The recently published “Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract” from the NMMA included a wealth of information about the state of the boating industry. The industry is healthy. With new boat sales that reached nearly $11 billion in 2004—and 2005 on pace to set a similar sales milestone—the marine market of today is being driven by differentiation and competition.
For the boat builder, differentiation can be an extremely valuable competitive advantage to securing some of this growing, multi-billion dollar market. But boat builders have to work much harder these days for that elusive differentiation.
Forward-thinking boat builders understand what it takes to truly delight their customers by providing innovative designs and products that represent a significant difference over the boats offered by their competition. They embrace differentiation, knowing that their companies cannot stick to just meeting the basics around design or performance.
The customers of these innovative companies want to feel a level of pride every time they step foot on their vessels. They take great satisfaction knowing that their boat features the ultimate in quality, and craftsmanship unlike any other boat on the market. And discriminating boat owners are willing to pay for that level of attention to detail and innovation.
Similarly, the discriminating boat owner of today wants us to go even further with specific designs and refinements on their sea craft, similar to what they have in their home or automobile. After all, the boater may live on their craft for days or weeks at a time. Their boat is a primary means of transportation to their favorite destination, whether it’s an almost-secret fishing spot, the quaint coastal town across the lake or the marina down the coast.
One Look-One Lock
Boat owners want the cabin and galley of their pride and joy to look and feel like the kitchen or living room of their home. One consistent look … with an attention to design and detail.
The interior lighting, the knobs and latches on the cabinets, drawers and doors, the faucets on the sink, all should have a similar look and style with solid functional feel and operation. It’s up to the designer and manufacturer of the boat to provide this level of integration with attention to detail and style—it can be a unique point of differentiation for the boat builder. All of the pieces should come together—and work together—to the delight of the boat owner. Subtle, yet powerful signs of quality and value from bow to stern.
Similarly, the cockpit of today’s boat should also look and function much like the inside of a luxury automobile. Attention to detail is paramount. Boat owners want the convenience of having one key to operate the ignition and open the glove box, storage bins, consoles and entry doors. Electronic latching or unlocking of all the storage compartments on the boat, via a key fob, is another feature that boat builders can incorporate into their designs to further differentiate their vessels from all the others in the marketplace. These special touches of smart styling, performance and functionality create a feeling of distinction and pride for the owner.
As boat builders better understand the preferences of an ever-demanding boating public, sourcing decisions for the materials and systems that make up today’s boat are made much earlier in the design process. Sourcing of the various elements and systems that go into today’s vessels can be a complex and time-consuming process for the boat builder.
Forward-thinking manufacturers should seek collaborative partnerships with marine suppliers and integrators who can provide the wide range of proven marine solutions that are essential to meeting the needs of the boating public. In working closely with an experienced marine systems integrator who can provide a “one-stop approach” to designing and sourcing many of the materials and systems for the boat, the boat builder has ensured that seamless functionality has been taken into consideration for the ultimate benefit of the owner.
In looking for a collaborative marine integrator, boat builders should seek a partner that not only has an extensive portfolio of marine solutions, but also supports their offerings with a staff of technically trained personnel. Boat designers and manufacturers should rely on this group of technical resources to understand how the systems and products offered will work together to enhance boat ownership and the boating experience. The marine integrators also need to be true partners, accountable for their products yet flexible in understanding the needs of the ultimate customer—the boat owner.
Designers and manufacturers who “get” that even the small things mean a lot are creating new value that boating customers are raving about to their families and friends. This level of design and functional performance integration should help continue the industry’s impressive showing.