Just as no two campgrounds or campground reservation systems are alike, many differences exist between software integrations. If this is a foreign topic to you, don’t worry—we promise it’s not as technical or irrelevant as it may appear.
Not only should you care about the nuances of software integrations, but integration knowledge will empower you to talk the talk and know what you’re really being sold within a park management system.
But First, What Is an Integration?
To reiterate from our related article, an integration is how multiple platforms communicate with one another to enable an end goal, such as information sharing, automation, task consolidation, and more.
This exchange of information and functionality can be unidirectional, bidirectional, and involve more than just two parties. There are varying levels of access an integration can unlock and key decisions about data discretion involved. Most importantly, software integrations extend the capabilities, control, and customer access a campground operator has when running their property.
Campspot’s goal is to simplify the complexities and jargon of integrations into meaningful opportunities for campground operators. Here are the eight top aspects to question when learning about or shopping for integration tools and the software providers who offer them.
It’s possible that a platform offers no integrations and instead tries to meet every user need and want from within its own suite of offerings. While there are pros and cons to this, Campspot takes a different approach. To quote Campspot’s technical product manager, “We have a foundationally rich platform with a robust rules engine, yet we don’t feel the need to develop every feature ourselves.”
Realistically, it’s impossible for any software provider to natively encompass every feature a park operator could request. Thankfully, integrations enable options and flexibility for both parties. In Campspot’s case, we make thoughtful integration choices in order to add the most value for campground operators and to curate the best user experience for our customers and their campers. For this reason, Campspot offers a wide array of integrations across the verticals that matter most to campground operators, and we’re developing more each quarter.
No matter where they stand on the spectrum of completely native development versus completely outsourcing features, make sure any software provider is able to logically explain their philosophy. If options, efficiency, and control matter to you when managing your property, then integrations will matter, too. Ideally, you won’t have to choose between the reservation system you love and a third-party vendor that will improve your operations. In short, you’ll be able to roast your s’mores and eat them, too!
Synonyms for “integrate” include accommodate, mesh, unify, and harmonize. However, it’s a common misconception when two systems integrate that all parts of each are unlocked and become seamlessly available as one. In most cases, only certain features and functionalities are available through the integration.
For example, a software provider may integrate with the popular email marketer Mailchimp but only synchronize your customers’ email addresses from the source software into Mailchimp. In contrast, Campspot’s integration with Mailchimp elevates the art of communication by not only synchronizing guest contact information, but also including detailed insights from their recent stays and patterns. This holistic approach enables users to create highly-targeted communications directly within Mailchimp, seamlessly and efficiently.
By eliminating the need for manual data transfers or list management across platforms, Campspot’s Mailchimp integration ensures an exceptional user experience for both campground operators and their guests. Every interaction is made more meaningful and personalized.
No matter the integration, make sure you understand its functional limitations and capabilities. Typically, a user isn’t looking to completely duplicate one system into another anyways, but you still want to know with confidence and peace of mind what you are and aren’t getting in the process.
All integrations should enhance, rather than encumber, the user experience. This is why you should be critical of whether an integration is actually compatible with the existing software you use. Unfortunately, a software provider may advertise an integration option without it actually being effective in reality or appropriate for the outdoor hospitality industry.
For instance, a particular point-of-sale system may seem excellent on paper, but if that system was built for the hotel industry, it may be overkill or not flexible enough to meet a campground’s needs.
Aside from software and industry compatibility, be wary of hardware compatibility, too. You don’t want to think you’ll have access to a powerful new tool, only to discover later that it requires you to use a specific device or operating system, upgrade your infrastructure, or buy a physical product to work properly. In some cases, buying a complimentary product may be mandatory and worth the investment, but you don’t want to be blindsided.
4. Data Security and Privacy
Information flow and the amount of that flow can vary greatly from one integration to the next, which is why it’s critical to understand how data is securely handled. Ask what types of information and access the systems need in order to enable the desired capability.
Depending on the level of access necessary, you should ask higher-order questions about security, such as the following:
- Why is access to this data necessary to complete the connection?
- What security measures are in place to protect sensitive information during the integration process?
- How is information transmitted and/or stored?
- What due diligence has the company done to substantiate their claims about security and privacy, such as certifications earned?
Keeping the above points top of mind will help you understand if the vendor does—or doesn’t—handle and safeguard personal information in the appropriate ways.
5. Pricing Structure
The inclusion of an integration in a platform doesn’t guarantee it will be free. You need to understand what features of the tool you will and won’t be paying for in order to fully benefit from the integration’s capabilities. For example, if an integration’s “free service” tier limits the number of contacts you can import, make sure this aligns with your requirements to avoid unforeseen if you exceed that limit.
To be clear, it’s not necessarily a problem if an integration comes at a premium. You simply need to understand the tradeoffs. Meaning, you shouldn’t pay for something that you won’t use or will cost you valuable time. Therefore, consider if the cost of the integration is greater or less than the improved efficiency and sanity of your operations. Outsourcing, streamlining, and automating are key words to help you mull this over.
Overall, the integration’s pricing structure (if applicable) should be transparent and easy to understand. There should be no hidden fees, including in the case of your business scaling up and surpassing certain thresholds over time.
6. Training and Support
First and foremost, support from your online reservation and campground management provider is key—whether that’s in the form of webinars, courses, customer service, or online learning. Training for the ins and outs of available integrations is also a must.
Examine the following:
- Does the software provider or integration provider supply tutorials and help when customers are first acclimating to a new integration?
- Do they explain how an integration will scale as your business grows in a number of ways (increased data, sites, or revenue)?
- Is customer support ongoing as needed or inaccessible after a certain trial period?
- Is there a clear understanding of where to go for support, specifically when dealing with integration-related issues?
Before signing on to anything new, understand how you will be supported for the life of the user relationship.
7. Performance Metrics
In order to know if a new tool is working in your favor, look no further than the numbers behind it. Like many other aspects of park management, performance metrics can provide assurance that the integration of choice accomplished its goal for you. These could be increased ancillary revenue, decreased staff time, increased bookings, decreased email bounces, and the list goes on.
Before committing to a new tool, ask what key performance indicators are commonly tracked and how these align with your goals. If the metrics don’t line up with what you hope to accomplish in the next year, it’s probably not the feature you should prioritize or test first. A savvy company can help you balance these goals and options, rather than trying to sell you everything plus the kitchen sink.
8. User Feedback and Case Studies
Similar to how an integration should improve your property management, the integration provider should be able to share testimony verifying this fact. Case studies are an incredibly helpful way to understand how someone in a very similar position to you was able to learn from a challenge and succeed.
These success stories from organizations who have implemented the integration are both a motivator and signal. If a software provider cannot connect you with a current integration user or produce a case study, consider what this speaks to.
If the feature is newly launched, it makes sense that a customer story may not exist yet because the feature is newer to everyone. If an integration doesn’t operate as advertised and users aren’t happy with it, then a customer story wouldn’t be viable, period. In the absence of testimonials, you can deduce the potential limitations and current user sentiment of the integration by asking a few simple questions.
If you’re interested in unlocking your business’ full potential, software integrations for your campground are a natural and powerful avenue for accomplishing this. During your next demo, when you’re asking about user experience, revenue generation, and dynamic pricing, be sure to ask about software integrations with confidence, too.
Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons—from snow skiing to scuba diving in the Great Lakes. A former Campspot marketing manager, Haley holds a B.A. degree in public policy from Michigan State University and an M.S. degree in sustainability from the University of Michigan. She is passionate about environmental stewardship, exploring the outdoors, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.
Image credit: Adobe Stock user – fizkes