Dealership experience is highly influential

A couple of months ago I wrote about the first in what will be a series of new reports that look at which marketing channels most influence consumers as they’re deciding whether or not to purchase a new boat. That report was on the influence boat shows have. The findings of the second report – The 2010 Boating Industry Dealership Experience Influence Report – which is on the influence the dealership has on the boat purchase decision, were announced Thursday.

The source of the report is the 2010 U.S. Boating Industry Marketing Communications Influence Study, commissioned by marine industry organizations led by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The study surveyed 3,295 people across the US who purchased a new boat in an 18-month period ending August 2010.

Buyers rated 11 forms of marketing on how much each contributed to their eventual boat purchase. Those forms included all types of advertising, from editorials to brochures, events such as shows or seminars, the dealership experience, Internet searches, social media and television programming about boating.

And from all of those, the experience buyers had with boat dealers stood out. The report’s author’s wrote, “Across all the marketing channels studied the calculated share of sales influence from the dealership experience ranks highest overall. The Internet, boat shows, print articles and brochures round out the top five sources of sales influence.”

The study found that female buyers and prior boat owners were influenced more by their dealership experiences than males and first-time buyers. Female buyers also exhibited a much higher degree of loyalty to a given dealership than men and sought out dealers differently as well. Male buyers often find out about a dealer by driving by a location close to home while females seek recommendations, read dealer ads and seek dealers at boat shows, according to the study.

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Other notable findings included in the report:

– Buyers are most positively influenced by a dealership that is a comfortable place to shop with accessorized boats on display.

– Female buyers mention the service department capabilities more often as a key influencer.

– Financing available rated as "highly influential" among only 24 percent.

– The results also show that dealership salespeople must be knowledgeable and professional above all else and that first time buyers particularly value someone that instills trust and provides recommendations.

The complete research report is available at a price of $3,950. NMMA members receive a discounted price of $3,600. NMMA is expected to email an announcement of the report to its members next week.

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