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5 technology trends for the boating industry in 2016

By Tim Claxton

Digital is at the heart of our daily operations. As you plan for 2016, an exciting question to consider is, "What technology trends should I be watching this year?" Here are my recommendations:

Think of mobile as your first screen.

We have been anticipating the rise of mobile for years. But in 2015 more people search and browsed the Internet on mobile than on desktop only. While desktops play an important part of your customers’ digital experience, and will sure to be around for foreseeable future, the important take-away is that you have to think first about the mobile experience. It is amazing to me to still see many sites that are hard to use on phones and tablets. Consider what information your mobile users need (e.g. location, operating hours or tap to call) and if you are not mobile friendly then it’s time to optimize your site.

Open your apps up to search

Consumers spend over 85 percent of their time on smartphones using native applications. New platforms are making it easier to build apps on a budget, but one challenge is that apps are not well ranked in Google search.

That is changing. Google is now starting to deep link into apps, enabling your users to get to your native apps quickly. To get visibility, you need allow indexing of your app content using Mobile App Indexing. Implementing this helps Google crawl your app by telling them about what users are viewing or actions in your app. If you have an app or building one, I would recommend having your team look into this.

Test beacons to bring digital and dealership together

Another technology tipped to go mainstream in 2016 is beacons. Beacons are small devices capable of sending messages to smartphones within relative proximity. Your app on a user’s phone interprets the beacon information, and serves up user content. In the auto industry, Ford is piloting the use of beacons to draw buyers into dealerships – enabling buyers to continue to use their devices to get pricing and vehicle information.

For the boating industry, there is tremendous opportunity for beacons to be located in boat models in the dealership, boat show or marina. As a prospective buyer walks near or around the boat, they would pick up key information on their smartphone. For more information, this Forbes article is a great overview.

Make your videos Interactive

Video is moving from an awareness vehicle to a direct role in purchasing. With lead generation features in YouTube, you can add a “Find out More” or “Visit Website” annotations to take your customers from a passive watcher to active prospect. 360 video and virtual tour technologies are also becoming mainstream - making it easier than ever to create a virtual tour to differentiate your marketing.

Keep an eye on wearable tech

Whatever your view on the Apple Watch, there is mind-boggling levels of investments in the wearable tech – from VR headsets, smart watches to fitness trackers. But beyond the hype, wearable computers are coming to boating. From the Afterguard heads up display for sailboat racing, to Garmin’s Quatix marine GPS watch that features NMEA2000 data display, autopilot remote control or downloadable routes from your desktop trip planning software. This space has many promising opportunities - imagine if owners could access on-board boat data, send a destination to on-board navigation system to remotely keep tabs on their boats while away.

Tim Claxton is a freelance marketing consultant, and periodically writes articles on boating, digital media and new technologies. He can be reached at tim.claxton@me.com

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