselves accountable by continually setting goals and then testing different tacts to in order to improve consumers actions?

Here’s a quick example that I am currently testing right now on this very blog. Just over three weeks ago, I decided to up my posting frequency from about twice a week to every other day. The below Google Analytics chart shows that traffic was relatively even, had a big bump from a topical post, but then once my every other day schedule took effect, the visitation was markedly higher during the period when I was posting more frequently. This certainly is what I was hoping for and expecting, but now I can start to test different things, such as the best time of day to post, as well as the best way to promote by posts.

EricinParkCity.com Google Analytics Graph

Click for full-size image.

The question then becomes, how do resort marketers use this sort of information to ‘do better’ on the web? I would suggest that they start by deciding what they want their site to do, find that metric in their analytics to determine a benchmark, and then start trying out different ideas to see which ones really to cause their visitors to do what the resort really wants on their website.

I highly recommend visiting the wonderful blog Occam’s Razor, written by the passionate and brilliant analytics guru Avinash Kaushik to learn more about the what, how, why and what else of web analytics. An additional resource that I’ve found quite valuable in finding insight into online marketing is the Marketing Profs site – on which I recently listened to a wonderful 90 webinar on Multi-Channel Analytics presented by none other than Avinash Kaushik.

Someone Loves Ski Lifts – Lego Detachable Gondola

HT to one of my favorite industry sites, SkiLifts.org and their user k2skier for pointing out this video of a lego sculpture of a detachable tri-cable cable car. I just am amazed at the passion that some people have just for the conveyance methods that we use for skiing and snowboarding – wow!

Lift ticket

Lift Ticket Opportunities

Lift ticketThere are a lot of resorts that are moving to using either RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) or other plastic, credit card-style ticket stocks and moving away from the old paper, or paper with adhesive style tickets. There are a lot of benefits, in particular, to the RFID system in terms of CRM, with labor savings in ticket scanning staff, along with accuracy of scanning, but are there personal touches that are being missed?

I recall, and still once in awhile see, people wearing a sheaf of paper tickets on their ski coats and I used to love the funny and sometimes cryptic messages that resorts would print on their tickets. But don’t paper tickets also give a resort the opportunity to give guests a discount on a secondary revenue stream, like rentals, or food or even a return visit? There’s also the chance to solicit consumer research through online surveys, or even to just direct visitors to a resort’s various online points of presence.

While I’m not sure how well these ideas can be implemented on the smaller card-style tickets, I certainly think it’s a lot more effective than just printing the days’ date and time like a credit card receipt. Any other ways to use some of that great real estate and location of a lift ticket to a resort’s marketing advantage?

Photo credit: Flickr user _rockinfree
WordPress Logo

10 Tips for Configuring a WordPress.org Blog

WordPress LogoI’ve had my blog on a self-hosted WordPress.org installation for about a year now and I really like it. Particularly at a time when I hear that WordPress.com had an issue that caused them to go offline for over an hour, which means that there were over 10 million blogs that were inaccessible for around an hour on this past Thursday evening.

  1. Pick a theme that is clean and fits your content. There are a lot of pretty or tricked out themes to choose from, remember that it’s your content that people will be looking for so choose accordingly.
  2. Think of a category and tagging scheme that (once again) is appropriate for the content that you are posting.
  3. If your theme doesn’t have it’s own SEO support built in, add a plugin like HeadSpace2 or  Greg’s High Performance SEO.
  4. On the SEO topic, make sure you have a site map plugin, like Google XML Sitmaps and have submitted and had your site verified with Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools and Yahoo!’s Site Explorer although Bing will very soon be providing search results for Yahoo!
  5. Setup Feedburner for readers who want to subscribe to your blog either via RSS or email, this also is a way to track how and where your RSS content is consumed. There are plugins to help setup the RSS part and even to display your feed stats in your blog’s dashboard (Feed Stats for WordPress).
  6. I also recently began using a plugin that puts a line of text in the footer of your blog’s RSS feed, which will allow readers who are reading your post in an RSS reader or even inserted in someone else’s post to know where the content originated at.
  7. Be sure to license the ideas and content that you publish on your blog with a Creative Commons license.
  8. Do your mobile readers a favor and add a plugin like the WPtouch iPhone Theme to allow your iPhone, Android and other smartphone users a mobile optimized browsing experience.
  9. If you’re like me and reference your own posts, it’s good to install the No Self Pings plugin to avoid getting a ‘pingback’ each time you link to one of your own posts.
  10. Keep your WordPress software install as up to date as possible in order to keep up with the most recent security patches and also consider installing security plugins like Secure WordPress and WP Security Scan
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