As a golf course owner or manager, you want to create an exceptional experience for your patrons.
While the features of your course and club play a big role, so can technology. Digital tools are transforming business operations, offering you the ability to provide your clientele with a higher level of service.
Today’s new technology, however, can feel overwhelming and even intimidating. How do you know what will provide a good return on investment and what is a waste of time and resources? By understanding software and its uses, you can make good choices, simplify and streamline operations, and impress customers with the modern conveniences they want.
SaaS technology serving golf courses
Software as a service, commonly referred to as SaaS, is cloud-based technology that can help you run your golf course. Instead of being purchased and managed on your own, SaaS is leased through monthly or annual plans with different levels and pricing, depending on your needs.
Golf course SaaS can help you handle internal tasks such as managing tee times, processing payments, coordinating equipment maintenance, manage employee schedules and organizing large events. And SaaS can offer customer-facing features through your website, such as online booking and ecommerce sales.
Benefits of the cloud
SaaS lives in “the cloud,” accessed and run online instead of being uploaded and used directly on a business’s own server. Cloud-based services offer benefits that can help golf courses operate more efficiently. For example, you don’t have to worry about hosting and maintaining software, which can save money and eliminate the need for a deep knowledge of the technology.
Cloud-based software can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, providing uses on the golf course, such as running payments from a beverage cart. It also offers a high level of security. Information is stored in a large off-site server run by the software provider, using data encryption, advanced firewalls and intrusion detection.
And since SaaS is hosted in the cloud, you can be up and running shortly after registering. Most providers walk you through the installation and operating procedures, often with tech support on call should you need help. Once you find a product that’s a fit for you, you can install it and start enjoying its benefits right away.
With a variety of solutions on the market, it’s important to understand the best-of-breed philosophy that will allow you to choose the right software for every aspect of your operation. Best-of-breed software typically serves a specific niche or industry, offering functions that are specialized for that type of business.
While best-of-breed software will provide the most innovation to meet various needs, it’s important to choose the solution that also offers easy integration with other systems. As you explore all of the various options, check for listings of partner companies. You may already be using one or more of the integrated software partners. And you can build growth strategies based on what’s available.
Open, cloud-based application program interfaces (APIs) will allow data to flow from one product to another. Having connected, flowing data leverages the value that best-of-breed software offers. Instead of building in-house systems, you can leverage each solution’s strength and bring the system together on the same platform. This ensures that you have the best tool possible for every golf course operation to seamlessly manage all of your business functions from a centralized location.
And look for best-of-breed software that has the ability to add extra modules as your business grows. Modules can extend your capabilities by adding more users or features. SaaS pricing tiers will be structured on your needs so you only pay for what you use.
How SaaS technology provides flexibility to traditional golf courses
SaaS technology helps golf courses streamline operations and create new streams of revenue. As new software is introduced and existing providers add new functions and products, pro shops can evolve and grow for enhanced flexibility.
Accessibility for smaller golf courses
SaaS providers offer cost-friendly pay-as-you-go and pay-for-what-you-need business models, which means smaller golf courses can compete with the services offered at larger clubs to keep up with the evolving demands of the modern golfer. Small courses can test innovative new services without being locked into long contracts. And because there is no need to purchase costly equipment or software upfront, any size golf club can have access to state-of-the-art technology that might have previously been out of reach.
Additional features and products at the tip of your fingers
SaaS offerings are constantly evolving, and you can change your usage plan or easily add or remove features based on your needs. For example, as your business grows simply connect a new register in your pro shop by linking another point-of-sale (POS) tablet. Or expand offerings on the golf course with mobile-POS-equipped beverage carts or food stations. SaaS allows you to try new revenue-generating strategies and modify your plan to accommodate your goals.
Open systems allow you to add features available through other cloud-based apps, such as for loyalty programs. This can help you build a set of tools that are specific to your needs while keeping all of the operations centralized.
In addition, SaaS is backed by highly knowledgeable teams and large tech companies that shift the responsibility of the software to the vendor, freeing you and your team from the time-consuming duties of managing and maintaining complex systems. You won’t need to know how the software works; you can simply enjoy the features it provides.
