A New Web

Cape Romain Marine
Strengths: The home-page video, the “How to Buy” and “Build Your Boat” features.
Areas for improvement: Request for contact info in order to use features.
Summary: If you spend the time and money to shoot a video that helps advertise your company, it makes good business sense to ensure as many people view it as possible.

Buying television time is a great way to reach a large audience, but why stop there?

Cape Romain Marine plays its video commercial for everyone who opens its home page. The 30-second clip is nothing elaborate, just a straightforward and effective advertisement that introduces the owner, tells prospective customers what boat lines the dealership sells and how to find it.

The video adds a nice element to the dealership’s Web site, which was upgraded a few months ago. The time and effort that went into the redesign looks to have been well spent. The site is logically organized and visually appealing. Customers are able to find the product or service they are looking for with just a glance and can navigate to it within seconds of arriving.

Web experts say a company’s home page is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate it owns. They stress the importance of the page being able to effectively communicate and summarize what the site, and ideally what the company, is all about. Cape Romain does a good job of this on its site, imparting the feeling to visitors that the dealership is a place they might like to do business, and the video drives that message home.

The “How to Buy” tab on the home page directs visitors to another important feature of the site. Located prominently in the middle of the opening screen, the button takes would-be boaters to a page that asks them seven questions – including the type of boat they’re looking for (new or used) and how they will use it – the answers to which will then guide them to a more specific product selection.

This is a helpful tool for first-time buyers that might draw in somebody who’s on the fence about whether or not to take the next step. However, the screen also requires that users enter their name, phone number and e-mail address before any results are returned.

While it’s natural for the dealership to want to collect that information, asking for it at the very outset of the relationship with a prospective customer might scare some casual browsers away from the site, and somewhat defeats the purpose of driving them toward a specific product.

It might be more productive to lead customers to the product first and get them excited about it with nice photos and possibly a video of the boat in action. At that point, customers may be more likely to make contact on their own.

Another idea would be to direct customers to a certain boat, or selection of boats, but then hold back some of the specifics or options, asking the customer to submit the contact information to access all of the information.

Cape Romain’s display of pre-owned boats is another strength of the site. Customers who click on the “Pre-owned” tab found on the home page are taken to a list of the company’s used inventory, showing each boat with a short description and photo. Clicking on the photo pulls up a more specific description of the boat and also allows the customer to view a slideshow of several different photos that focus not just on the exterior, but often on the features specific to each vessel – the console, size of the livewells, etc., something many other sites don’t bother to include.

One final feature of the site that merits mention is the “Build Your Boat” section. Clicking on this tab allows potential buyers to customize the options they would like to include on a given model. Engine and trailer options are available as are color choices and a couple dozen other features. Each option has two prices listed, the MSRP and the “Your Price” the customer will pay, which is always lower and gives the buyer the feeling that he or she is getting a great deal.

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