Improving experiences for women buyers

In Hispanic families, the spouse has the power of veto as to what the family will or won’t do on the weekends, and this is no different than the general market. Women make or break family purchase decisions and are adventurers in their own right, so they need to continue to be addressed during the sales process. Dealers should be conscious that their businesses are inviting to all genders.

Margaret Podlich, president of BoatUS, suggests dealerships ask a woman outside of the industry to act as a virtual customer to assess how the store feels for a woman. This individual can be a sister, daughter, wife or friend, as long as it is someone they trust.

“Have someone you trust that is close to you that can be extremely candid about [how your dealership appears to women],” said Podlich.  “It is useful to have a different perspective look at our businesses and help us be more attractive to that segment.”

As with any customer, it is important to ask women specific questions about what they want out of a boat or their general interests. Making assumptions about what her interests are without asking specific questions could be detrimental to achieving the sale.

“Don’t make the fatally faulty assumption that her only area of interest will be gel coat colors or soft goods. Many women I interviewed previously were very interested in the engine and in performance and efficiency issues,” said Kenton-Smith. “By probing, you’ll easily be able to find out what makes her tick and what’s important to her. Asking only about upholstery colors might be a major turn-off. Just like any other buyer, treat her with respect and engage her throughout the process. Recognize and respect her influence in the buying decision.”

Women need to see themselves in boating to believe it is a recreation for them, and manufacturers who want to appeal to women should understand how the imaging impacts the initial entry into the sport.

“Don’t just put the woman on the bow with the bow line that’s coming into the docks. Put her steering. She can do it too,” said Podlich. “That kind of empowering visual … is incredibly important to opening this [recreation] up.”

And as we know that we tend to buy from those who are like us, it would be particularly advantageous for dealerships to hire more women who are passionate about boating and are well-educated in the brands represented by the business.

“A woman who knows her way around the boat and has strong operational skills inspires confidence in other women. It’s not necessary to have a woman on the team but I’d suggest it’s a plus if she’s well qualified for the role,” said Kenton-Smith.

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