Millennials have different expectations of leisure activities than previous generations. After all, they have grown up in a time when digital pioneers like Amazon, Airbnb, Netflix and Uber have reshaped their everyday lives with killer convenience and exceptional, personalised service.
On a lot of occasions the golf industry gets nowhere near this level of convenience or personalisation (from a 'digital' not a 'service' standpoint). At this point, it is important to remember that we are not just competing within the golf industry, but vying for the attention of the person over all other leisure activities. It is very important for golf courses to focus on a customers' experience when using their websites and apps. Tapping into a golfers needs and desires is crucial when marketing a golf course through these channels, which all comes down to image/video assets, then how well your website app/performs and how you get the golfer to interact with your website in the first place i.e. digital marketing strategy. Grabbing a golfers attention can be the first step to loyalty and turning a visiting golfer into a member. However many golf clubs have no overall digital strategy, never mind one focused on each type of customer. The messaging has to differ from member, to visitor, to group golf bookings.
The industry has a way to go as golfers of any age can attest, the experience of booking a game of golf online can be clunky, frustrating and time consuming, as it can be over the telephone with a large amount of calls going unanswered (I am speaking from personal experience here).
With all that in mind, here is what we think the golf industry should be looking to achieve over the next few years, which will hopefully encourage the younger generation to get into golf (we are not forgetting all the other important activities which helps golfers get into golf, like a welcoming atmosphere, beginners programmes from the PGA Pro etc, but we see the first step on that journey as digital marketing:
Get our mobile act together:
We now work with over 100 golf clubs across the UK, and when you consolidate the data from Google Analytics mobile web sessions account for 62% of all sessions to a 'visitor booking engine' and tablet accounts for 9%. Mobile sessions are steadily increasing, eating into the share of desktop. The obvious conclusion; a strong, appealing mobile presence is crucial to attract visiting golfers!
We as an industry still flag behind other industries when it comes to up selling. Some technology providers do not offer buggy booking on their tee booking platform. There is so much opportunity to up sell and increase revenue with automated emails and simply the option to purchase, but the technology prevents us from doing this easily! That said, we don't want to annoy customers in a similar fashion to when you book a flight and have to navigate your way through checking in with out paying for it (my recent experience of Ryan-Air!)
Reduce cumbersome screens and processes:
Booking a tee time simply should not be as time consuming or difficult as it often is. This is a problem for people any age - an oft-quoted Microsoft study said humans now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish - and Millennials seem especially selective about the content they consume.
Look how successful Amazon's 1 click purchase has been, there is no reason we couldn't have something similar in the golf industry. Sign in to the booking platform with your Google/Facebook account, pay with Amazon Pay/PayPal/Apple Pay or pay on arrival as very few online bookings cancel due to their last minute nature), and boom, it's a seamless easy experience!
If we don't make these changes people lose their motivation to book, think they will do it later and either book another activity, another golf course or nothing at all.
Embrace technology that can help:
Only last week did I speak with a golf club who was not interested in online booking, even though they took tee time bookings over the telephone, had a website and social media presence. We as an industry must make golf easy to book and take part in. A golf course who refuses to take bookings online is without doubt losing business to their competitors but also to other sports. (Rant over!)
Although swathes of this blog point to what the golf industry is lacking from a digital booking standpoint, there is lots of great stuff happening with the various 'Get Into Golf' programmes, the new craze of Adventure Golf and how can you not mention TopTracer and what seems like a golf range digital revolution! It really feels like the golf industry is catching up and in parts overtaking other sports. Here at The Revenue Club we are on a mission to make the visitor golf booking journey digitally friendly!