At Alps Integral we are currently working with ski industry stakeholders on varying projects and it is no coincidence that each and every project has a strong digital component. It has been interesting to see the varying perspectives of these stakeholders and gaining a better understanding of how the digital landscape is rapidly changing for the ski and mountain industry.
As business intermediaries (being piggy in the middle!) it has also been interesting showing digital agencies some of the intricacies and pain points of working in this particular corner of tourism.
It has been a pleasure to bring both sides together and in doing so we have grown our understanding in this space. This a look at digital transformation with an Alpine flavour, we hope you find it useful.
Digital Transformation in the Ski Industry
It is clear that habits have changed somewhat during the pandemic around the adoption of digital. Consumers are buying more online, listening and watching in more ways through the net and even finding new ways of socialising. Meanwhile workers are meeting and collaborating more via digital platforms.
Mobile phone use as a total of all web traffic is now well over 50%, e-commerce has increased by 44% (in the US) in one year and over 90% of people say they now use the internet. More so when we travel, 70% of people now say they use their phones ‘in destination’.
Let’s face it; gen Y’s and Z’s were going to get us there anyway, but we’ve all had a little hop forwards of late. Netflix, Amazon, Zoom etc are amongst some of the biggest winners reported in the top 100 companies to have prospered from the pandemic. Although some of this massive growth will calm down post pandemic most predictions are pointing to a one way direction of travel for digital transformation. Digital natives are here to stay and digital nomads are on the move.
Who’s out there, what’s next?
There are some great examples of digital disruption already having taken place in the ski industry too, these are some of our favourite examples;
Ski Yodl – mobile first booking service, offering ‘concierge in your pocket’ services across resorts. Disrupting the less intuitive and static booking sites. Taking the booking experience from pre travel to in resort.
SKI BRO – Ski instructor network and booking site across the resorts. Offering a platform for connecting consumers directly with ski instructors.
FatMap – 3D ski and all mountain maps. A fresh way to orientate in the mountains.
MY TUI APP (and other Tour operator apps), flights, bookings and ‘conciergerie’ in the palm of your hand. From pre-booking to post travel.
AX ski resort Gamification and resort info baked into a resort app that acts as a loyalty scheme for its users.
Seamless click and delivery services are popping up too, latest and the best are Huski, Chez Vous at La Terrasse in Meribel and La Tartif in Les Gets. An entire week’s food can be pre-ordered and delivered to the guests’ properties.
These services all have something in common, they have looked at existing models in their space, re-imagined them and are now bringing a new way of doing things to the consumer. The offering is largely the same; dinner for hungry skiers, ski lessons, information and a ski map. The change is possible due to recent digital advancements (or the accessibility of these advancements) and a digital mindset of the operator.
Meanwhile however many businesses, organisations and industries have lagged (and of course been closed during the pandemic). In ski resorts this has been particularly stark. Its felt at times that the pandemic has made some in the ski industry look inwards.
Of course ski tourism has been badly hit and still faces an uncertain future. Nevertheless the clock is ticking and the ever more digitally dextrous customers will expect the same level of (digital) service they receive at home when they are away. Waiting and reacting to these demands will mean loss of edge and competitiveness. Digital Transformation isn’t (in our opinion) accepting change as it imposed on you.
It is difficult not to see the landscape as a battle ground where Google, Facebook, AirBnB, Booking.com (et al) have effectively already won the fight for attention and thus commercialisation of our customers. We have ultimately become data colonies to these large scale tech savvy giants, faithfully serving up our data and our client’s data for their financial gain, the argument goes. How much time have we spent effectively building Facebook for Facebook!
The reason we have been so complicit in the rise of these giants is because they’re also fantastic at what they do. We have been lured in by the seamlessness and ease of their intuitive user experience. The last 20 years has been a veritable revolution of flowing digital simplicity.
There is nothing wrong with going with the flow however we believe the opportunities lie in disrupting things and growing your own proprietary digital ecosystems.
Where to start your digital transformation
As always it is worth working to your strengths to start with. This is what we’d put in the strength section in a digital transformation project, you will have others, no doubt. Like with any project some kind of SWOT chart is a great place to start.
- The Information and content you create (is yours first). Retail is detail.
- You have the most up to date, relevant and local information, experience and vision. That has value.
- Your existing client base are happy to be loyal to you and you can recognise that and create a place for it.
- You probably have brand ambassadors that are willing to fly the flag for you.
- You are trusted. Your clients’ data will be used to improve their experiences (and not for 3rd party advertisers).
- The ubiquity and accessibility of digital solutions for any pain points are accessible off the shelf (mostly)
- You or your representatives may actually meet your clients in the real world.
- You can occupy a niche not offered by a tech giant.
It is worth noting that the tech giants have created formats and ways of doing things that can now be replicated in your own organisation. Let’s just say we’ve all been to data school and now its time to graduate.
The battle is somewhat a characterisation and should be treated more like a mindset to motivate you for change. It doesn’t mean throwing out an Omni channel approach and turning your back on Google and Facebook completely. Quite the contrary, you will ultimately have Google and Facebook as large components of your strategy – but they shouldn’t BE your strategy. We are leading the charge with our clients for more digital independence. Ways in which eco systems are owned by you and are better places for your clients to hang out.
We are working with a selected number of Tourist Offices looking at their digital transformation strategy and implementation of new hyper targeting data platforms and loyalty schemes for their clients
We are also working with resort businesses trying to develop e-commerce or marketing automation strategies.
This has led us to all manner of digital services across the globe from fintech services, digital platform specialists, digital marketeers, gamification start ups, blockchain consultancies and app creators.
