Software integrations exist with one goal in mind—to make your life easier. At Campspot, we’re on a mission to elevate and transform the campground industry by empowering campground owners with innovative technology and actionable data. That’s why 2024 is all about heavily prioritizing integrations and partnerships that help you take your business to the next level. But when it comes to building integrations, we’re pretty picky. Why? Because our highly selective list of integration partners is built to curate a best-in-class experience for our software users.
To learn more about what integrations mean to Campspot and how they can help parks unlock their full potential, we sat down with Bryan Beightol, vice president of product and design, and Ryan Powell, technical product manager. Read on as they translate the complex world of integration jargon into meaningful considerations and decision points for campground operators.
Hi, Ryan and Bryan! To start, can you explain what a software integration is in the simplest terms?
Ryan: In simple terms, integrations are connections between different platforms that allow them to work together. They help systems communicate with each other and share information, making processes more efficient and reducing manual work. Integrations ensure that data flows smoothly between platforms, keeping information consistent and up to date. They simplify complex workflows and improve the user experience by enabling platforms to collaborate effectively.
Bryan: At Campspot, we offer a variety of integration types. Some integrations are focused exclusively on reporting, some securely share end-user data between platforms, and some update the entire user interface relative to the integration. Beyond the importance of the integration itself, it’s often more important to understand how the outside platform is integrated, and for that it’s helpful to understand the basics around APIs.
“API” is a commonly used term. Can you explain what this is and how it relates to an integration?
Bryan: API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s simply a set of rules written in a specific language that allows one system to access certain data or capabilities within another system. Think of an API as a customized way to integrate two platforms. A very common analogy is to imagine an API like a waiter at a restaurant.
The customer has to get a message to the kitchen so the kitchen can respond with food. The waiter is how this message is recorded, shared with the kitchen, and delivered back to the guest in the form of the desired dish.
Ryan: The interesting thing with APIs is their directionality. For example, we offer a unidirectional API whereby multi-park operators can access our booking engine while building a custom user experience across their different properties. APIs can also be bidirectional, where specific data is accessed and transmitted between two providers to enable certain functionality, which is the case in a high-functioning POS integration, like the integration we’re currently building with Lightspeed.
Aside from an API, another type of higher-level integration is a data integration. In this case, data or files are provided to the second system to parse through and transform it. An example of this is when you export a file from your banking system and import it somewhere else to streamline your accounting records.
Where does Campspot stand on open APIs?
Bryan: An API is considered “open” when it’s accessible to developers outside of the original software application. Open APIs allow developers to use a set of rules and tools to connect and integrate their own applications with the existing one. While we’re focused on adding integrations across a variety of functions, we are also setting up an API platform that allows third parties to easily integrate with us. That way, if we don’t offer an integration one of our customers has requested, there could be opportunities for that third-party to integrate with us. As the year moves forward, we plan to make more of our existing and newly developed APIs available for this purpose.
Given the different examples above, what is the optimal level of integration that should take place between providers?
Ryan: The answer is largely preference-based and value-driven. There are different overall approaches towards managing and growing a platform, which at their core either include or exclude the ability to integrate.
Let’s imagine a spectrum. On one end, if product developers desire a specific function for their system, then they will build it directly within—making the functionality native to the system. From A to Z, one software provider can attempt to satisfy all functional needs for its customers.
For Campspot users, Dynamic Grid Optimization is an example of a native feature that is only available on Campspot and drove $8.9 million in revenue for users in 2023. This exclusive feature is something that doesn’t make sense for an integration—but there are many functionalities that do present opportunities for creating connections with third-party providers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, product developers can choose to instead focus on a narrow set of native capabilities. Beyond this, additional system functionality may be satisfied by third-party integration providers. This approach prioritizes specialization and delegation by outsourcing some of the legwork.
Either product philosophy could be viewed as extreme. The former case may attempt to do too much or be too many things, while falling short across the board. The latter case could spread itself too thin and become less proprietary by being overly reliant on outsiders to fill its suite of offerings.
Where would you say Campspot falls on this spectrum?
