|Future of Boat Shows|
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Aboating industry executive recently asked me about the future of boat shows. He said, “You are a marketing guru who studies how people shop for big ticket items like boats; tell me your thoughts on the future of traditional boat shows.” Well, maybe that’s a question for the millions of power boaters, sailors and anglers, and their friends and family, who are now flocking to exhibit halls to see and board the boats of their dreams. Are these folks just out for a good time at manufacturers’ and dealers’ expense? After all, if a person is really shopping for a new boat, can’t they find all the specifications, safety information, quality and pricing they want on the boat brand’s web site? Further, they could consult with friends or current owners via social media web sites like Facebook to discuss performance and satisfaction. So, why have shows?
Within the industry, boat manufacturers and dealers devote large amounts of time and dollars to produce boat show exhibits, staff them during show hours, put on demonstrations and conduct seminars. Meanwhile, back at their headquarters, the bean counters have recently been asking, “Do boat shows really help sell boats?”
As a marketing guru, I would say that boat shows are here to stay, that they are more than midwinter entertainment for us Midwesterners, and that they provide manufacturers with very good returns on investment. As a marketing research professional, I can back up my words with data.
The most positive way to do that is to document what new buyers (who have just completed the process) experienced and what/who speciﬁcally inﬂuenced their decisions along the way. New boat owners are great to approach. They are pumped up about their new pride and joy.
They can also tell you about every step in their shopping process in excruciating detail. This is the reason why we at Foresight Research love studying buyer behaviors surrounding big ticket items like boats and automobiles. Neuroscientists who map brain activity during decision making talk about activity in both the basic limbic system (emotion) and the folded gray matter cortex (rational).
Based on our detailed discussions with thousands of new boat and car buyers, we are certain that these purchases involve a great deal of “debate” between these two sections of the brain. For every individual, one side seems to have a bigger inﬂuence or win the debate. That partially explains why, in most categories, boats range from very simple, utilitarian models, to exotic and extravagant ones. We know the debate occurs because average boat buyers report being signiﬁcantly inﬂuenced by four different forms of marketing-communications while boating fanatics use six to eight different forms of marketing to inﬂuence boaters before they make their choices. So this leads me back to why boat shows are here to stay. No one form of communication delivers everything required to satisfy the human brain “debate” over a new boat purchase.
In a marketing research study recently completed for the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), we at Foresight Research interviewed 3,295 new boat buyers, who each purchased a boat during the last 18 months ending August 2010. We measured 14 different communication channels, including three that are not marketing channels but are very inﬂuential—prior brand experience, word-of-mouth recommendations and seen on the water. The survey results show that 11% of power boat sales can be traced directly to boat shows. Only the dealer experience and the Internet are more important in inﬂuencing the purchase.
The survey results tell us that boat shows are very important because:
✦ 57% of all new boat buyers attended one or more boat shows before buying a boat;
✦ They spent an average of 49 minutes at the display of the brand they bought;
✦ They were highly inﬂuenced at-show by the ability to compare boats/models/prices and the ability to physically climb in the boat. This combination of abundant (rational) comparison information and the (emotional) experience of sitting behind the console make boat shows so impactful;
✦ 70% purchased within 3 months of the show; and