Clearly it’s fascinating to see what technologies are being deployed outside of tourism and then finding ways of dovetailing them with the very niche ski resort terrain and bringing operable solutions to our clients.
It goes without saying that any structural transformation needs to have sustainability at its core too. Digital transformation and sustainability have great synergies and so its worth planning with both barrels loaded.
Digital sustainability could bring you better ways of enhancing democratisation for your customers (or employees), allowing them easier ways of communicating what they like and don’t like. It could mean sharing or understanding data better to make travel more efficient (and greener). Or help us to trim waste, reduce miles or save time. Furthermore your sustainability message is ultimately going to be delivered in a digital way. Previously your messaging may have been via Facebook and Twitter, whereas tomorrow it could be via an interactive game, a podcast, a circular purchasing loop, a fractional ownership model or tokenisation.
What is clear is that without being up to date with ‘everything digital’ there’s a piece out of the inspiration/innovation cycle missing for you. So our advice is bone up first!
First place to look is at what is trending – Gartner have become a byword for digital trends and so it is probably a good place to start.
Here are some terms, some you will know already but that are worth reconsidering with the sector you are in. We recommend searching scholarly articles or university lectures rather than 2 minute YouTube clips from someone with an orange glow tan and suspiciously white teeth.
- AI and machine learning
- Marketing automation and CRM
- Cloud computing
- Blockchain and its application for tourism/hospitality
- Aggregate data vs personalised data
- UGC (user generated content)
- UX UI
The next stages and processes are summarised here
Rich Lesser, moderator at the world economic forum back in 2016, defined digital transformation (possibly for the first time), as 3 broad angles. 1st is how (companies) rewire themselves to take advantage of a digital cloud based and mobile orientated world and how they leverage advanced technologies. 2nd is how they leverage the massive amounts of data there is out there and not just in an algorithmic sense but also in a human sense. 3rd is how they use this digital world as a source of innovation for their customers
Watch the full Davos meeting here.
Ski Industry trends and opportunities
Here are some thoughts where we see change, please let us know what you see out there, maybe we can co create something?
E-commerce. Where we have seen a growth in Assos and Amazon deliveries in resort for good and bad. However the e-commerce revolution has reached some local farmers too, showing us that this wave of consumerism can be a force for sustainability. Terroire Des Alpes is one such example, uniting local producers under one digital roof and helping us reduce our supply chain KMs!
Furthermore we expect further advancements in ordering and supply chain management. The end is to seamlessly link the stages of ordering, supply, delivery, invoicing and payments in one process, cutting out hours of duplication. It really can’t come quick enough for hospitality and retail. Customers may not notice the change but the local businesses certainly will.
The internet of things in hotels and chalets. Smart devices, intelligent automations are currently being built into newbuilds and there is more to come. The end vision is a seamlessly interconnected end user experience but this requires either proprietary systems or an immense level of interoperability – Although the ultimate vision may be too complicated to ever achieve in practice, it is however useful to have the vision in mind. IBM Watsons Hospitality assistant lays it out in the following video.
Gamifying the resort experience not the skiing experience. Resort history and culture, presented in an interactive way, (using AR for instance), sporting challenges, treasure hunts, nature trails, checkpoints and finish lines – we are currently working on projects like this. This is where we see most growth and potential.
Big data, aggregate data and personalised data. Applications, devices, utility usage, travel convergences purchases, likes and shares providing AND driving data, the change will come with engines to interpret and digest the data in useful ways. Aggregate habits for intuitive feedback or hyper targeted personalisation for improved end-user experiences.
Community activism and interoperability. Sharing, caring and communicating. Taking action and changing things for the better through the huge opportunities afforded us via the changing digital landscape. Just on video conferencing alone the previously isolated ski resort stakeholders can work much more collaboratively now.
Fractional ownership or subscription models We expect to see different purchase and ownership models popping up.
Transportation – clearly the future may well be driverless, but also it’s in the data merging of customers travel plans and a fully integrated travel system in which shared travel at convergence points will be cost effective, sustainable and convenient.
Fintech solutions for payments within any given ecosystem whether that be within the tour operators closed circuit or within a ski resort itself. Fintech payment and blockchain ledgers for points and rewards are probably the holy grail. These powerful systems will create seamless feedback loops aided by marketing automation and AI to achieve improved hypertargeting and recidivism.
Maybe maybe not
3D printing of and machine cooking of food may improve KMs by allowing bulk, compact delivery of food on a particular level (reducing package and scalable delivery and storage), too farfetched and futuristic for you? Maybe but it is happening now in university labs and its worth keeping an eye on!
More intelligent food prepping machines, repetitive tasks in (let’s say) kitchens robotised, and maybe, just maybe, we can even replace ourselves on the slopes one day!
Concluding or ever evolving
At the heart of digital transformation is the end game of gaining a significant competitive edge over your competitors and making significant cultural change so that the adoption of new technologies is part of organisational transformation
And if you’re worried that all this digitalisation will create even heavier carbon footprints then Sitegeist Web services, an Alps based web design and hosting service, have carbon low hosting at the core of their hosting services. We also firmly believe that if sustainability and digital transformation are at the core of your organisational change then you will see just how compatible they can be.
Data from MTN mountain trade network (if you’re reading this and haven’t yet joined, you should it’s really very good) is consistently pointing to a really strong bounce back in the ski industry post Covid. We’ve been calling the Pandemic in ski tourism ‘the new normal’ – well now it’s time to get ready for the “Next Normal”.