Survey: Millennial buyers a continued concern, diversity still not an issue

The industry continues to place added emphasis on capturing a larger share of younger buyers as a new market segment as opposed to increasing its number of non-white buyers, according to data from the latest Boating Industry reader survey.

We surveyed print and digital products readers in July to find out more about their views on boating participation, average buyer age, attracting more Millennials and readers’ attitudes regarding non-white customers.

Survey respondents included a mix of individuals working in the industry including dealers, manufacturers, marina personnel and more.

Attitudes regarding new markets remained mostly unchanged from a similar Boating Industry survey conducted last fall.

Millennial buyer concerns

Source: Boating Industry survey, July 2017

Average buyer age has increased over the last decade. While concern has eased somewhat from Boating Industry’s October 2016 survey regarding younger customers, overall, actively attracting Millennial buyers remained a market concern for 62 percent of readers in the July survey. 

Twenty-two percent of readers surveyed said they were “very concerned” about aging buyers. That compares with 32 percent of readers who shared a similar concern last fall. The number of readers who were not concerned about the issue more than doubled, moving from 5 percent to 13 percent.

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Regarding current business, 21 percent of readers surveyed in July reported they were getting more than 20 percent of their business from buyers under 36 years old. That’s only a percentage point off results reported in last year’s survey. Readers are continuing to their attempts to track Millennials buyers through their marketing and customer outreach.

Fractional ownership programs, improved digital marketing, e-commerce, providing more aggressive financing and increasing affordability were listed by current survey respondents as opportunities to attract Millennials buyers. (see more on p. 24)

Those themes expanded upon reader comments from Boating Industry’s 2016 survey, which included concerns about high student loan debt, Millennials’ lack of financial firepower and boats being out of their price range.

Source: Boating Industry survey, July 2017

For Millennials, student debt remains a critical obstacle to boat ownership, as often they’re strapped for cash. The marine industry is ramping up its efforts in fighting back by promoting the boating lifestyle, much like the recreational vehicle industry has done with camper trailers and motor homes.

New market challenges remain

When asked about efforts to increase their non-white customers, 68 percent of survey respondents reported they weren’t actively attempting to attract this group of boat buyers. 

Almost a third of those surveyed in July (32 percent) were not concerned at all about the issue, while slightly more than 5 percent reported they were “very concerned” about improving non-white customer participation rates. 

That compares with 21 percent and 8 percent, respectively, with results from last year’s new market survey.

Non-white customers continue to make up only a small portion of readers’ business – 40 percent of respondents reported in the July survey that non-white customers represented less than 5 percent of their overall business. 

Only 8 percent of respondents got more than half their business from non-white customers, and 9 percent said they weren’t sure how much of their business those buyers represented. 

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