Calgary-based CanaDream Corp. has been renting out recreational vehicles for more than 15 years, with locations in six provinces and territories. Although there are various high-tech aspects to the company’s business, including the software it uses for booking and reservations, it was a recent digital endeavor that got customers buzzing – an iPad app.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, reported that six years ago, CanaDream began working on a project to develop a GPS-based tool that would offer RV users access to nearby points of interest, CEO Brian Gronberg says. CanaDream initially designed the software for GPS navigational units, which at the time were still growing in popularity. But that all changed in 2010.
“We were all set to launch (the software) a year ago on GPS screens,” Gronberg explains. “And then they announced the iPad, and we went ‘stop’ – the technology has caught up with the idea.”
The company quickly reworked the software for the larger tablet screen, and it soon signed deals with its carrier partners to give RV customers access to data through cellular or Wi-Fi connections, making the CanaDream app accessible on the road.
The idea is simple. The app essentially picks up a user’s location and offers information about nearby points of interest such as camping sites. The almost 3,000 options are collected from CanaDream’s 700 or so partners. In addition, customers get access to special discounts from those partners.
Just as they rent RVs, customers can now also rent iPads from CanaDream, or bring their own and download the app from the company’s website or on Apple’s iTunes store. A version of the app is publicly available for anyone to use, but only the RV rental customers get access to the discounts feature.
The explosive growth of consumer tablets has proven to be a boon for many small businesses, from restaurants that now use them as menus, to traveling salespeople who can do video displays of their products on the spot. Unlike major technological investments, tablet apps often cost relatively little, and they are easily distributed through various app stores.
But there’s another advantage. Unlike the somewhat more fragmented smart phone market, the tablet industry is still essentially a one-device arena. Because Apple’s iPad still dominates sales, small and medium-sized businesses can usually get away with designing an app specifically for that device, rather than paying extra for a presence on multiple platforms.
For now, Gronberg says CanaDream is focusing on adding more destinations and discounts to the app, in the hopes that the location-specific information and discounts it provides RV users will distinguish it from the competition.
“Yes there’s all kinds of guidebooks out there,” he says, “but sifting through it all to make the information applicable is always a very tedious job.”