PCC e-commerce reaches out

Like millions of companies around the world, the Polynesian Cultural Center continues to expand its global reach by relying on the internet to convey information and complete sales.


Jeff Dunn, Senior Manager Digital Commerce

“The entire market is moving to online,” said Jeff Dunn, head of the PCC’s digital commerce and online marketing team, a small group with only four fulltime members. “Any company that wants to have a footprint in the market place needs to have an online presence. It keeps us top-of-mind for customers who wants an activity when they come to Oahu. That’s the biggest reason why we want to have a great, beautiful online presence.”

Online for 20-plus years: Dunn noted the PCC has relied heavily on computerized management information, reservations and ticketing systems for many years, and has maintained an online presence for over 20 years, “but it’s only in the past two years that our online business has grown substantially. We’re seeing some great successes with a very small team.”

He pointed out that “a website is just one aspect of digital commerce. Marketing it is another. Anyone can stand up a website, but getting traffic to that website is what my team helps to do — get eyeballs on the website for those in the market for something like the Polynesian Cultural Center.”

“There are a lot of different channels to do that,” Dunn continued. “Some of the biggest that we’re all very familiar with, when we want to go find something online, is search marketing — one of the biggest programs we’re managing right now. This is basically what allows customers to find us on the search engine results page at a very high rank. There are costs in order to get that to happen.”

“Another channel that we use is display, which is basically little banner ads on various networks out there. For instance, you might go to CNN and see a little PCC ad.”

“These all drive traffic to our main PCC website — polynesia.com,” Dunn said. “Everyone of these advertising spots — whether it be on Google, Bing, CNN, Facebook or other places — draw traffic to polynesia.com so that they can learn more and, hopefull, choose to buy tickets.”

In addition to Dunn, other members of the PCC -man full-time team:

• Arthur Mooso, PCC digital commerce marketing assistant, works primarily on:

Social media marketing: “We’re primarily on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and the big review sites like TripAdvisor. “Ultimately, I oversee the entire eco-system of pushing out content to the social media sites, and also moderating the conversations that go on,” he said. “For example, if people are asking questions, we engage on those social platforms. For the advisory sites, we have an intern who helps us respond after reading almost every single review anyone writes. He goes through and answers questions. It’s a lot of work going on.”


Arthur Mooso, Social Media Marketing Assistant

Like many people involved in social media marketing and promotion, Mooso and Dunn are always hoping for viral hits — content that gets viewed by a wide audience, shared and commented upon, until staggering numbers are achieved.  “For us,” Dunn said, “PCC has it’s own definition of ‘viral hit’ — at least a million views.”

“We recently had a video get about 1.3 million hits so far, featuring our Samoan Village ambassador, chief Kap Te’o-Tafiiti, husking a coconut with his teeth,” Mooso said. [You can watch the video on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQU6o4ooL5E ] “And we’ve also had several others that have reached 600,000–700,000 views.”

“Fortunately, we have a lot of robust analytics to help us measure these things,” Mooso added. “Before we launched Kap’s video, we had already predicted it would reach a million views. We are also working on another video featuring our newly renovated Tongan Village, that I don’t want to say anything more about at the moment, but you’re going to enjoy it.”

And the PCC affiliate program:  Mooso explained the Cultural Center partners with affiliated or other websites that put PCC advertisements and links on their respective sites. “Every time a person buys something from us through one of our officially contracted affiliate links, the affiliate receives a commission on the sale. It’s doing pretty well so far.”

Dunn noted that Mooso started the PCC affiliate program as an intern about a year-and-a-half ago. “It started out at zero,” he said, “and it’s now consistently about 16% of our total e-commerce revenue.”

• Susan Kunz is the PCC webmaster for shop.polynesia.com. “She handles all of the content on our retail web site, and the blog, which is currently attached to that website,” Dunn said.

“Basically, shop.polynesia.com offers product we sell at the Center online,” said Kunz. “The other aspect of my job is email marketing: I handle all of the emails for the Center.”

“shop.polynesia.com has been operating for about three years now. We’re sometimes referred to as ‘the baby’ of digital commerce, but we’re growing,” she continued.


