By Maddy Vitale
Ocean City’s business community and tourism industry will soon have a new high-tech tool to help it attract new customers with an expanded app that offers cash-free transactions.
The app was discussed at the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Summit held Thursday at the Ocean City Yacht Club.
“We want you all to walk with us. This is a new age. We are looking to benefit the business community. We are here for you,” chamber Executive Director Michele Gillian said. “We want to be at the forefront. We want businesses to thrive and hope the businesses come along with us.”
Ken Wisnefski, owner of the digital marketing company WebiMax, was the featured speaker at the summit. He has been working with the chamber and Sturdy Savings Bank to add new features to the app that will make it more convenient for people to shop without having to use cash.
The Ocean City Cash Free Program, which could be available by the end of the year, will be the next step in attracting more app users.
“What we are talking about doing is at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and attracts people who maybe viewed Ocean City as a town stuck in the past,” said Wisnefski, who is also the owner of the Mediawize group of online news sites, including Downbeach.com.
Wisnefski said he continues to focus his attention on attracting tech-savvy millennials to the city. Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996.
He noted that many young people don’t carry cash on them. But like people of all ages, they carry their phones.
“One thing that always came up about Ocean City is the notion that most merchants only accept cash. Fewer and fewer people carry cash,” Wisnefski said. “We really looked at the notion of blending the new technology and keeping with traditions. Ocean City Cash Free allows you to make payments through your phone.”
There would also be an app where people could give a gift of shopping in Ocean City at all businesses that participate in the Ocean City app.
During a question and answer period, members of the audience asked technical questions about the app and how it would benefit their businesses.
Aimee Schultz, owner of JASM, a public relations and consulting firm, asked about the gift card portion of the app.
“It sounds awesome. Is that going to be a citywide thing, or do you have to opt in on it?” she asked.
“The merchants would need to sign up for it. We need to be able to set up an account and then you would be a validated merchant,” Wisnefski said.
The goal is to get merchants to participate in the app to take advantage of the benefits of being a part of it, which would give them more exposure as a business, he said.
Wisnefski said the hope is to have the expanded app available by the end of the year.
Mayor Jay Gillian noted during the public portion of the summit that the purpose of expanding the app is to help grow Ocean City and enable the businesses to do even better.
“We have to handle change,” he said of the new features in the app. “We need to open our minds. We need to think what we can do to be cutting-edge.”
In addition to providing a feature to help retail merchants, the goal is to also help other members of the business community, such as dentists and real estate professionals, Michele Gillian said.