Texting their way to the tee sheet
“Conversational commerce” is more present in the field than ever before. Instant response time, immediate conversation and prompt support – it’s the new standard. There seems to be a consensus that the golf industry of today is leaner and more open to changes in technology and emerging trends. Consumers communicate through a variety of channels and, lately, the use of phones, email and even smartphone apps have not compared to the popularity of instant messaging. The industry is more open to change than ever before, and with that comes more opportunity. That’s clear from the news that GOLF Business Solutions’ popular Answers service now includes two-way texting, Facebook Messenger and website chatting.
“I have been in the golf business since 1998. I have seen it all and I can say that I prefer the new way of doing things,” says Sean Dugan, Golf Operations Manager at Eagle Glen Golf Club in [CITY]. Dugan has been using the Answers platform for just over two years. “Everyone is moving towards technology because we save time and payroll,” he said.
The truth is that when it comes to entertainment, consumers generally spend more time on their mobile devices. Texting has the back-and-forth of a phone conversation without the need for both people to be free at the same time. Nor will a text conversation veer off into digressions the way phone calls can, eating up time. Email shares some of the same characteristics of texting, but emails can pile up and responding to them can consume time in a way that doesn’t happen with texting.
“If you compare phone, email and chat, it’s clear that preference changes based on user and situation. In many cases, chat or texting delivers a better experience,” says Andy Weeks, CEO of Chicago-based W5 Golf, a GOLF Business Solutions Partner helping build the existing Answers service into a full-on conversational commerce tool. “Website-based live chat was the intro for most consumers – it was well executed and became popular quickly. Now, there’s a real explosion in what people are calling omni-channel business communications.”
Since chat and texting first came along, additional functionality has been layered on. Those bells and whistles are a key reason that Facebook-which already had a huge investment in Facebook Messenger – spent $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp several years ago. WhatsApp is a messaging platform that allows a user to send texts, make voice calls and video calls, send images, documents and tag in their location.
“The world is moving toward chat and messaging because it doesn’t feel like an interruption,” says Mike Hendrix, vice president of GOLFNOW Business Services. “It allows the flow of whatever’s happening to continue.” Texting and chatting simplifies communication.
“All the functionality that now supports SMS makes it a vital tool for major retailers,” says Hendrix. “The supermarket chain Kroger is selling produce and canned goods through texting. Jos. A. Bank is texting customers to show them men’s dress apparel.”
Hendrix has in the past seen traditionalism out-duel the acceptance of tech among golf courses, but he feels even partial acceptance of “conversational commerce” will have a big impact. “Courses should see this as just another option,” he advises. “If you’ve got 5,000 people in your database, maybe only 1,000 will want to do business with you this way. Well, let’s serve those customers-and make the work flow more efficient for your staff in the process. We want to help as many operators as possible, to reduce their friction in communicating.”
Looking toward the future of conversational commerce, people like Hendrix and Weeks like to think its value as a marketing tool won’t get tarnished by ill-advised tactics. Commerce via the phone gave us the nightmare of dinner-time telemarketing calls. Email wasn’t around long before spam and scamming became commonplace. Given the benefit of hindsight, that doesn’t have to be the case with messaging.
“When this channel of communication gets developed as a marketing tool, it’s going to look different from email marketing,” Hendrix predicts. “So much has been learned as email marketing has evolved-what happens with conversational commerce will be more strategic.”
While “conversational commerce” is an easy concept to understand, adoption is still taking place. The Answers service is being implemented throughout the country. When asked to give advice to those who are unsure about this technology, Dugan advises fellow golf course operators, “Don’t get left behind. If your golfer wants to spend money at 11 p.m. and you aren’t available to take their call, they will spend it somewhere else.” Stay current by simplifying communication and serving all your customer’s needs.
Begin Phone Reservation service or contact your sales representative to add this new feature, then start connecting with your course’s text-preferring customers.