How SaaS technology brings innovation to traditional golf courses
In addition to being flexible, SaaS technology helps traditional golf courses offer innovative new features to golfers. Ad Age recently reported that having an omnichannel retail strategy is vital for capturing the millennial market. This means having a consistent experience with customers at all touchpoints. In the past, golf courses have been slow to adopt the omnichannel strategy because of its complexity, but today’s SaaS technology is changing that.
How cloud data changes the way we connect with customers
Cloud data connects all systems, helping golf courses communicate with customers through many different mediums. Centralized data can react and respond with users in several different ways that weren’t possible before.
For example, your website can collect customer data that helps you provide a higher level of service. By tracking past sales or browsing history, you can personalize greetings and automatically provide product or tee time recommendations. Forty-three percent of consumers prefer to shop at stores that personalize the customer experience, according to research from Accenture.
And by having customer and product information handy in your store systems, you can personalize interactions to provide an outstanding experience. Pro shop staff members can quickly check past purchases as well as sizes and preferences. A POS also includes detailed product information that helps your team better assist customers and answer questions by being more knowledgeable.
Advanced SaaS helps you create better relationships with customers by giving you the necessary tools to communicate effectively. You can create profiles for golfers and use the information to send out tailored marketing messages. For example, entice golfers who haven't visited your course in a while to come back by setting up an automated email that will send a promotion code after three months. Two-thirds of consumers have made a purchase they otherwise weren’t planning on making due to a coupon or discount, according to RetailMeNot.
And technology also eliminates friction points that can hinder sales. For example, you can launch a mobile app or booking page on your website to allow customers to effortlessly reserve a tee time. This frees up your pro shop staff to help customers in the store.
How SaaS changes the way golf courses sell
SaaS offers golf courses more channels from which to sell. Your business is now not only a physical store but also a virtual one, and you can create a 360-degree marketing strategy that boosts sales as well as the customer experience.
With SaaS, you can reach a wider audience by adding your course to online tee time marketplaces. This helps you gain brand awareness, as well as customers who prefer online booking but don’t have specific course preference.
You can also sell merchandise through your website. Online sales will give your pro shop another marketing opportunity as well as another way to connect with your customers. If you send out a newsletter, for example, you can directly link to products to encourage customers to buy while the item is fresh in their mind.
Mobile apps make it easy for customers to book tee times, order food or buy merchandise from their phones. Golfers can check in and keep their score within the app, which helps promote timely rounds. You can even use push notifications to stay top of mind and boost sales.
Technology enables the use of dynamic pricing strategies that are driven by the necessity to have pricing that adjusts to multiple factors. Dynamic pricing helps you maximize profits and reward your existing customers, creating a win/win. This revenue management tool adjusts rates based on variables you set, such as days in advance, time of day, player type and occupancy rate. You can also adjust pricing on merchandise, offering discounts for members.
You can also implement loyalty programs in your pro shop and restaurant. SaaS technology makes it easy to track past sales and offer rewards. For example, you can offer a free beverage or meal after a certain number of purchases. Or offer a free or discounted round after completing a set amount of rounds. A 2019 study by 3Cinteractive found that 61 percent of U.S. shoppers make more store visits or purchases as a direct result of loyalty programs.
SaaS technology is all about continuous improvement
Your golf course may have a long and storied history, but its future is all about technology and innovation. By adopting SaaS, you can create a roadmap that helps you to continuously improve business performance with features and technologies that add value.
SaaS products evolve and improve all of the time, which was not possible with the old model of software sales that required an IT department who understood and could update old systems. By moving your golf course into the 21st Century, you can spend more time interacting with customers and less time managing technology.
Golfers visit your course to unwind and get away from the demands of their busy lives. By having the right tools and information in place, your team can offer them the seamless experiences they have grown to expect.
Gabriel Camiré is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Chronogolf by Lightspeed. He loves taking the best modern business practices and figuring out how they can work for the golf industry. His objective is to share knowledge and help businesses continue to prosper.