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IBEX 2016: Industry gets first look at study of first-time buyers

TAMPA, Fla. — At the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition & Conference this week the marine industry got its first glimpse of a Grow Boating-commissioned study of first-time boat buyers and owners.
A comprehensive study commissioned by Discover Boating found that first-time boat buyers fall into six categories, the largest (23 percent) being "Water Weekenders," who like to plan outings such as tubing, fishing and water skiing.

A comprehensive study commissioned by Discover Boating found that first-time boat buyers fall into six categories, the largest (23 percent) being "Water Weekenders," who like to plan outings such as tubing, fishing and water skiing.

TAMPA, Fla. — At the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition & Conference this week the marine industry got its first glimpse of a Grow Boating-commissioned study of first-time boat buyers and owners that should help dealers, brokers and salespeople improve the consumer’s experience and lock in more sales.

“This is the most comprehensive study ever done on first-time boat owners that I know of,” Discover Boating president Carl Blackwell told an audience of about 40 marine professionals Wednesday during a sneak peek at the report, which had yet to be given a title. “This is hot off the press,” said Blackwell. “The research has been going on for the past year.”

Carl Blackwell

Carl Blackwell

Blackwell said the report is “a great opportunity for us to concentrate on this part of our mission, which is important to building a funnel for tomorrow’s boat owners.”

The report is expected to be completed and presented at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. (Dec. 5-8), Blackwell told Trade Only.

Discover Boating hired the ICF Olson agency of Minneapolis to conduct the research, which it compiled using data from surveys, live interviews, mobile journaling and other methods.

One of the goals was to document “the journey to ownership for the first time boat buyer,” said Jurene Fremstad, senior vice president of strategy and insight for Olson, who presented the data.

Here’s a breakdown of the research:

  • ŸSurveyed 2,000 people interested in buying their first boat
  • ŸSurveyed 550 people who recently bought their first boat
  • ŸIn-depth interviews with 20 people across four markets (Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Minnesota) who were interested in buying their first boat
  • ŸReal-time mobile journaling of 75 participants over two weeks, which included a mix of people interested in buying their first boat, as well as recent first-time boat owners
  • ŸSurveyed 250 people who started shopping for their first boat, but stopped short of buying (labeled “lapsed shoppers).

Researchers determined that there are six types of first-time buyers: Gear Guys (17 percent), Merry Mates (16 percent), Luxurious Leisurers (18 percent), Water Weekenders (23 percent), Seclusion Seekers (12 percent) and Nautical Natives (14 percent).

They identified ways to spot each type and offered tips about how to improve their experience. “For the Gear Guys, it’s not about being on the water — it’s all about the boat,” Fremstad said during the 40-minute presentation.

For instance, Gear Guys are young men motivated by their hobbies with specialized equipment. They crave details, so when they’re ready to buy a boat, they want to talk to the experts. (For more details about the six types, go to https://portals.olson.com/discoverboating/)

Chuck Cashman, MarineMax chief revenue officer, attended the presentation. He told Trade Only that the breakdown of boater types will be useful to MarineMax and the industry as a whole.

“Just from this presentation we realize we are not touching all six segments,” he said. “We’re not doing much for the ‘Gear Guys.’ We already started brainstorming about ways to better serve them, like through boat-test data and tech videos.”

Blackwell was glad to hear that MarineMax was already acting on the research data.

“I would like this research applied,” said Blackwell. “I don’t want this to be just another survey that sits on the shelf.”

Watch for an in-depth story about the key findings of the report in the November issue of Soundings Trade Only.

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