Industrywide, dealers and brokers say much of the shopping process that happened in person is now being done at least in part—and sometimes entirely—online. Boaters who used to do tours at dealerships or boat shows are now “touring” their future vessels by way of FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. Online research that used to supplement in-person, hands-on shopping is now the primary tool that consumers are using to decide which boat they want. For smaller boats and tenders, some buyers are clicking to purchase without ever laying eyes on the physical vessel.
“We have figured out how to sell boats with our showrooms on lockdown. We have figured out how to sell boats without boat shows and on-site sales—and in the Boston market, our sales are up 200 percent. There’s a clear embrace of the new technology,” says Larry Russo Sr., who is senior vice president at MarineMax, which has more than 60 dealerships nationwide. “If we didn’t have the pandemic, this would have taken 10 to 15 years for the industry to morph into advanced digital strategy. The pandemic forced it to happen in three months.”
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