Ryan: At Campspot, we’re developing toward the middle ground. We have a foundationally rich platform with a robust rules engine, yet we don’t feel the need to develop every feature ourselves. This is partly due to our team’s desire to focus on core reservation features and revenue-driving elements, but we’re also trying to curate the right experience for our campground operators. That’s why we are very intentional about choosing the right integration partners. A heavy weight is placed on customer requests and insights drawn from direct communication with customers. It’s the collective voice and votes from our customers and where the industry is headed that gives us very intentional direction on how we choose integration partners.
There is an appetite in the outdoor hospitality industry for abundant integration options, and for good reason. Every campground has a unique set of problems it is trying to solve.
At Campspot, we want to provide options; however, we also want to ensure we’re focused on integrations that add the most value for our campground customers, and avoid enabling myriad, sub-par integration experiences.
We’re aware of the common pitfall to prioritize quantity over quality, which is why we will always prioritize our core reservation features and revenue-driving elements while also striking the right balance of integration tools that actually work for the campground industry. Historically, we’ve focused on building the industry’s best pure campground platform, and now we’re ready to supplement our best-in-class solutions with integrations.
What else encompasses Campspot’s integration philosophy?
Bryan: Our philosophy boils down to two main principles. First, we keep our development team focused on maintaining and iterating the core software elements as much as possible. Even with numerous, powerful integrations, at the end of the day we still wouldn’t be as good of a provider if we didn’t prioritize our software basics.
Second, we’re working toward having a wide variety of integrations available right within Campspot that not only address the unique business needs of campground operators, but offer multiple options for any given vertical. For example, this could include multiple payment gateways, marketing services, and OTA providers.
What integrations does Campspot currently offer?
Bryan: I would look at the integrations we offer in four layers:
- What currently exists
- What exists but is being further developed
- What will be released in the very near term and can therefore be included in park plans for the upcoming peak summer season
- What is planned for release later this year
The full list of third-party services currently available through Campspot can be found on our Integrations Homepage.
To name some of our available integrations, we partner with:
- Mailchimp for ease of email marketing
- SimpleTexting to enable two-way text message communications between campgrounds and campers
- Factor4 to allows campers to buy and redeem gift cards online and at the Campspot-powered properties they visit
- A variety of OTAs including Booking.com, Vrbo, Airbnb, and RoverPass
- Most BI and data ingestion tools including Power BI, Looker, Webhook, S3, and SFTP
- Google Analytics for website performance and analysis
- Google Tag Manager to allow integration with website tracking and advertising platforms like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook/Meta Analytics, and more
- InexTech for license plate scanning and gate controls
- Unifocus for workforce management
- Sensible Weather for weather guarantee options at reservation checkout
- Clover Connect for payment processing
And of course, we have our own Campspot Online Booking API, which enables the integration of our availability and booking engine with park’s websites and third-party solutions.
In addition to what we currently offer, we also prioritize further developing and improving these integrations based on direct customer feedback and input. For example, we are expanding our MVP OTA integrations that enable listing of lodging inventory with Airbnb, VRBO and Booking.com to offer customers greater inventory control and management features.
We also have some exciting integrations we’re actively working on that are on schedule to release in the next few months. These include:
- Lightspeed POS integration
- Wild Energy wireless metering
- RemoteLock Access Control for common area doors and gates
- RemoteLock site-specific door access control
- Accounting integrations such as Quickbooks Online, Sage Intacct and Netsuite
- CRM integrations such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Hubspot
- Additional POS systems including a focus on retail and general purpose systems
After this, we are actively working on additional integrations which parks can expect to see later this year. Some examples of possible integrations we’re exploring include waiver/document management platforms, additional payment processors, and wristband payment systems among others. In the meantime, we’re aggressively working toward additional integrations with middleware platforms to facilitate the integration of multiple CRMs and accounting systems at once. In parallel, we’re also looking to add to our own APIs in order to empower others to integrate with us. In this way, we hope to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so others can easily follow and tap into our functionality.
