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Is convenience a new service model?

We’re living in an on-demand world today. For a geezer like me, it’s hard to grasp the fact that I could get a replacement Jabsco livewell pump (not in stock locally) from Amazon and see it on my doorstep in two days. Maybe I could have even gotten it in two hours.

It was sort of a wake-up call for me that we’ve moved into the “age of convenience.” So when it comes to business models, it seems clear marine dealers need to consider how best to adapt their operations to this fast-growing new order.

In case you haven’t thought much about it (I really hadn’t until now), these days we can do almost anything and never leave the La-Z-Boy. We can order just about anything from pizza to an extramarital affair simply by lifting a finger on a smartphone. Big names like Amazon have become genuine competitors to most retailers. And now, in the latest trend coming on strong, we won’t even have to go to the supermarket anymore. Enter DoorDash, Postmates and other on-demand food deliveries that are starting up and they’ll bring us our complete shopping list.

For example, 7-Eleven launched a partnership with DoorDash in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to provide delivery from participating 7-Eleven convenience stores. This same service will crank up in Boston and D.C. shortly. More than 200 7-Eleven stores are already participating. Moreover, 7-Eleven teamed up with Postmates to deliver hot foods, snacks, beverages and other store items in San Francisco, Oakland and from 36 locations in Austin, Texas, according to a report in Convenience Store News, a trade publication that serves the industry.

This convenience “life” is getting faster than a new land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Talk about speed: “Amazon Prime Now” is offering one-hour delivery for $7.99 or two-hour delivery for free, according to Amazon’s Kelly Cheeseman. Customers are willing to pay for the convenience and time. Using a mobile app, customers currently in New York and Indianapolis can search through tens of thousands of items ranging from big-screen TVs to a selection of food items including some frozen and chilled items. And catch this: after the customer orders, a map will pop up so they can literally watch their courier’s progress heading their way.

It’s obvious there are solid business reasons for the convenience store industry to change and adapt to this on-demand wave. But what about boat dealers?

I’m not suggesting that dealers can realistically deliver parts or service in two hours, of course. Unlike Amazon, dealers don’t have 50 fulfillment centers across the nation. Still, all boat dealers should seriously consider what Lee Peterson, executive vice president of retail consultants WD Partners (Dublin, Ohio) told Convenience Store News in recommending C-stores start testing things like delivery. He nailed it: “Time is the true commodity …”

It’s safe to say most marine dealers have not yet looked at acquiring systems that encourage, enable and provide convenience for customers to request or schedule service, parts or accessories online or with a mobile app. Further, it’s unlikely that dealers offer and put a premium (time and surcharges) on meeting a defined service delivery schedule for the customer. And most dealers have yet to install even an email protocol that informs customers of regular maintenance and service needs, some offering incentives, as have auto dealers among others.

We know time, and especially the perceived lack of it, is considered a major barrier to prospects considering the boating lifestyle. It’s also a negative in even keeping existing boaters in the sport. So finding ways to meet customers where they are, meaning offering greater convenience and time-savings support for a price, is worthy of serious discussion and planning time.


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