Well, we got our wish. For the last decade, or maybe longer, we’ve been gasping at how the average age of our boat buyers has increased by about 8 or 9 months every single year. The same people who were leading the boat-buying parade in the 80s are still the ones buying boats today.
Where are the Millennials or GenXers, we asked? Where are the first-time boat buyers? It’s been a real concern.
The data today suggests that the top of the boat buying funnel is overflowing with prospects. Leads are off the chart, dealers are reporting that they’re busier than they’ve ever been. And lenders like MRAA Partner Member Vantage Recreational Finance are reporting a “tremendous amount of first-time boat buyers entering the marketplace.”
So, we got our wish. The first-time boat buyers are here. Now, the question becomes: What are you doing to make sure they are not simultaneously final-time boat buyers, as well?
If history has its say, we’ve got a lot of work to do to improve the boat buying and ownership experience and keep boaters on the water. According to a study publicized last year, nearly 40 percent of first-time boat buyers sell their boat and don’t replace it within five years of original purchase. From 2013 through mid 2018, that meant that 148,000 first-time boat buyers were one-and-done and opted out of boating. That’s equal to about 50 percent of the total power boats that are sold in any given year.
Of the 380,000 people who bought a boat in 2013, 39%
(or 148,000) sold and did not replace their boat by mid 2018.
Dealers have control of this situation. We know from our friends at Rollick, who administer the industry customer satisfaction surveys that, A. Of all the dealer-specific CSI factors, the Overall Purchase Experience has the highest correlation to overall boat (the product) satisfaction; and B. Of ALL CSI factors, the question “would you recommend this dealer?” has the highest correlation to overall boat satisfaction. In both instances, it’s clear that the experience at the dealership drives product satisfaction.
In a nutshell, according to Rollick, this means that the customer’s happiness with the dealer can override dissatisfaction with the product, and a customer who is upset with their dealer is more likely to walk away from the boat brand. And, as it turns out, they’re also more likely to walk away from boating, altogether: In a survey of consumers who had almost purchased a boat but stopped short and walked away from the purchase indefinitely, 66 percent noted they had not had a helpful experience at the dealership.
So, as consumers choose boating at an increasing rate, we need to ensure that we are providing a rewarding, memorable sales and ownership experience, or we risk losing them forever. With this surge expected to continue into 2021, now's our chance to truly grow boating. Let’s make sure we deliver an experience worth recommending and coming back for so that the momentum continues for years.