By Maddy Vitale
If you want to find out what events are going on, where to stay, any good sales, where to dine, get your car washed or even where a good dentist is, Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce is bringing the answers to your fingertips from your mobile devices with email alerts, social media platforms and the Ocean City App.
“The emails are a little different than the Apps. We have accumulated about 80,000 emails over five years. These are people who want to be in touch with events and businesses in Ocean City,” Michele Gillian, executive director of the chamber explained. “They go out weekly and we have seen our special attendance go up for events like Night in Venice. We also have seen advertising go up. The emails really help keep Ocean City in the forefront.”
Shawnda McGinnis, marketing director for the chamber, said the majority of people on the email list are second homeowners, then year-round residents and visitors.
The business of the week highlighted in the email blasts has been very successful businesses that belong to the chamber of commerce, Gillian noted. The chamber, which has 580 businesses that are members, also utilizes Facebook, with 140,000 followers, to advertise events and happenings.
“We have a task of bringing all of the events of Ocean City to so many people,” Gillian said. “After the Super Bowl, we are going to do a vigorous campaign to help people stay up-to-date on Ocean City with our weekly emails, Facebook and all of our advertising.”
The chamber launched the App in late August last year. Currently, it has 10,000 users. Gillian said she hopes it will help attract millennials, tech-savvy people ranging in age from 18 to 35.
“We knew we needed another layer to advertise Ocean City, which is why we came up with the App. Everyone uses their mobile phones,” Gillian said.
But it wasn’t easy to get it started, she recalled.
“It took a long time to come together, but it was certainly worth it,” Gillian said.
The App offers a lot for the user.
“You could find out what is happening with the tides, the weather, you could find a business – a painter, plumber or an architect or find out where you could get taffy,” Gillian explained.
The response to the App has been very positive, she said, adding that she hopes to be able to bring new features to its users in the future, and attract new users.
She said the chamber wants to add the ability to do financial transactions, much like with PayPal, on the App, to for example, enable the user to purchase a beach tag on their phone.
Geofencing is also something the chamber wants to investigate as a possible feature. It tracks where the App user is and could send out alerts for specials and sales in that area. If a person is shopping on Ninth Street, much like a GPS tracking device, it could specify a sale at a business nearby.
Throughout this weekend App and email alerts went out to the thousands of people. One of them was an alert to vote for Ocean City as America’s Happiest Seaside Town, a contest by Coastal Living Magazine which put it in the top 10 with the contest closing Feb. 6. Another alert went out on places to shop for your Super Bowl needs.
On March 15 the Chamber of Commerce plans to host a workshop at the historic Flanders hotel to market to the millennials. There will be a panel of experts and a moderator to go over geofencing and streamlining social media platforms, among other areas, to continue to improve communication between the businesses and the public.
“Change can be scary, but we are really trying to make it easier, so everyone can stay in touch with current technology,” Gillian said. “We try to make staying up with the changes fun.”