A new app designed to bring tourists to Washington communities by using “gamification” is being considered by the Tri-County Economic Development (TEDD) district as a marketing tool for the area.
The “468 Insider” cell phone application was developed by Tim Fry as part of a grant to promote the San Juan Islands. Fry was in Colville on Aug. 31 to share how the app works with TEDD staff and other interested community members.
“This app uses gamification to encourage people to visit a location and allows them to earn ‘points’ that they can then redeem at a local business,” said Fry. “Gamification has been used for a long time, lately we are seeing it with the Pokemon Go app, but this is better because instead of having people stare at their phone, the app encourages them to engage with the place they are visiting.”
The app is essentially a platform that can be tailored to any area in the state in order to highlight its historical attractions, educational opportunities and recreation offerings. The app for the San Juan Islands, called the San Juan insider, highlighted historical attractions as well as suggestions for those traveling with pets, real estate features, business services and weather conditions.
Fry said he decided to develop the app for the islands after moving to the area from New York.
“The San Juans are low-tech, maybe by design, but when visitors come they have certain expectations about their experience and what kind of technology will be available,” Fry related. “So this app provided interactive information for visitors, but it also provided an important data collection tool for chamber of commerce organizations and others.”
Fry said the app collects data on how many people have downloaded the app, how many have redeemed the points they earned by visiting different sites and other user data. Prior to the app, Fry said efforts to collect data were varied and somewhat unreliable.
“Some of the data collection efforts I saw included people standing at the ferry landings with whiteboards that said ‘how many people were in your vehicle?’ or at a community play they would ask people from out of the area to stand up or people from out of the state to stand up and that’s how data collection was done,” Fry said.
Having a reliable way to collect data on visitor numbers and habits can be very important for economic development districts or chamber of commerce organizations who need the data to apply for various state and local funding, Fry said.
TEDD is interesting in working with Fry to bring the app to the tri-county area and is working to recruit chamber of commerce organizations who would be willing to act as local administrators for the app. Administrators can add app locations and promotions specific to their area, improving or tweaking the app functions as needed.
Fry said the cost for an app that provides 25 locations is $2,500 a year. An app with 300 locations runs $7,500 a year. TEDD said they are willing to help offset or pay for the cost, but only wants to do so with the buy-in and commitment from the local community.
Shelly Stevens, the Regional Marketing Director for TEDD, will share about the 468 Insider app at the Chewelah Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 9. For more info, contact Stevens at 684-4571 or by email: email@example.com.
By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff