How Technology and Digital Platforms Can Benefit Golf
Digital technology is a powerful marketing tool for all golf clubs and businesses in the modern era, something we have previously covered. Following our 2018 Survey, we delve into the feedback and replies from our audience of avid regular golfers to find out the key things that golf clubs and business should be ensuring they do to maximise income and engagement in 2019.
From the Golfshake Survey it wasn't unsurprising to see that 94% of golfers now have a smartphone, a rise from 81% in 2014, with almost 100% of golfers under 60 stating that they had a smartphone device. 89% of golfers over 60 stated they have a smartphone which is up from only 62% back in 2014. Increased use of mobile technology makes it easier than ever for golf businesses to communicate and engage with golfers and the survey data also highlighted the increase in digital and social media platforms.
How Golfers Consume News & Content
The primary digital platforms identified were online websites, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram. This clearly provides a great opportunity for any golf business; are you engaging with other websites to cover your product in articles? Are you regularly publishing content to your own social channels? Have you thought about content on YouTube or even YouTube based advertising? And with the increased use in WhatsApp, could the broadcast group technology provide another way for you to communicate direct with your loyal customers? These are potentially exciting questions that provide a great opportunity. It was also noted, unsurprisingly, that younger golfers were more likely to be using online platforms.
Websites were highlighted as being one of the primary sources for golf news and tour content, with 48% of respondents stating that they accessed websites for news and tour content on a regular basis, with 35% using specific mainstream media such as the BBC, Sky Sports, and newspapers for similar content. TV coverage was still identified as the main source with only 15% stating they never accessed and 75% accessing on an occasional to frequent basis. Golfers under 40 were far less likely to read print based sources for news and tour content.
The Importance of Online Reviews
For golf clubs, online websites and review services can be an effective route for marketing and customer acquisition. 83% of golfers stated that they had read reviews online - on platforms such as the Golfshake Course Section - and 80% stated that online reviews had helped with their decision making when playing a new courses. This was even more of a factor with non-senior golfers, 87% and 83% for those under the age of 60. Additionally 43% of golfers regularly read online reviews and 38% used the online reviews as part of the decision making, particularly non-club members who are more likely to use the online content which highlights an area of importance for any golf club looking to attract transient golfers to visit their venue.
Building on the feedback in relation to reviews, it is becoming even more important to present a good impression online for golf clubs and selling the 'product' to an online audience. Only 16% of golfers said that they had never relied on feature reviews when planning to play a new course and only 13% said they never looked at independent reviews on sites like Golfshake, underlining how key having a strong presence online can be for venues. It is also worth noting that independent reviews from regular golfers are slightly more influential in the planning process than longer form feature reviews. Additionally, golf clubs shouldn't simply just focus on their online reputation - feedback related to word of mouth/peer feedback still ranked highest with only 4% of golfers stating that they never relied on word of mouth and 11% noting word of mouth was extremely important and 55% saying it was very important.
Attracting Visiting Golfers
Golf clubs looking to attract visiting golfers should also ensure that their presence online is always updated and relevant, and not just for the digital platforms already mentioned. Only 23% of golfers stated that access to online course videos wasn't important at all when planning a new course to play. 13.3% said the club's own website or images weren't important, and surprisingly 13.8% stated score cards weren't important. How many golf clubs ensure that they have their fully updated score card on their own website, access to a course map or course video? 49.4% stated that access to course video was somewhat, very or extremely important when planning to visit a new course. This figure jumped up to 66.1% for use of the clubs website and images, and 67.5% for access to the score card information.
With an ongoing shift towards use of technology and with access to the Internet at our finger tips with the rise of smartphones booking golf is becoming easier. Although club members were more likely to call the pro shop to book a round with 50% doing this often, closely followed by the golf club's own online software. However, non-club golfers were more likely to use online tee time services - including the Golfshake Tee Time Search - with calling closely followed. Unsurprisingly, the younger the golfer, they are more likely to use technology based solutions compared to older golfers who were more likely to use the telephone and traditional methods.
How Digital Media Influences the Equipment Market
Finally, relying on technology based solutions for help with new equipment purchases continues to increase. When looking at age based categories, starting with under 40s, 67% rely on social content and recommendations to some degree when purchasing new equipment, 74% on YouTube videos and reviews and 86% relied on online features and reviews in their purchasing process. The 40-60 age group dropped slightly to 50% for social, 65% for YouTube and 85% for online. This dropped further for the over 60s with 36% for social, 49% for YouTube and 75% for online features.
Ultimately, across each demographic, the use of digital technology and platforms is increasing annually, and it will soon become universal, as more or less already has done for younger golfers. It requires an industry-wide adjustment - something that many clubs are leading - but it will be a challenge with reward as the game looks to accomodate the changing and continually progressing consumption behaviour of contemporary society.
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