Boats Group CEO recaps lead conversion, sales study

Earlier this spring, Boats Group announced the findings from an in­-depth analysis of U.S. sales leads across three of its sites – YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. InfoLink Technologies, Inc. conducted the lead analysis for Boats Group to identify consumer purchase behaviors and provide market intelligence.

Over the last five years, new boat sales have been steadily increasing coinciding with the economic recovery. This is reflected both in the marketplace and among Boats Group portal users who have been increasingly opting to purchase new boats in larger numbers than were seen in a previous study.

One common misconception about the Boats Group marketplaces is that they’re predominantly pre­owned marketplaces, but the study reinforced a critical listing perspective.

As the mix of new and pre­owned boats shifts, Boats Group is seeing more new boat purchases from its audience, said CEO Sam Fulton, who recently spoke with Boating Industry to provide additional analysis of the Info-Link study.

Prior to joining Boats Group, Fulton served as senior vice president of Groupon and president of Orbitz.com and senior vice president of U.S. Consumer Travel at Orbitz Worldwide.

One of the early lessons he learned about boating was that information within its online space was extremely fragmented, Fulton said.

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“Our portals represent the greatest group of boat buyers within the industry. We are a trusted resource for making a purchase decision, new or used,” Fulton said. “The power of the Internet is information. If you look at any industry, the brands that focus on putting more information in the hands of the consumer, will be the winners from a consumer experience standpoint.”

Ten years ago, much of the new boat capacity was taken out of the market. Fast-forwarding to today, boats that are less than 20 years old represent inventory that’s constrained because of a reduction in capacity, Fulton said.

Boats Group now has better penetration into the new boat market, said Peter Houseworth, director of client services at Info­Link.

The firm evaluated more than 2.68 million unique consumer households across Boats Group’s portals between October 2013 and September 2017, identifying that 16.3 percent of these households ultimately purchased a boat.

“That conversion rate is remarkably high,” Houseworth said. “We peeled the onion back a little bit further and found that it’s actually a blended rate. People who use their sites are first-time boat owners, as well as existing boat owners. If there are already boats within a household, the conversation rate jumps to almost 30 percent.”

There are approximately 8.5 million boat owning households in the United States, Houseworth said. Approximately 10 percent of the boat-owning population will actually transact in a given year.

“These people will convert at different times,” Houseworth aid. “When you get on sites that Boats Group has, you basically are filtering out the 90 percent who aren’t engaged in consideration.”

Boats Group portals continue to be a driver of new Saltwater Fishing boat sales, where slightly more than 50 percent of buyers submitted a lead on Boat Trader, boats.com or YachtWorld prior to completing their purchase.

Additional categories of strength include Cruisers, Runabouts, Tow Boats, Yachts, and Runabouts.

“Boats Group has very significant penetration in a number of segments,” Housworth said. “Saltwater fishing is off the charts. If you are a manufacturer serving that segment, I can’t imagine not being there [on their sites].”

Fulton said he’s “very pleased” with the strength of Boats Group’s brands, and sees plenty of opportunities to implement best practices to enhance the consumer experience.

In mid-April, Boats Group announced the launch of its new and improved BoatWizard mobile app. The app is exclusive to brokers and dealers in the recreational boating space, designed to make it easier to access and manage inventory across the YachtWorld, Boat Trader, and boats.com platforms in real time, from any smartphone.

“BoatWizard makes it seamless for an industry partner to take a new listing and load that piece of inventory onto our portals, and get it ready for consumers to view, so they can start receiving leads on that new piece of inventory as soon as possible,” Fulton explained. “We are very pleased with this app’s initial capability.”

More than 25 percent of BoatWizard users have downloaded the app as part of the initial launch. Many of these users were also part of the pre-launch test group, which provides feedback and input as new products are being developed.

However, downloads really aren’t an overriding metric. Average daily users are more important, Fulton said.

“We are very pleased with getting more and more engagement from our users,” he added. This is another example of our mobile-first strategy as a company. We are an agile development shop. You are going to see more of that when we roll out future software.”

Boats Group doesn’t have native consumer applications in the current marketplace. That’s going to change later this year, Fulton said.

“Every quarter, we see more enhancements and more features being delivered to our portals and industry partner toolsets. We are always thinking about user experience,” he said. “We are currently in the process of building those applications to deliver a best-in-class experience.”

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