Hwan Oh Koo and Susan Kunz

Kunz is grateful to have two very capable BYU–Hawaii students on her team: “Mike Mendoza, from the Philippines, handles data analysis for the entire department, and also helps design and measure the effectiveness of our emails,” she said. “Hwan Oh Koo, from South Korea, specifically focuses on product information management. Anything that has to do digitally with our products is his responsibility.”

“There is also Sister Nina Jones who lives here in Laie with her husband, Elder Ron Jones. They serve as senior service missionaries at PCC. She specifically helps with emails, blogs, copyrights, editing and continues to have a very large role in developing our new PCC app.”

“In the beginning, in terms of what product we should sell online, it was kind of like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what stuck. Now we focus on using data to make more informed decisions. Our PCC retail manager, Shelly Easton will also send us suggestions for items which she would like to see online.”

She added that retail emails go out every Friday. Content email goes out once a month, “and our Ohana Club email goes out every Wednesday.”

The Ohana Club: “Our Ohana Club has been great,” Kunz said. “It’s a completely different flavor than what we do for retail, and it’s nice to reach out to locals. This is a special group for local residents only – you must show proof of residency to join; it doesn’t go to anyone who hasn’t signed up for it. We want them to feel part of our ohana [familily], to generate word of mouth buzz. For example, we have so many people who tell us they haven’t been here since they were a little kid, or I’ve lived here for 12 years and I never came before. We work closely with other departments like Reservations, Marketing and the Marketplace to be sure that our kama’aina [locals] have the best information.”

Kunz pointed out the PCC recently offered Ohana Club members free ice cream on Saturday, July 31, and before that the PCC put on a July 4th event. Local Hawaii residents can join the Ohana Club for free. For more information, go to: https://www.polynesia.com/Ohana-Club-Info.html#.V5rwaWUafqQ

Christmas season mail-outs: Kunz added that once the Christmas season starts, the number of PCC emails will increase. “There’s so much going on at that time of year, but most people expect such increases. We don’t get any more push-back than we normally do.” In reference to such resistance, Kunz said, “Ours is very low: It’s less than 1%, and people can always opt-out.”

Dunn added, “Our customers opt-in to all of these things. There are actually laws which prescribe appropriate ways to conduct email marketing, and it’s always by opt-in subscription. We send a first message that’s not opt-in, and at that point [the recipient] can continue or not.”

Kunz also said that every week the PCC receives requests for other retail items that aren’t currently listed online, “and we can usually help them. We’ll either get it online, or we’ll refer them to one of our shops to handle their request by phone.”

• Nephi Setoki is the PCC webmaster and designer for polynesia.com. “He manages all the content on the site, as well as designing any new pages we want to put up, so it’s functional,” Dunn said.


Narendra Mongan (foreground) and Nephi Setoki

“I basically ensure that the site is up and can transact. There’s actually a collection of sites — including hukilaumarketplace.com, pccagent.com, a travel agent portal that supports the wholesale side of the business, and of course, the large polynesia.com which most people think of that disseminates a wealth of information about the Polynesian Cultural Center.”

“We monitor all of these sites on a daily basis. We do maintenance as needed on the content, and a lot of our effort is in working with our partners to improve the experience of users on the site.”

“I’ve always had an attraction to technology and art. The two met at this profession for me.  It’s humbling to be the PCC webmaster. It’s difficult, but fun. I am very fortunate to have a brilliant BYU-Hawaii student, Narendra Mongan, from Indonesia, who assists with the development and design work for the site.  Narendra is senior majoring in Information Technology and will be graduating next year.”

In addition to his three key team members, Dunn said, “the PCC also uses a lot of contract people and digital agencies to support us.”

What’s ahead? Dunn said that besides the all-new polynesia.com site that’s currently being worked on, “we’re doing a redesign for our .jp site — our Japanese language website. In that process we’re adding a cart or checkout feature, which we don’t currently have.”

Story and images by Mike Foley


Mike Foley, who has worked off-and-on

at the Polynesian Cultural Center since

1968,  has been a full-time freelance

writer and digital media specialist since

2002, and had a long career in marketing

communications and PR before that. He

learned to speak fluent Samoan as a

Mormon missionary before moving to Laie

in 1967 — still does, and he has traveled

extensively over the years throughout

Polynesia and other Pacific islands. Foley

is mostly retired now, but continues to

contribute to various PCC and other media.