EpicMix could certainly result in a better user experience while skiing at a Vail Resort. The inclusion of game mechanics (leaderboard for difficult runs, amount of vertical skied, number of runs, etc) was a no brainer. The ability to create and shareUser Generated Content (videos, pictures) via the app was obvious as well. This initiative is undoubtedly in the early stages, however this is a big launch and the potential is huge. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Currently the functionality seems a bit limited, which is not surprising as cell phone coverage to GPS phones can be spotty at best on the slopes. Hence Vail opted out of partnering with a Gowalla or Foursquare and instead are going it alone. From what I have read, your “Peaks” or season pass is scanned at the bottom of each chair. Vail has been “passively” doing this for some time now. What the new Epic Mix app does is record this information and make it accessible and interactive.
According to Chris Dannen of BNet, “In Two Years, Facebook Places Will Look Like This App,” and this offers “a preview of what bigger real-life social networks will look like soon.”
Granted, Vail might not have an exact monetization strategy, as Mike Slone, Interactive Director at Vail Resorts recently tweeted, “The list is long for future functionality and integrations, enhancements will be based on user needs, focus groups.” The opinions I’ve seen online seem to be that it will be a while until Vail sees an ROI.
There is no doubt Epic Mix will add tremendous value to the user experience at Vail Resorts. My question is, what incremental value will this app add in terms of revenue? How many season pass renewals will be a result of using this app? How many increased skier days will result because of this app. How many new visitors will be a result of shared UGC from this app? R-O-I.
I believe the real bread and butter will come from skiers sharing their experience. Many folks visit ski resorts to get away from the Internet, social networks, their computer, and maybe even their phone. Make it easy to share, incentivize them to do so, and you could create a powerful sales tool. One of the cheapest marketing avenues out there is word of mouth and creating an effective virus on the social graph.
Vail Resort Marketing folks have said themselves that video is the most effective tool to sell their product. How about a video of someone you know having an experience you would like to have? Or a wipe-out video that goes viral? OR a Dumb and Dumber-ish tongue stuck to cold chairlift video?
The new social networkers and gamers will come to expect, and enjoy some of the same online Social Network attributes in an offline environment. Think of all the travel/resort/lodging companies that will follow in order to drive engagement and loyalty. The new tools are awesome- Loyalty Programs, Leaderboards, Upsells, UGC, etc. How about combining those with major brand sponsorship (K2, Burton, NorthFace, etc)??
I do find it suprising no one has mentioned the ski apps that currently exist. Is that because not many can touch the distribution/download volume that Vail Resorts will be able to have? Here’s an idea- put up one cell tower so everyone has GPS coverage and then buy Phresheez, which (gasp) actually tells you which runs you were on!
As I said, with EpicMix the potential is huge. To realize that potential the ease of sharing and incentive to do so will ultimately lead to successful social marketing. If successful that social marketing drives skier days and lodging bookings.
Eric Hoffman has a good blog post about the App.
There has also been a good amount of press and reviews from:
Snowfeeds.com briefly touches upon the privacy of “being tracked.” (Honestly a big part of me hitting the slopes is to escape technology, screens, and the internet.)
I like how Aspen: Skollie Magazine wrote:
“…consider the emotional effects. If a visitor has a positive experience with EpicMix, it translates to brand loyalty. The app sits on your mobile desktop all year, and that may be enough to make a person book a trip to the same destination next winter. The more visits, stats, and pins that you acquire, the more devoted you become to that resort. Terrain, amenities, and culture will remain the key factors, but this is an extra amenity that some people may require.”