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Keeping New Boaters and Anglers

Entry-level boats, such as Bayliner’s Element, have drawn new boaters during the pandemic.

Entry-level boats, such as Bayliner’s Element, have drawn new boaters during the pandemic.

A surge in new boating and fishing participants last year has bolstered the marine industry at a time when other industries have struggled.

Drawing new boaters and anglers has been a boon for the boating business, which has struggled to add participants for years, but it has also led to an industrywide effort to keep those new customers engaged.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Marine Retailers Association of the Americas have partnered on a survey for the first time to help gauge the industry’s weaknesses and prioritize retention efforts.

The three groups already have customer engagement and retention resources in place, but they are looking to develop a more robust tool kit for industry stakeholders and states, based on RBFF’s most recent research findings.

“We know from recent research that, to retain 2020’s new boaters and anglers, we need to remind them of the great experiences they had on the water,” RBFF senior marketing vice president Stephanie Vatalaro told Trade Only Today. “We need to provide them with convenient places where they can access the water and beginner educational resources, in addition to emphasizing the social aspects of boating and fishing.”

First-time buyers accounted for 31 percent of new-boat sales through last September, a figure that represents about 90 percent of 2020’s increase in sales, according to data from Info-Link, a Florida firm that tracks new and- used-boat registrations. The percentage of first-time buyers was up from 26 percent the year prior.

So far, 2020 is on track for roughly 25,000 more new-boat purchases compared to the previous year — and more than 24,000 of those can be attributed to first-time buyers.

It is essential to ensure newcomers embrace fishing and boating for years to come, NMMA said in a statement soliciting survey responses.

“We want to empower the industry in its own customer retention efforts, so we’re building a tool kit, in partnership with NMMA and MRAA, with resources to support continued participation,” Vatalaro said. “To ensure we’re providing the industry with the most strategic and useful resources, we’re asking them to take a quick, five-minute survey, which will help us guide and prioritize what’s included.

“This is the first time we’ve issued a joint survey,” she added. “We see this retention tool kit as an extension of the Get on Board campaign that we partnered on last year. Given the huge number of newcomers in 2020, it’s critical we retain them, and we want everyone in the industry to have access to tools to help them do just that.”

So far, around 80 people have responded to the survey, but the groups are hoping more will fill out the questionnaire, particularly since they are seeking comments from boating and fishing industry stakeholders, as well as state agencies.

“We can create tools based on the research and insights we have, but we thought it was important to first find out what our stakeholders really need,” Vatalaro said.

Take the survey here

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