This is by no means all inclusive of the vast amount of ambition and opportunity we see in the integrations space, and we plan to share more on additional future integrations in the months to come. Our ultimate end state is for Campspot to cover a vast array of integrations while also being a platform that can be easily built upon and integrated with other systems.
When it comes to integrations, what is the most common problem or cautionary tale for campground owners to consider?
“When you enable an integration, you’re not just connecting two things together. You’re either enriching or encumbering the user experience.”
Ryan: Having an integration is one thing. Having one that actually helps a park operator run their business more efficiently and generate more revenue is another thing entirely. When you enable an integration, you’re not just connecting two things together. You’re either enriching or encumbering the user experience.
Building an integration doesn’t guarantee it will work optimally for your customers’ use cases, especially those unique to the outdoor hospitality industry. We’re aware of operators that have been underwhelmed by integrations that claimed to do one thing but in reality worked counter to the practices of the campground space.
It’s irresponsible to enable an integration simply to check a box and to tout that you offer it. This philosophy creates new problems for users when the use case is mismatched. As I mentioned before, Campspot is set on curating a very intentional experience for our software users, which partly manifests in our selective choice of integration vendors to ensure the integration fits best.
Security is a common concern around integrations. What measures does Campspot take to ensure the security and privacy of data during the integration process? How does security factor into the decision to partner with a third-party vendor?
Bryan: Whether related to integrations or otherwise, everything we do at Campspot from a product development and design standpoint is centered on the protection of our customers’ data. We follow all industry authentication standards and best practices in general, such as our SOC 2 certification.
For our integrations, we don’t simply open up all of Campspot’s data to anyone who wants it. We’re much more mindful about the connections and protections involved. We only enable data-sharing that is absolutely necessary for the effectiveness of the individual integration, not unfettered access. We prioritize the protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in our integrations by implementing robust policies and controls.
Similarly, the vendors we work with need to have clear data privacy and security policies in place to meet our minimum standards for partnership. We’ve actually refined our integration decision-making process based on past dealings with platforms that didn’t meet certain standards. We also securely share our API to let other platforms build solutions into and for us, to unlock even greater systems capabilities for our customers.
Why is it important for campground owners to consider integration options when choosing a reservation software provider?
Ryan: In many cases, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for all park owners’ needs. We strive to be the industry leader for campground reservation software and to meet the needs of many, but it’s impossible for any provider to natively encompass all available features and requests of the diverse outdoor hospitality industry.
For example, partnering with a third-party payment processing company (which Campspot does) allows for more robust processing capabilities, above and beyond what we offer natively. When a park’s needs are more particular or they are looking to fill a specific gap in their business operations, they don’t have to choose between a collective software and individual vendors. They can have both, so long as the software integrates with their vendors of interest. Campspot exemplifies this win-win scenario.
With limited time and competing priorities, how do you prioritize integrations in Campspot’s development roadmap?
Bryan: From attending trade shows to speaking with members of our operator advisory council, we hear the feedback and needs of operators directly from the source. We want to know what solutions will be the best operationally and revenue-wise for our customers. We do our best to align our development timeline and capacity based on this input from those we serve.
What should campground owners consider when it comes to understanding the quality of an integration?
Bryan: If you are hoping to unlock the value of integrations through a software provider, make sure to ask them during a demo how knowledgeable they are about the integration and its specific fit for managing a campground. This may help to avoid the mismatch issues we noted earlier. And rest assured, Campspot keeps this fit top of mind!
Beyond just evaluating the software provider, the platform itself, and how well the integration works, there are a few next order questions to consider:
- How does it integrate, such as through a one-way API?
- What new capabilities does the feature unlock?
- What are its functional limitations?
- How is information transmitted?
Most importantly, ask if this new capability will make your daily operations run smoother. After all, you’re looking to reduce effort, not add to your to-do list.
That was a LOT of valuable integration information. Thanks! Any closing remarks for our readers?
Ryan: Campspot is at an exciting inflection point with integrations. We’ve been the best in the industry at focusing on our core platform. Now, we’ve reached the time to open up and demonstrate additional added value for our customers through strategic, thoughtful integrations while upholding our high standards that people have come to expect from Campspot.
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.