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App-equipped iPads give Beneteau dealers an edge

Dealers working in Beneteau’s space at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show didn’t have to carry multiple brochures about the builder’s latest models, nor did they need to know the details. Everything was at their fingertips.

Beneteau’s dealers are equipped with iPads preloaded with a custom app that offers all of the information about the boats, including price, specs, options, video galleries and company data. With the flick of a finger they can answer consumers’ questions and e-mail requested information, such as price quotes, within minutes of a consumer leaving their slip or dealership.

“We’ve seen already a positive impact on the customer and the dealer,” marketing director Maryline O’Shea says of the app, which has been available to Beneteau dealers since the spring. “It’s very intuitive,” and not much dealer training was required when the app was rolled out to them.

More than 120 Beneteau dealers worldwide are using the app.

O’Shea says Beneteau and its dealerships are sharing the cost of the iPads, making it easy for retailers to use the new technology, which was developed for the company by Jester Communications. Other Beneteau Group brands, such as Jeanneau and Prestige Yachts, soon will launch their versions of the app for their dealers.

Beneteau dealer Chuck Laughlin of South Carolina-based St. Barts Yachts says he was skeptical of the app at first, but has come to appreciate its usefulness.

“It’s a more professional way to present a new product,” he says, adding that he previously had not owned an “i” anything. “It contains far more information than I can keep in my head and remember.”

It’s great at boat shows, Laughlin adds, but also valuable when he’s not because the app has information about models a dealer may not have in stock.

Customers, he notes, choose to buy a boat for many reasons, and the app can help facilitate that process.

“It’s a very invaluable tool,” Laughlin says.

Jared Jester, founder and president of Jester Communications, says he has presented the app to other boatbuilders and he’s hoping to expand his client base.

“The interest down here has been outstanding,” he said on the Friday of the boat show.

O’Shea says Jester also has developed an administrator panel that allows builders to quickly update the app with any new information dealers may need.

“It’s instantaneous and it constantly evolves,” she says. For example, Beneteau recently added a “print” function at the request of dealers.

Although it’s too early to pinpoint whether the app has had a direct effect on sales, O’Shea says anecdotal evidence shows it has been nothing but positive.

“We help [dealers] make it really easy. That can only help shorten the sales process,” she says. “We have the tools to help sell.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.

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