A new Web

Raymarine Inc.

Strengths: video product presentations, Raymarine Insider, Multifunction
System Builder

Areas for improvement: access to customer service, lifestyle content

Summary: This marine electronics manufacturer brings its products to life with the multiple video presentations it offers on its new Web site. By accompanying these videos with text that highlights each product’s features, the company does a much better job of getting its information across to the visitor than those sites that offer only video or text.

Raymarine has obviously taken note of the popularity of product design programs among consumers. If people can design their dream car or a custom sneaker online, then why not their boat navigation system too? With its Multifunction System Builder, Raymarine takes this concept to the next level. Once a visitor has designed a navigation system to meet their needs — or dreams — they can save it, print it, e-mail it to others or add it to their wish list.

The Raymarine Insider feature is another site highlight. It allows the company to gather more information about current and potential customers while offering them value in return for their efforts. This site feature requires visitors to create a user name and password and submit their contact information to access special content and features like monthly podcasts and a wish list. Those Raymarine product owners who register their products online get VIP status, enabling them to also access software updates and animated product tutorials, a great incentive to register.

It’s disappointing, though, that it’s also necessary for visitors to fill out this Web form to access online customer service. While collecting customer information is an important and often necessary part of the customer service process, requiring this upfront can discourage visitors from contacting the company, which is a loss for both the manufacturer and the customer. The customer doesn’t get the information or assistance they wanted, and the company misses out on an opportunity to improve its customer satisfaction and learn from product users’ experiences. Raymarine may benefit from following one of the growing trends in customer service — live chat, in which customers can receive answers to their questions online in real time.

The online system Raymarine currently uses to communicate with its site visitors obviously has some kinks in it. One of our staff members submitted a question about the Web site’s content. Five days later, the question had yet to be answered and when we went online to investigate the status of the question, we found it labeled “junk mail.” After a second e-mail, the company apologized for the glitch that resulted in a mislabeling of the e-mail, and answered the question promptly and thoroughly.

Finally, while the company has taken a step in the right direction by offering podcasts and a customer photo gallery, there is room to further engage customers with additional lifestyle content, thus encouraging their passion for boating and fishing. Such content could serve the dual function of product promotion. Raymarine customers, for example, could be allowed to share their boating and fishing stories, which may highlight how Raymarine products enhance their on-water experiences.

Formula Boats

Strengths: factory tour

Areas for improvement: video placement

Summary: This boat builder seems to understand that most consumer purchases — especially discretionary purchases — are emotional decisions. Its new Web-based Formula Difference Factory Tour appeals to consumers on multiple levels.

Not only does it showcase the boat builder’s facility, it introduces consumers to the people behind the products, from the company’s owners to the employees that design and build the boats.

Consumers get a window into how this company’s boats are transformed from ideas into products available for sale.

Formula does an excellent job of showcasing its efforts to produce a quality product, highlighting every step along its boat building process from its CAD engineering and manufacturing, lamination, upholstery and cabinetry to its quality assurance program.

Where the boat builder has missed an opportunity, however, is in leaving this factory tour — and its other video offerings, including customer testimonials — within the Formula Videos page of its site.

Given the power of these offerings, the company would benefit from showcasing them on its home page, where consumers would be more likely to view and be influenced by them.

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