Proptech Growth Strategy Brief Newsletter
HipCamp Growth Strategy
HipCamp is a double-sided marketplace for campers and land owners looking to host campers. Here's a quick 3-point strategy brief on how I'd aim to grow their user base and revenue.
"Grain of Salt" Warning: I write this newsletter with an outsider's understanding of the business in question. I am likely to make mistakes, leaps of judgement, and assumptions - that's what makes it fun.
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In some ways, urban and rural real estate markets are worlds apart from each other. In other ways, they're very similar.
No matter where land is, NOI (net operating income) is usually the key metric, and empowering land owners to increase NOI is always good business.
Enter HipCamp. To use a dated metaphor, it's essentially Airbnb for campsites. Property owners or managers can list their camp sites (or land that could be used as camp sites), and consumers can book and pay for access to these camp sites.
HipCamp had lots of early PR buzz because they were easy to understand and were playing to an under-appreciated subclass of the real estate world. This seems to have kicked off a very good consumer user acquisition engine. But like many marketplaces, supply constraint now seems to be their primary growth barrier.
Here's how I think they could unlock new levels of growth.
On the consumer booking side, HipCamp's SEO game is on point. They're ranking very highly for searches for "Camping in [City]" in many US locations. This is very important, since camping length of stays are likely shorter than hotel stays, and the average basket size will be much lower than Airbnb.
But campsites, like hotels, are deprioritized and subsumed into Google My Business's map view.
The easiest way around this is to buy Google Search Ads, which appear above the map view on all searches. With quality copy, HipCamp could get great click-through rates by positioning itself as the comparative marketplace for campsites, rather than the alternative of browsing dozens of websites to find the right place.
For campsite supply, things are not as clear. Though the gap is closing, the internet still forms a smaller part of the daily lives for rural people than urban people, due to factors like lagging internet speeds, older average ages, and the unavailability of digital services like ride sharing and delivery.
Because of this, targeted mailouts may be a useful avenue to consider. HipCamp has been around long enough to have likely reached all their early adopters and early majority audience - to reach the late majority, going analogue for this audience may help.
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It appears like HipCamp gets a ton of organic search traffic with it's well-positioned "30 Best Campgrounds near [City]" landing pages. That said, the landing page experience could do more to hold onto the traffic they produce.
Traffic acquired around such high-intent keywords are valuable, but fickle. They may buy right away, or they may go to another site and buy immediately after. To combat this, HipCamp should be trying to capture their email addresses with an exit intent popup. Offering email signups a $5 coupon code for signing up would be a small price to pay for a high intent user.
On the supply side, HipCamp runs social ads trying to get land owners to signup to host. The page they're sent to does a good job addressing obvious objections, but it very light on social proof, which is key in converting users in situations where trust is required. Producing high quality testimonial videos, quotes, and user generated content will go a long way to building trust with a group of people likely distrustful of a software company telling them what they can do with their land.
Beautiful outdoor places? Adventure? HipCamp is the perfect Instagram brand, and creating a user-generated content flywheel will go a long way toward building brand awareness and trust based of existing customers.
Hit customers with an email asking them to tag HipCamp in a photo or video of them at their campsite the morning of their check-out in exchange for being entered in a contest to win HipCash (HipCamp's credit system). This will both build brand affinity (because people will want to be consistent with their past behaviour) and create social proof amongst that customer's followers. HipCamp can then repurpose the best ones in their own social content to complete the flywheel.
It's likely that hosts using HipCamp will talk with their other friends about it at some point, so host retention should be paid close attention. There are no tricks here other than to make their experience as good as possible - great customer service, vetted guests, and gameified incentives that reward hosts for more bookings.
That's it for today. Thanks for reading!
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