OCEAN CITY – Survey results taken over the summer of what visitors to the town’s website are looking for, specifically in making accommodations, revealed the need for more content and upgrades.
Andy Malis, president of MGH, Ocean City’s advertising firm, presented the Mayor and Council with the results of a survey on the accessibility of the town’s website, OCocean.com, and its accommodations page.
According to Malis, research was conducted to understand how the accommodations page, which is the most visited page on ococean.com, can best serve users, and whether a central reservation system would benefit visitors to the site.
From July 28 through Sept. 2, 2012, an online survey was conducted of visitors to the website by either a pop-up image on the accommodations pages or an email invitation to email subscribers, who had to qualify by having visited the website at least one in the previous four months.
A total of 808 responses to the survey were collected and out of those 563 of were completed.
Of those who completed the survey, 70 percent were female and 30 percent male; 63 percent were 45 to 64 years old; and 75 percent had an annual income of $35,000 to $124,000. Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey were the most highly represented states in the survey.
Also, 76 percent of the respondents were married, 52 percent of have children in the household, 44 percent had family including children and 31 percent were a couple.
“It was pretty well representative of our visitors,” Malis said.
The survey asked visitors how they are searching for and booking accommodations and 71 percent replied by hotel, 38 percent by motel and 36 percent by vacation rental.
Next the survey asked which of the following travel resources have you used to search for or book accommodations for your Ocean City trips and 51 percent responded by OCocean.com and out of that percentage 49 percent responded OCocean is the top preferred travel resource.
Of the options used to narrow down a search for accommodations, 68 percent look for an oceanfront or bayfront view; 52 percent look for an OC neighborhood location; and 49 percent for room types.
Malis pointed out that currently users are unable to search by room rate, but room rate is the top desired search criteria.
The survey asked if the respondents would be interested in a reservations system on OCocean, and 46 percent were very interested and 7 percent were not interested at all.
The results of the survey showed users would like the convenience of a central reservation system on ococean.com. However, many of their needs can be met by adding more information on the accommodations, such as more photos of the property and the rooms, additional information on room and property amenities, more detailed information on wheelchair accessibility and more detailed information on pet-friendly hotels.
“The bottom line on the survey was that while many people thought a central reservations system would be worthwhile, there were also a lot of people that said ‘I would like more meat in the information you have now.’ The good news is that the system can accommodate more information and we will be able to provide more information as long as it is provided by the hotels,” Malis said.
Next, Malis presented the need to upgrade OCocean’s Content Management System (CMS), which has not been done for over five years.
“The site was created so there would not be an ongoing expense to the town for constant changes,” he said. “There have been a lot of improvements to CMS in the past five years and so one of the things that we are recommending, not any cost to the town, is upgrading the CMS … this will allow for a much easier system.”
An upgrade to the CMS would allow for a new, modern platform that will serve as a long-term solution for future site updates as well as allowing for easy updates and sorting of all website content including events, deals and member data, simple, intuitive interface for ease of use by all website managers, and streamline and reorganize all forms, plus much more.
Other upgrading initiatives to take place will be to the Ocean City Insiders webpage as well as enlarging the Roland E. Powell Convention Center’s portion of OCocean.
Malis furthered, the Ocean City Insiders are an ambassador group of dedicated visitors to Ocean City who share their experiences and recommendations with visitors to the town’s website.
The Insiders promote events, offer tips about local businesses and answer questions about accommodations, dining, nightlife, etc.
The Insider’s portal was built in 2007 and integrated with OCocean in 2009, and traffic to this section of the site has grown each year.
A new platform for the Ocean City Insiders tool will offer the Insiders a better user experience, encourage more engagement with the tool, drive more traffic to OCocean, provide visitors to OCocean with more information and recommendations while planning their vacation, and an improved dashboard view for easier completion of tasks and more valuable content on the website.
“We are in the process right now of putting together a much more robust section to OCocean for the convention center,” Malis said. “Currently, it has a teeny tiny section on the site … we need a lot more than that … so we are going to be able to showcase the site in a really big way, in particular the expansion and redevelopment [of the convention center] right now.”
As the presentation came to a close, Council President Lloyd Martin said, “Moving forward with more photos and information on the website is the right thing to do, it’s the next step.”