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My Fearless Prognostication: The Future of Ski Resort Websites

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During the first couple months of SlopeFillers, I wrote a post about a possible technology that would allow the user to choose a custom, website experience based on their interests and preferences. For example, a wealthy man skiing with his family for the weekend would see a much different site than a local kid who skips school on weekdays to shred with a few friends.

While the idea had promise, it was basic and was thinking within a very small sphere of possibilities. The more I’ve seen the potential of database marketing and the progression of web technologies, the more I realize this idea could easily mature into the future of resort websites.

The Analogy: Lexus
I want you to picture what cars were 40+ years ago. I remember the old truck I drove in high school: if your legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals (and even at 6′ tall, I was a stretch on the clutch), you were outta luck. Nothing adjusted, nothing changed. It was one size fits all.

Fast forward to today. Now, there are cars that know who you are the second you sit down and adjust the seat position, angle, temperature, etc. to fit your exact needs, likes, and habits.

In my eyes, websites today are much like cars were a few decades ago.

The Future: Custom Experiences
Where I see resort websites going is toward a custom experience for each visitor. Rather than manual like the idea I started this post with, this process will be fully automated based on a number of public factors:

  • Location (pulled from IP address)
  • Browser / Operating System (picture someone using Windows 98 and IE)
  • How Quickly They Navigate (an indication of age or computer “comfort”)

But especially, I see it tweaking based on the detailed information you have in your guest database:

  • Skis with family vs skis alone
  • Lifetime Spend
  • Season Pass Holder
  • Owner of property / real estate at the resort
  • Distance from the resort
  • Preferred hotel they stay in
  • Preferred restaurant
  • Age (and age of family)
  • Household income
  • etc.

When you send someone to your site from an email, for example, you could tag that link with a code that would either indicate what type of visitor they are or reference that actual guest, pull their info from the database, and identify their needs that way.

An Example
Let me give you an example. On the average ski resort website, there are 6.3 menu options in the main navigation. Take Squaw Valley’s website for example. They have done a great job of limiting their main landing page to the most important elements. Their main nav menu has six options:

  1. The Mountain
  2. The Village
  3. Lessons & Rentals
  4. Things to Do
  5. Groups
  6. Trip Planning

If you have a guest in your database who skis with his wife, has skied over 100 days total at your resort, lives within 50 miles, and is an expert skier, how many of those options could you eliminate? Four: Trip Planning, The Mountain, Lessons & Rentals, and Groups. Slowly, the amount of information presented to the visitor drops sharply, their experience is easier, and they don’t get lost in irrelevant information.

Even Just Location
Now, word on the street is that Aspen/Snowmass is working on something along these lines, and I can’t wait to see it, but until then, think about the possibilities of just adding the visitor’s location to a website that could adapt and change based on that one piece of data:

  • For a local whose IP address you’d never logged before, you could show a mid-week offer
  • For someone in another state you could show the flight costs and times from their nearest airport to yours
  • For someone a four hours drive away, show some affordable weekend getaway options

Now add in detailed customer info and the possibilities get really exciting.

Resort websites cater to a very diverse array of people: home owners, high school students, parents, foreigners, bargain hunters, season pass holders, etc. Each one of these groups has unique needs and interests. Resort websites today have to cater to all of these groups simultaneously.

In my opinion, resort websites of the future will cater to each of these groups individually using any and all data you can get about that visitor.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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