Industry Outlook 2016
Industry leaders give us their forecasts for the new year and most expect it will be much like 2015 — they say that type of slow, steady growth is positive, given the hit boating took in the recession.
President, American Boat & Yacht Council
Over the years I have had the privilege to be asked my predictions on the upcoming year and what I expect to observe in our industry.
This year I decided to do something a bit different; my 2016 forecast is by committee. We at ABYC are fortunate enough to have a talented staff, so I asked them: What are you seeing out there? The answers were fast and furious and definitely worth sharing.
Kevin Scullen, ABYC membership director, is most intrigued with the rise of peer-to-peer rentals and boat clubs. The popularity of this type of boating experience cannot be denied. Boating without the cost and time of real ownership is an appealing proposition, and a number of our members are getting involved from both a franchise and manufacturer standpoint.
In terms of regulations, liability and insurance, many of us are interested to watch how the growth of the rental/club market will unfold. How will this play out in 2016? Boat-sharing services may open up the world of recreational boating to many who before did not consider it.
Ed Sherman, ABYC vice president and education director, is encouraged by manufacturers embracing the entry-level product — a “no-frills,” quality product to get folks on the water for an affordable price. Taking a look at some of these boats at a local dealer, they are not necessarily stripped-down models, with everything as an optional upgrade. Solid attention to the ABYC safety standards, use of affordable refinements and several color choices make these boats one the consumer will want, not just one they have to settle for.
My forecast for 2016? With expanding options for safe, easy and affordable boating, I see more entry-level boaters on the water than ever before, and that’s a good thing.
Senior vice president, marketing and communications, National Marine Manufacturers Association; president, Grow Boating
In my roles at the National Marine Manufacturers Association and with Discover Boating, our industry efforts help attract people to the boating lifestyle and keep them in boating by improving their boating experience. In 2015 Discover Boating exceeded benchmarks by sending more than 2.9 million visits to participating boat manufacturer websites, an increase of 66 percent over 2014.
We’re sending people to manufacturer websites to continue exploring boat ownership and learn more about brands and models. That focus remains the same for 2016, and it’s a reminder for boat manufacturers to make sure their websites are in the best shape possible for accepting these visitors.
Looking ahead, it’s important for our industry to be focused on inviting a younger, more diverse audience to get on the water and experience boating — ensuring we are inviting future boat owners. Discover Boating is doing this through our collaboration with country music star (and boater) Jake Owen, as well as our targeted digital advertising, social media and public relations efforts.
What other marketing opportunities are on the horizon to grow interest in boating in 2016?
Video is a highly impactful tool that can bring boating to life. While video is obviously not new, the opportunity to pay to enhance distribution of that video across social media channels is something that’s growing exceedingly effective. This is especially the case on mobile devices. One out of every five minutes on the Internet while on a smartphone is spent on Facebook and Instagram. Video on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is now commonplace and Google will be on board in 2016. Expect a significant increase in Discover Boating’s online video advertising in the year ahead.
Given the high use of mobile, a mobile-friendly website is critical. On Discover Boating websites, 37 percent of traffic comes from a mobile device — up a whopping 265 percent in 2015 — with tablets accounting for an additional 17 percent of traffic. Mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches, and mobile-friendly websites get a boost from Google’s ranking algorithm. How mobile-friendly is your site?
Then there’s retargeting, or targeted online advertising based on a person’s previous Internet actions (where their actions did not result in a sale or conversion). If you’re not familiar, visit an online retailer — let’s say Amazon.com — and search for any product. Don’t be surprised if you then see that very product the next time you visit your Facebook page or check the weather. This form of advertising is twice as effective as non-targeted ad campaigns (according to Brandanew.co).
With so much exciting marketing potential on the horizon, Discover Boating will continue to stay ahead of these changes and trends and share what we learn so that as an industry we are doing everything we can to invite more people to become boat owners.
President, Boston Whaler
In 2015 the market played out mostly as we anticipated, with the U.S. as the primary global growth driver while international sales largely struggled in the face of a strong U.S. dollar and recovering local economies.
Outboard-powered center console boats led the growth, with the larger-boat segment growing faster than smaller boats. As we look forward into 2016, we anticipate that many of these trends will endure.
Emerging trends include the re-entry of more lapsed boaters to the market (those who once owned but currently do not own a boat), an apparent increase in the popularity of boat clubs and the constant challenge to meet tech-savvy customer demands across a broad spectrum of mobile devices.
To be successful against this backdrop, boat manufacturers and dealers will have to continue to refine how they add value to customers and position themselves as reputable, long-lasting and forward-thinking brands.
At Boston Whaler we’re proud of the many awards and accolades we’ve received in recent years for innovation, customer satisfaction, job creation and manufacturing, as they reflect our commitment to and deep understanding of the consumer and the changing market dynamic.
But we need to increase this focus on and investment in our VOC processes by pursuing creative engagement strategies across multiple touchpoints. Digital platforms, customer events and other forms of engagement serve as two-way conversations that are a valuable source of insight.
We’ve seen, for example, that while the majority of boaters buy on price, a significant number of discerning buyers are willing to pay for a higher level of functional luxury and purposeful innovation. This trend continues to shape our focus as we build off the popularity of our 320 Vantage and 420 Outrage with several new models.
Finally, I believe we should all seek to increase our efforts to conserve the environments in which we boat, whether it’s a commitment in time, money or resources. I’d encourage everyone to reach out and support groups like the Center for Coastal Conservation, a coalition of leading fishing and boating advocates who are dedicated to promoting the conservation and use of ocean resources. That’s a long-term goal upon which we should all agree.
Click here to read the full article and read more from other industry leaders. This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Soundings Trade Only.