Competition, for the most part, is a win for most involved. Liftopia is doing some amazing things in the ski industry. Through their system, single resorts could book upwards of $4 million this season alone. In our entrepreneur-filled society, it’s little wonder that two competitors have come on the scene. With three options, the selection is hardly overwhelming, but may provide some healthy competition. During the last couple weeks I let these Liftopia-like alternatives sell me on what they’ve got. Here’s the goods on one.
I’ll do my best to keep my voice as neutral as possible and then provide my take at the end.
LiftTickets.com was started in 2010 by Mike Pollock but was recently acquired by SnowBomb. They currently have 60 resort partners. President, Jim McAlpine, said that one of their key goals is to “empower resorts to make as many decisions as they want” by providing multiple options for selling passes. The company recently secured $1mm in funding.
The site features three ways to sell date-specific tickets: the traditional e-ticket method (buy a ticket for a certain date, print off voucher, take to resort to redeem), VIP tickets (reserve a price for a certain day and pay when you get to the resort), and flash sales, which is a countdown timer for a certain price on a certain day (similar to a Groupon or Living Social deal but date specific). The backend is proprietary, features a handful of analytics options, and recently was upgraded for the upcoming season. There is no initial fee to get started and resort partners can either use the included tools add at tweak deals themselves or fill out a form and have the LiftTickets.com crew do it for them.
As far as traffic is concerned, the site is currently ranked #1,923,291 on Alexa and #5,471,432 on Compete. LiftTickets.com has partnered with Warren Miller Entertainment as well as TGR to show a 30 second commercial before each film is show at a large number of 2011 tour stops. The site can also tap into the success and resources of SnowBomb’s email lists, site traffic, and relationships. They are also working on a new project called “Sick Days” where resorts identify their slowest 30 days and LiftTickets.com will then use unique “Sick Day” promotions to drive sales on those specific days. They also employ a full-time SEO guy and have multiple other domains they can use to drive traffic and rankings.
They look to differentiate themselves in a couple of ways. First, with their commissions. At 5%, they claim their commission rate is half that of other sites. Second, they hope to give resorts options in the way the choose to sell their tickets that they don’t have at other sites. They are willing to adapt and work with resorts to fit their individual needs. They also are planning on providing CRM data from the sales on their site to their partners for some undetermined amount. Finally, they have a background primarily in marketing which they believe will show through in their products and partnerships.
These guys look like they have a few solid pieces in place to make a good run. They’re enthusiastic, have a good background in the industry, and their model looks intriguing. The important thing to remember is that a company that sells lift tickets solely online, no matter how great the business model is, lives and dies by two things: their traffic and their conversion rate.
My best guess from Compete and Alexa numbers is that their traffic sits at 3-5% of Liftopia’s. Second, the site appears to be very robust on the back end, but looks very developer-ish and flat on the front with not much of a UI. I would expect this to put their conversion rate much lower than that of Liftopia.
Luckily, they do have Snowbomb resources to tap and much of their marketing has yet to ramp up, so when I look at the whole picture and my numbers say you’ll wind up with about 5% of the sales you’ll get on Liftopia this year, I’m hoping that they’ll surprise me and really get some solid traffic. Not much to lose from trying, though, and keep an eye on these guys in the future if you don’t give them a try this season. They may just need a season or two to really get things going.
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