Desktop App Lifts Ski Resort

With summer almost here, few of us have skiing at the front of our minds. But the attention one Internet company gave to this snowy activity just a few months ago produced an invaluable interactive marketing program. It even won an award.

Digital Marketing Concepts’ AdTools Inc. is a Boston-based firm that creates Internet-enabled applications designed to build a “two-way communication channel” between marketers and consumers (I wrote about this firm before). Last October, AdTools became aware of a problem faced by mountain resort operator Vail Resorts. E-mail open rates were on the decline, and consumers weren’t frequenting the site enough for Vail to deliver sufficient offers and resort information. AdTools came up with a solution.

AdTools unveiled Vail SnowMate, an Internet-enabled desktop application that supplies information and special offers to users daily (download here). The downloadable program includes such features as a weather feed, snow condition updates, resort video clips, and travel offers, all designed to draw users to the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone resorts. Users were alerted when new information was made available, and Vail staff managed the entire system using a Web-based publishing system.

AdTools included customized ScreenMates desktop characters as well. An animated skier entertains users by reacting to snow conditions.

Vail SnowMate posted on Vail’s Web site as a free added feature in January 2004 and came down in May (though the downloaded applications now run with summer information). Overall, there were over 55,000 downloads. More than 50 percent of users ran the feature for over a week, with many allowing it to remain on their desktops for over a month. Given continued mistrust among Internet users of some desktop applications, this is quite an accomplishment.

Interaction with the program was also high. The average user clicked within the application about 75 times. Along with the sheer volume of users who downloaded the program, it was this level of consumer engagement that ultimately led to the program’s success.

In all, Vail Resorts was able to boast over $200,000 in measurable revenue from direct click-throughs. There was indirect revenue to boot. The program was also just named Best Travel Interactive Application in the Web Marketing Association’s 2004 Internet Advertising Competition awards.

Vail SnowMate illustrates the potential value of customized desktop applications. These programs can be developed to meet virtually any need, from delivering product information over time to alerting consumers of time-sensitive offers.

In many scenarios, these tools also represent the ideal alternative to other forms of online marketing. When email marketing no longer garners consumer attention, and site traffic stabilizes or drops off altogether, most marketers look to online campaigns. Though campaigns can be very successful at increasing site awareness and visits, user inactivity at clearly required something more.

Vail SnowMate provided audiences with information and entertainment in a novel and convenient package. It helped create a positive and memorable brand experience likely to carry over into future ski seasons. Perhaps most important, it re-established communication between marketer and consumer.

This type of marketing can lead to long-tern corporate and brand success.

Related reading