The six types of first-time boat buyer

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Merry Mates or Water Weekenders? The Grow Boating research identified six different types of first-time buyer.
Merry Mates or Water Weekenders? The Grow Boating research identified six different types of first-time buyer.

Are your customers Gear Guys, Merry Mates or Luxurious Leisurers?

The Grow Boating industry resource centre in the US has released new research that seeks to identify the different types of first time boat owners and the reasons why they get into boating in the first place.

The First-Time Boat Buyer (FTBB) study identifies six different types of first-time boat buyers, each of which have different motivations for getting out on the water. According to Grow Boating, the six types are:

  • Gear Guys: Representing 17% of the market, these are younger adults, mostly men, motivated by hobbies with specialised equipment. They are intrigued by the tech and the specs. They crave details, so when they’re ready to buy a boat, they want to talk to the experts. For the Gear Guys, it’s not about being on the water—it’s about the boat.
  • Merry Mates (16%): Family is at the core of everything they do -especially their activities. When it comes to boating, Merry Mates rarely plan events, but they love going along for the ride. For them, boat ownership is the best way to connect as a family.
  • Luxurious Leisurers (18%): Image-conscious boaters who surround themselves with the finer things. They are always up for trying a new hobby or activity. For the Luxurious Leisurers, owning a boat is an achievement that gives them a boost in status.
  • Water Weekenders (23%): These boaters enjoy being by or on the water but they didn’t grow up boating. In their social circles, the Water Weekenders are the ones who plan outings on the boat – tubing, cruising, fishing and water skiing. For them, owning a boat is driven by their desire to host friends and family.
  • Seclusion Seekers (12%): Nature lovers who consider their daily life stressful and full of obligations. Seclusion Seekers escape to the great outdoors through activities like hunting, hiking, camping or kayaking. For them, boating is about getting away from the daily grind and connecting with nature on the water.
  • Nautical Natives (14%): Boating is in their DNA so they understand the appeal of boating and take joy in getting on the water. With lots of experience under their belt, Nautical Natives see themselves as boating experts. Their desire to own a boat is rooted in continuing a family legacy.

The research also highlights that while the various types of buyers may have different motivations, their pathways to finally owning a boat follow a similar course. For instance, the research reinforced the importance of participation in driving eventual ownership. Nearly all the first-time buyers interviewed for the research pointed to a specific on-water trip when they decided they wanted to own a boat.

On the other hand, the lack of transparency around the “hidden costs” of boating can easily derail the purchasing plans of first-timers, putting the onus on dealers to be upfront about the true cost of owning a boat and how to make it easier.

One of the alarming findings of the research from an industry perspective is that, according to 2015 data supplied by Info-Link, while first-time boat buyers represent 33% of all boats sold in the US, this figure has fallen by 20% since 2005.

“While the recreational boating industry has recovered from the recession, each year we are seeing fewer people enter boating for the first time, according to Info-Link,” said Carl Blackwell, Grow Boating president. “We knew we needed to better understand how to attract and keep the first-time boat buyer and this new Discover Boating research is a great first step—it’s the most comprehensive study to date on the first-time buyer and will help us adapt our business practices, making sure we do a better job attracting these buyers and keeping them in boating.”

Details of the FTTB study including explanatory videos can be found here.

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