Boat shopping goes MOBILE

There are now more than 400 million mobile Internet users worldwide, a number that is expected to double in the next four years, according to estimates. And these early adopters of smart mobile phone technology are the kinds of consumers boat dealers crave. They are affluent, and they enjoy spending that money using their iPhones and Blackberrys to shop online.

This boom in mobile Internet shopping is an opportunity worth marine dealers’ consideration, especially in a year like this one. To take advantage of it, businesses must be prepared to properly facilitate the interaction some of these customers will look to have. Gone are the days of simply providing a strong Web site — it’s now also important to showcase inventory and optimize business on smart mobile phones.

To help its OEM and dealer clients capitalize on this mobile search trend, Channel Blade has just launched ePro Mobile, an add-on to its current Web site platform, eXcelerate Pro.

Clients using ePro Mobile, which is optimized specifically for the iPhone but is also compatible with other mobile phones such as the Blackberry Storm, have the ability to target buyers directly through this sales channel.

“ePro Mobile offers Channel Blade clients access to emerging technology that is designed specifically to drive sales,” says Jon Lintvet, Channel Blade’s chief executive officer. “This solution offers OEMs and dealers complete vertical integration of the sales channel. With the increase in mobile searches and buyers increasingly high expectations, we are supporting our clients in reaching prospects through these new channels.

“The reality is if an OEM or dealer does not meet the consumers expectation, then they will transact with someone who does. In today’s market, nobody can afford to miss an opportunity.”

Channel Blade says it chose to optimize for the iPhone because it’s the top-selling handset in the United States, outselling even the Blackberry RIM. The iPhone is also surging in popularity worldwide, with international Web requests from the iPhone up by 86 percent month over month in December 2008, according to the company. And iPhone owners are also five times more likely to browse the Web on their phones than owners of other brands.

In addition to helping prospective buyers research inventory online, ePro Mobile also provides a dealership’s salespeople an instant research tool when and wherever they have the opportunity to show inventory to buyers. A salesperson using the feature can answer buyers’ questions right away by looking up specials and comparing models and specific features.

When Channel Blade clients with an eXcelerate Pro Web site sign up for ePro Mobile, their inventory directly populates the ePro Mobile site. Clients that have Footsteps, Channel Blade’s lead management tool, automatically receive ePro Mobile leads submitted by consumers.

E-mail campaign designs that allow the client to promote their mobile browser capability are also included in the ePro Mobile package. B&E Marine, an ePro Mobile subscriber

located in Michigan City, Ind., posted a message on its Web site that read, “See our newly formatted iPhone Web page at” to inform all of its’ prospects.
Sea Ray has fully integrated ePro Mobile with its’ corporate Web site and dealer locator, providing the company’s dealers that use ePro Mobile the best presentation of their businesses and the Sea Ray brand.

“Sea Ray must reach prospects through their preferred method of communication,” says Rob Noyes, vice president of marketing at Sea Ray. “It is unrealistic to believe consumers will simply come back later if we cannot deliver content on their timeline. If someone wants to research their next Sea Ray at the airport or at the dock, we are going to make sure it is easy and best-in-class.”

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