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The Demand for Transparency

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Marcus Sheridan and Paul Crewe are big believers in transparency across all industries. Sheridan is the owner of River Pools, a manufacturer of fiberglass swimming pools. Crewe is president of SeeDealerCost.com, a website that has been controlversial since it was founded in 2010 to reveal the prices dealers pay for boats and more.

“The idea that someone goes to a manufacturer’s site and doesn’t want to get a sense of pricing is an absolute joke,” Sheridan says. “That the majority of manufacturers require dealers to put ‘call for a quote’ on WhateverYouWantToCallIt.com is negligent and aloof of today’s digital buyer.”

Sheridan says his pool company has become a success because its website provides consumers with all the information needed to make a purchase. That includes publishing prices on the site. The marine and RV industries have long been opposed to publishing prices. Instead, many manufacturers continue to demand that dealers tell consumers to contact dealers for pricing.

This mindset makes no sense to Sheridan and Crewe, who say that marine and RV buyers do much of their research online before they ever set foot in a dealership. Sheridan says the biggest difference between the two buyers is that boaters get their information from enthusiast forums, such as TheHullTruth.com, while RVers turn to bloggers who write about their travels.

He says manufacturers are B-to-B-to-C companies. “Your first priority is to please the consumer, and it doesn’t hurt the manufacturer to state the MSRP,” Sheridan says.

Buyers make decisions based on trust, Sheridan says, and man­ufacturers are starting to see that providing a price often earns trust. “Somebody comes in and breaks a rule and talks about something that has never been shown,” Sheridan says. “The buyer ends up winning, and the manufacturer who broke the rules is now the leader; the old leader becomes the follower.”

No one has broken more industry rules than SeeDealerCost.com. The company has more than 46,000 published prices for boats and other products, dating to 2010. “They find the pricing on our site,” Crewe says. “If ‘call for price’ is the worst thing you can do as a dealer, the worst thing a manufacturer can do is not show a price on its website.”

Crewe says 66 percent of consumers say the information on the site influenced what they bought; 74 percent say that if they go to a manufacturer’s website and don’t see pricing, they’ll move on; 96 percent don’t consider a boat if it’s listed as “call for price”; 49 percent don’t want to negotiate; and 96 percent bought or intend to buy a product shown on the site.

In addition, he says, 59 percent purchase within 45 days of the first visit to the website; 67 percent of site visitors who have not bought intend to do so in the next 60 days; and 88 percent have used the site’s information to negotiate an acceptable price. “The consumer just wants transparency in the price of the transaction,” Crewe says. “They understand the dealer has to make money.”

Also worth noting: 100 percent of smartphone users do some shopping by phone, and 74 percent do it while at the dealership, Crewe says. The buyer will ask the salesperson a question he knows the answer to, then use the salesperson’s answer to judge his trustworthiness.

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue.

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