By Donald Wittkowski
Just in time for summer, Ocean City is expanding its tourist-friendly vacation app to allow users to buy beach tags and concert tickets simply with a touch on their mobile devices.
New features being added to the app also include geofencing, which tracks users and alerts them to such things as special events and sales at local businesses when they are in town.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted that the app is another way the resort is using technology to market and advertise itself to visitors.
“It really is a whole new way to connect with people in Ocean City, as well as with people outside of Ocean City,” she said. “It really keeps them in the know with activities that are going on and also establishes a rapport between the guests and local businesses, because if you look at the app, all the information is there.”
During the monthly meeting Thursday of the Ocean City Tourism Development Commission, Gillian described upgrades that are being made to the app. The Chamber and the Tourism Development Commission worked together to launch the app last August.
Currently, the app has 9,000 users, Gillian said. It includes a listing of special events, local businesses, places to stay and dine, real estate sales and vacation rentals. It also has a daily beach report.
With the approach of the summer tourism season, the Chamber is preparing to make a series of upgrades to the app beginning in May, including the ability for users to buy beach tags and concert tickets on their cellphones and mobile devices.
“You’ll be able to buy concert tickets and beach tags on the app? That’s awesome,” Councilwoman Karen Bergman, who is also a member of the Tourism Development Commission, told Gillian during the meeting.
Although beach tags and concert tickets will be available on the app, the buyers will still have to pick them up at City Hall, the city’s welcome centers and other places where they are sold, Gillian said.
Gillian, though, noted there are plans to upgrade the app again in the future so that beach tags and concert tickets can be bought and displayed on the mobile devices. That way, app users won’t have to show up to retrieve physical copies of the tags or tickets.
“That is the goal, to put everything on the phone,” Gillian said.
New advertising for shopping, dining and other amenities will also be added to the app, creating even more ways for the city and local businesses to connect with visitors and consumers.
Gillian said the app is an important tool to help attract millennials, the tech-savvy people generally ranging in age from 18 to 35.
Shawnda McGinnis, marketing director for the Chamber, told the Tourism Development Commission that people are posting screenshots of the app on social media, giving Ocean City even more exposure.
“We get a kick every time we see that,” McGinnis said.
The app, the city’s tourism website and social media are all part of the “brave new world” of technology that allows Ocean City to greatly extend its marketing reach, Gillian explained.
“We want to be on the cutting edge of technology. It is the future,” she said.
In another area of e-marketing, the Chamber has kicked off its 2018 summer advertising campaign on Google and Facebook. Snapchat geofilter and social media videos promoting the city are in the works for April and May, Gillian said.
An annual contest for a weeklong vacation giveaway in Ocean City is also underway on digital platforms and social media.
Traffic on the www.oceancityvacation.com website is up 4 percent overall for the first quarter of 2018, according to McGinnis. The website’s heaviest traffic comes from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For the first quarter, traffic is up 8 percent in New Jersey and 7 percent in Pennsylvania.
“So that all looked pretty good,” McGinnis said.
Overall, there were 3 million pageviews on the website in 2017, which McGinnis characterized as “a lot.”
Ocean City’s tourism campaign also blends more traditional forms of advertising such as billboards, print media and visitor guides with the digital marketing strategy.