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2012 Best in Class: Best website

Action Water Sports
Hudsonville, Mich.

With most consumers turning to the Web before they ever visit a business’s physical location, having a good website is a requirement.

Still, many dealers don’t give their site the attention it deserves. Action Water Sports realized it could do better.

“We believe our website has taken over as the new front door of our business,” says general manager Jerry Brouwer.

To that end, Action Water Sports designed a new, self-hosted website (www.actionwater.com) that offered more flexibility than the company’s previous templated site. By building the site in-house, the dealership is able to take advantage of new responsive Web design standards that allow the site to move content around the page to best respond to the customer. The regularly updated blog has also been integrated into the website, helping to improve the site’s search engine optimization by creating more keyword content.

“The ActionWater.com website is a place for customers to learn about the products and services we offer as well as attempt to sell the customer on the reputation of our dealerships,” Brouwer says. “Our goal is to make our customers feel like they’ve been to our store and referred by a friend when they visit our stores for the first time.”

Just as importantly, the site looks good. It has a clean design, with plenty of photos of boats – which is, after all, what people are coming to the site looking for. Action Water Sports frequently updates the homepage as well, so a client is unlikely to see the same information or photos when they visit.

It works well on a smartphone or tablet, too. That’s an important feature with more and more consumers using their mobile devices to visit websites. (According to Microsoft, mobile Web traffic will overtake desktop Web traffic by 2014.)

But design is only part of the story. Action Water Sports has also loaded the site with features to make it more usable for the customer.

Boat owners can schedule service appointments, put in a parts request or book storage right from the site. The calendar is regularly updated with the latest events, clinics and workshops. A separate Pro Shop website at wakehouse.com makes it easy for customers to buy accessories such as life jackets, ski gear and apparel, creating another source of revenue.

Action Water Sports uses its newsletter and social media to drive visitors to the site. The company sends one to two newsletters a month depending on the season. Emails regularly contain featured products with links back to the website.

“It is a very cost-effective way to keep our brand on the top of our customer’s minds when thinking about boating or get the word out quickly on a new product or event,” Brouwer says.

The company has found Facebook to be the most effective social media outlet and has integrated that with ActionWater.com.

“We use our Facebook fans as an endorsement on our website homepage, and a visit to our Facebook page will show many customers commenting and submitting pictures to the community,” Brouwer says. “While we can’t track our social media’s conversion rate to sales, we believe that staying the top-of-mind boating brand affects our business immensely.”


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