Online business is booming

SEATTLE –, a Web portal listing new and used power and sailboats for sale and charter, introduced a newly redesigned Web interface this week and also took time for an interview with to share its outlook on the Internet’s role in the industry and offer advice for undecided about how to allocate resources online.

Asked in an interview with Boating Industry yesterday what tips he would give businesses as they evaluate their online presence for the upcoming year, Ian Atkins, group general manager of, cautioned them not to be discouraged about reports that the industry is in a lull.

“In some markets, new boat sales are down and used boat sales are up,” Atkins said. “In your market, the opposite may be true. Adjust your strategy accordingly. But remember that the consumer doesn’t know or care that industry sales are down. They’re just dreaming of that next boat. Tell them how you’re going to help them get it.

“Think like your boating consumer. Ask yourself: ‘What does your customer want from you and how can you best give that to them online?’ Then give it to them.”

Atkins says continues to experience “all-time high” traffic levels and that more and more boating retailers are using his company’s sites to advertise their boats. An informal poll taken earlier this year of the retailers that do business on those sites revealed that “a vast majority” were moving 85 to 100 percent of their marketing dollars to the Internet, Atkins reported.

“We’re beginning to see some exciting innovation on the part of some of the more sophisticated boat brands, many of whom advertise on our sites,” Atkins said. “We keep a close eye on new developments in video streaming, online social networking and e-commerce, because there are elements there that might help those of us in the marine industry to better engage our consumer base. And we’ve got some exciting things coming up for and as a result, much of which will re-emphasize our focus on the boating consumer.”

The redesign is part of that effort.

“Our new Web site boasts a powerful and sophisticated Endeca information access platform which allows customers to more narrowly define search criteria using clear-cut, specific parameters,” Atkins said. “This, combined with our intuitive design, offers users a more functional and more easily navigable site, which will result in more traffic, more qualified leads and ultimately, more sales for brokers.”

Users now have the option to browse inventory in three different views – details, gallery and table. Visitors to the site may also search at anytime from any page; sort results according to year, make, length or price; narrow searches through guided navigation; and see the number of results in each category.

“The boating consumer is a sophisticated consumer,” Atkins said. “They expect to be able to buy just about anything they want online, quickly and easily. Our industry has to be able to meet and exceed those expectations. So it does shock me when I come across a retailer who doesn’t have a Web site, for example, or any other Internet presence. But that, increasingly, is the exception, not the norm.”

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