Real-time dealers

I remember when I worked for BoatU.S. back in the early 90’s, I was hocking this new tool to boaters called a GPS. A more accurate replacement for Loran at the time, the GPS was a net result of government spending gone private, specifically for use in marine.

The Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force had been using this technology for years, the infrastructure (i.e. very expensive satellites) had been put in place and all we needed were some cool tools to take advantage of all this “new stuff.”

At the time, the Garmin 45 handheld was selling over Magellan’s?“handheld” GPS (which was more like a brick). The Garmin 45 was about the size of a remote control, had a flip-up antenna and was pretty accurate. It changed the market, and I couldn’t keep them on the shelf.

GPS has sure come a long way since then. Today, there are a ton of handheld mobile devices that all cater to some sort of GPS-like capability. In fact, GPS via mobile has become so ubiquitous, that hundreds of businesses on the planet are vying for ways to take advantage of it. And so we enter a new realm.

Not unlike how the Garmin 45 changed how we navigate, mobile solutions today will change how marine dealers attract, acquire, convert and even retain customers.

Think about how we all “see” our information right now. More and more of our time is spent mobile. And being mobile means we are more often acquiring our information on the fly. That means in “real-time”. Decisions are spontaneous and, more often than not, based upon some immediate need, desire or recommendation.

Why is all of this important? Computer time will evolve into mobile time and more opportunities will begin to pop-up for marine dealers to market via mobile.

If a transient boater comes to port and doesn’t know the area, the first place they turn to is their mobile device. Where’s the local chandlery? Is there a Volvo shop nearby? There are numerous “apps” that people (boaters) use on various devices to pinpoint the places they want to go, where they are, and sometimes allow that business to position an advertisement if you’re “in the area.”

Mobile infrastructure knows where you are. Like a GPS, mobile today can pinpoint you. Unlike GPS, it can pinpoint you and then help you find the things you need beyond just a Lat/Lon reading. But even that will eventually evolve.

As technologies mesh, primary GPS tools like the ones Garmin, or one of its competitors, provides today will someday have similar functions to those on your mobile phone. Mobile ads, apps and geo-targeted messaging will all be available as business functions to marine dealers so they can market in real-time when their potential customers need them most and are reasonably close by – all via a standard GPS device that’s on the market today – tweaked slightly, of course.

Restaurants do this, retail stores do this. It is becoming more common every day. Again, think about how you find information today. Start with a GPS-caliber action and then trickle down to what you need in that locale.

To make matters even more interesting, within these mobile functions boaters can add their reviews of your marine dealership and provide would-be customers the instant decision-making ability to pick you and your glowing reviews over someone else’s. If you run a good business, this shouldn’t be an issue. Those positive reviews could be the difference between a new boater (customer) picking you over another dealer.

Beyond that, you can include pictures, video (if you have it) and plenty of background information on the services you provide. In the future, this is how new boaters will find you.

Everyone benefits from going mobile. Marinas benefit. Dealers benefit. Boaters definitely benefit. As a dealer, you must find new ways to apply the technologies available to you to those who you plan to sell to. Why? Because most of those boaters are already there.

They’re already using these technologies today and are familiar with how they operate via mobile and what to expect and not expect. As it is with most things, marine is simply behind. But you don’t have to be.

Advertise via mobile ad networks. Let users find you via GPS technology embedded in mobile devices and begin to reap the benefits of geo-targeting applications via mobile (i.e. the slick mapping solutions used on mobile devices).

Regardless of your approach, mobile is sure to become yet another critical wave of activity for marine. When you think about how “mobile” boaters truly are and their eventual reliance on mobile and GPS solutions, it’s just a perfect fit.

At the end of the day if you don’t find mobile … mobile will find you.

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