September 7, 2010, 2:23 PM

Create a mobile buzz users will remember

Retailers need to find ways to keep customers talking.

Lead Photo

Loren Gray, director of e-commerce at Ocean Properties Ltd.

E-commerce managers can roll out a mobile commerce site fairly quickly with straightforward features and functions, but in the long run the site needs to create a lasting buzz, says Loren Gray, director of e-commerce at Ocean Properties Ltd.

Gray, who will speak about the importance of that buzz at the Mobile Commerce Forum in a session titled “Building a site in 45 minutes or less,” says Ocean Properties, the fourth-largest privately held franchise hotel operator in North America, launched its mobile commerce platform in 2009 from Movitas LLC relatively quickly.

Well before the launch, however, the e-commerce team at Ocean Properties spent considerable time and resources figuring out how to do mobile commerce the right way.

“If the mobile commerce platform isn’t complex and can be put into a template format, anyone can pretty much launch mobile commerce quickly,” he says. “The most time should be spent on building a mobile commerce site that delivers an experience that’s personal and relevant to the end user.”

Ocean Properties launched a mobile marketing program more than four years ago and that experience helped the company develop its mobile commerce effort fairly quick, says Gray. Prior to the launch, Ocean Properties spent a lot of time looking at the response rates to various mobile marketing campaigns and then in building a mobile commerce site that, in addition to letting users book, pay and manage their room reservations, also afforded value-added utility once the traveler was on vacation.

With their smartphones and other handheld devices, guests at an Ocean Properties hotel or resort can receive special offers during their stay and apply charges for booking a meal or scheduling a spa appointment directly to their bill. At one beach front property, Ocean Properties is also piloting a new program that allows a guest lounging in a cabana to download and peruse the food and drink menu and then place an order. The bill is added to the guest’s account.

“Rather than have the guest have to wait for a waiter, who then has to use a walkie-talkie to relay the order to the bar or kitchen, the guest is using his mobile phone to place the order directly,” says Gray. “This way is mobile, more convenient and gets them their food and drink that much quicker.”

At a typical Ocean Properties location, mobile commerce traffic averages about 400 visits to 600 visits per month, says Gray. Between 16% and 20% of that traffic results in a food or drink order or another value-added transaction, usually from a targeted mobile promotion a guest receives during his stay, he says.

“Creating mobile commerce quickly and efficiently is only one part of the equation,” Gray says. “The bigger mission we want to accomplish with mobile commerce is leaving a lasting buzz. If he is back from vacation and tells friends and family about the great deals and service he received from his phone during his stay, he will remember that and so will others.”

Why the editors asked Gray to speak:

Loren Gray joined Ocean Properties Ltd., the fourth-largest privately held franchise hotel operator in North America, in 2001. Today, he has e-commerce and mobile commerce responsibilities for all of Ocean Properties' more than 130 hotels and resorts. He came through the ranks in the hospitality industry, working in food and beverage, hotel operations, and general management, and has also owned and operated several hospitality ventures. He credits this perspective for the success of Ocean Properties' e-commerce and mobile commerce ventures.   

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