Emerging Marketing Trends as Yacht Industry Recovers

It has been a rough few years for most industries and especially for the shipbuilding industry; it's nearly been a rough decade. Along via Coppino in Viareggio, however, usually pessimistic voices have changed their tune lately; it sounds like the industry is finally starting to see the end of the economic crisis in sight. What new marketing strategies can we expect to see in response to this upturn in 2017?

New Year, New Strategy

According to Boat International, the market is expected to pick up this year thanks to new buyers from Russia and Asia. More than 300 new superyachts were delivered since 2014 and 455 new yachts are currently on order, states Doug Gollan in Forbes. In Italy alone, there were 60 yacht deliveries last year. Mykolas Rambus, the CEO of Wealth-X, said he expects to see a 25% increase in superyacht spending by 2020. That said, what trends can we expect to see in yacht industry marketing?

As the economic indicators begin to point up in the yacht industry, marketing strategies must be carefully planed so as to continually foster this growth.  Artwork by  Katarzyna Bajerowicz . 

As the economic indicators begin to point up in the yacht industry, marketing strategies must be carefully planed so as to continually foster this growth. Artwork by Katarzyna Bajerowicz

Every shipyard that still had a marketing budget last year has been trying to trim it down, but we expect this trend to start turning around. It's a good think too, because growth depends directly on marketing investments. We can expect increasing amounts of money to be invested in emerging marketing channels - such as social media and dynamic web advertizing - and that it will be invested with particular care, relying on data to guide marketing strategies and evaluate results. 

Experiential Marketing

Brokers and shipyards have not traditionally gone to any length in order to attract new clients, arrogantly believing that potential buyers are already familiar with the products. One change on the horizon, is experiential marketing targeted to first-time buyers. Growth in new build sales and charters is driven by the industry's ability to respond to the changing tastes of the uber rich continually seeking new experiences, according to Forbes.

Following the general trend in buyers' attitudes, communications will also shift from talking about purchasing decisions to lifestyle decisions. Along those lines, experiential marketing aims to give potential new owners an idea of what yacht ownership is about. "If done well, experiential marketing is expensive to capture and budgets are usually quite lean, so by and large, the superyacht industry's lifestyle marketing is lightyears behind other luxury industries and frequently doesn't reflect the price of the product," explains Alev Karagulle, director of communications at Burgess.

As marketing budgets increase, however, the quality of experiential marketing efforts will inevitably improve. This will take the form of everything from images, videos, magazines and events depicting the luxury yachting lifestyle to long-term trials or customer incentive programs where charter credits count towards a purchase, explains SuperyachtNews.

Historically, the industry’s marketing has been word-of-mouth, says Wealth-X president David Friedman, but in today's market, communicating the unique qualities of a yachting experience is increasingly effective.

Artificial Intelligence

One current marketing trend in most industries is the use of data analysis to predict consumer behavior and deliver advertising at targeted points leading up to a final purchase. For example, have you noticed after a quick Google search for a flight, that ads for hotels in the destination city pop up on your Facebook feed throughout the following week? This technology is developing rapidly and it is one way that artificial intelligence is being utilized in marketing.

Dynamic advertising, which targets potential buyers based on either demographics or online behavior could be a new channel for shipyards and brokers to explore. Dynamic marketing delivered through Google or Facebook could be especially effective when looking to attract younger, more tech savvy clients, as they are most likely to respond positively to this method that is sometimes considered invasive. Charter agencies are already implementing this technology to gain an advantage in that highly competitive environment.

If we extrapolate this concept and apply it to the traditional, personal and very assisted buying process that we find in the yacht industry, the use of artificial intelligence could look more like a highly detailed CRM system tracking a potential customer's desires, feedback and interaction with the company or broker in order to build a strategy for how to follow up and, essentially, guide each individual to a final purchase. A CRM designed to track all of the details that are important to your team and which is updated regularly, helps ensure that encounters and communications with that client directly address their needs and move them through the buying process in a non-intrusive way, explains Boating Industry.


Another trend seen in industries, where choices are endless and brands must fight to make their product stand out, is the rise of influencers. “As we head into 2017, influencers will entrench as defining voices in consumer marketing, as brands concede advertising control and look to passionate brand advocates to sway consumers,” explains Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Influence-Central. 

For this industry, brokers and advisors would easily fall into the influencer category. What is not so obvious is the sway generated by print space in industry magazines and media outlets. There are just a few top titles and regular features in Boat International, SuperyachtNews or Cruising World could bring a lot of news eyes to your boats. The key here is to go beyond the press release writeup on the latest model out of the hanger and use this valuable opportunity to give readers a taste for the yacht owner lifestyle and communicate the specific values of your company.

Other gatekeepers to be addressed include independent advisors (designers, engineers and surveyors, for example), captains and crew, as well as current clients. These three groups are often the most influential when it comes to potential buyers. Communications aimed at maintaining a strong relationship with these crucial influencers generates positive word-of-mouth about your company that can reach the ears of potential clients who are nearly impossible reach via traditional and web-based marketing methods.

Bottom Line

It's time to put the large-scale coffee table books with glossy, brochure pictures and gold embossed typeface on the shelf where they belong. A leaner, smarter industry is emerging after years of hardship; marketing strategies should be leaner and smarter as well.

Fingers crossed for a really productive year!

On the crest of this positive trend in the yachting industry in Italy, a new boat show event is set to be held in Viareggio this May - Versilia Yachting Rendez-vous