Improve the Boat Ownership Experience

While at one time “satisfactory” service levels were considered good enough for creating customer retention and building brand loyalty, it’s not like that anymore! With the rise in consumer awareness and accessible DIY product research, today’s dealers are faced with meeting a much more demanding customer. Combine this hyper-informed consumer — one who requires an extraordinary experience to be part of their buying and ownership journey — with global health concerns, inflation, workforce shortages, product delays and lack of trust, and it’s no wonder why building allegiance in your brand has become more difficult than ever.

Marketplace challenges can overwhelm your team and leave them unsure of how to meet rising consumer expectations. However, the MRAA, along with RBFF and Discover Boating, has completed a study on “Enhancing the Boat Ownership Experience” that provides real-world examples of customers’ paths to buying boats, as shown in the chart.

This page offers tips, tools, and expert tactics to enhance the customer experience at each step of the journey shown on the image to the right. While the framework is provided, businesses must create their own path to success. The resources provided will aid in capturing and retaining customers. Every touchpoint with a customer defines the experience you provide, and this guide helps refine it.


Understanding and addressing each step in the customer’s journey is critical for enhancing satisfaction and retaining boaters. The “Enhancing the Boat Ownership Experience” survey provides real-world examples and proven steps for purchasing boats. It’s important to implement training and create a pathway to success to build a better customer experience.

VLOG: Tips for Improving Your Customer Experience with Liz Keener

In order to help your team exceed customer expectations on a daily basis, you need to have the proper systems and processes in place. Here are few tips to improve your approach to CX from MRAA Certification Manager Liz Keener.

Mind the Gap – Trade Only Column by Matt Gruhn

A recent boat ownership study — funded by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Discover Boating and the MRAA — showed that a vast majority of first-time and repeat boat buyers intend to remain in boating. While this is wonderful news, it also contradicts reality in that we know around 40 percent of FTBB leave boating, sell their vessel and don’t replace it within the first five years of their initial purchase.

Matt Gruhn explores this gap.

Improving the Customer Experience through Employee Satisfaction

I propose that employee satisfaction is the most important factor leading to customer satisfaction and how MICD helps dealers start with improving the employee experience.By MRAA Lead Certification Consultant Bob McCann.

Future Boaters are Different

It’s wonderful to know the demographics of your boating audience and future boaters, but it’s also vastly important to understand the feelings, behaviors and mindset of boaters, especially post-pandemic. This Soundings Trade Only article from Ellen Bradley, Chief Brand Officer, NMMA, details the what makes future boaters different and explores the three key segments identified by Discover Boating.

Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating

Insights and resources to help your team deliver world-class customer experiences. “Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating” is a step-by-step guide (FREE download for MRAA members) to helping you ensure the boat ownership experience exceeds expectations, creating an environment where your customers develop “two-foot-itis” and will be back in to trade up on their boats. 

MRAA Members Only:

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Consumers are savvy and comfortable with doing much of their research online to find boats near them. It’s important to know that they are seeking reliable information from your site, but also platforms and other resources that they can trust in order to help them make a purchasing decision. 

  • MRAA Strategic Partner Boats Group offers its Boat Trader as an avenue for dealers to enhance their brand, marketing and boat sales leads by converting more boat shoppers into boat owners (and happy customers).
  • Boatline, an MRAA Education Champion, powered by Trader Interactive, is an online recreation and commercial vehicle marketplace site that provides marine dealers with tools for advertising their location and inventory to offer a high-quality shopping experience and lead generation. 
  •, an MRAA Platinum Partner, helps buyers identify the right type of boat for them. Working closely with buyers and sellers, focuses on a great customer experience for those listing boats and those buying boats.
  • Boatyard is designed to connect its customers with preferred marinas, dealers and marine pros to find the proper service and items needed for their boat. Dealerships can also take advantage of Boatyard for business and process support.
  • MRAA Partner Member Digital Power Solutions offers its TRADE CYCLE resource for dealers is a value-your-trade website tool giving customers an instant appraisal of their Boat, while also providing dealerships with valuable shopper information.

Discover Boating Dealer Finder Tool

Discover Boating (powered by NMMA and MRAA) recently added a convenient new feature called the Dealer Finder Tool to help site visitors search for — and connect with — nearly 3,600 new boat dealers across the country. Site visitors can search for dealers and use the mapping functionality to quickly locate local dealers through zip code or city search, as well as a one-touch option to visit a dealer’s website or call the dealer directly. 

Discover Boating Boat Selector Tool

Embed Discover Boating’s interactive boat-buying resource, the Boat Selector Tool, on your website to help consumers find a boat that’s right just for them and their family.  

Discover Boating: First Time Buyer’s Journey to Purchase

Discover Boating outlines the first time boat buyers’ (FTBB) journey to ownership, and the fives stages of how they buy. They move through a process that includes five stages that display highly emotional states, from excitement to disappoint and everything in between. The stages are: Develop, Desire, Dream, Decide and Do. 

Discover Boating Dealer Finder Tool
Engagement with Customers Rollick image
How to Increase Customer Engagement by Improving Your Website

Jason Riley, Rollick Director of Marketing, in his blog says “As a boat dealer, your online presence and capacity to deliver a seamless digital retailing experience online are your two most powerful tools to edge ahead of the competition.”

Become a trusted dealership

Become a Trusted Dealership in the Eyes of Today’s Customer

Trust is the building block of all business. It also plays a huge role in the consumers’ expectations and decision-making process. So, how do you become a trusted voice and inspire you customers to become loyal fans? Exploring buyer psychology, Marcus Sheridan lays out “The 5 Anchors of Trust in the Digital Age.” Every department in your dealership can benefit from these best practices. The end game is to improve marketing engagement and sales, while also boosting your customer retention and their overall experience with your brand. This course was a 2021 Quarter 2 Continuous Certification course.

MRAA Gold Members ONLY:

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Guide to Defining the Customer Experience

Powered by Rollick, this MRAA Guide to Defining the Customer Experience provides you an in-depth look at the ingredients necessary for both pre- and post-sale success. Along with defining and comparing customer service and customer experience, this go-to resource can help you improve your CSI scores and establish processes to create loyal customers. 

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CSI Outside the Box

In CSI Outside the Box — a sister course to the above CX guide — speaker Steve Pizzolato provides insights into consumer satisfaction during the consideration phase, the initial purchase phase and the post-purchase phase.

MRAA Silver & Gold Members ONLY:

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Improve Customer Experience with This Consumer Financing Strategy

“How much of a boat can I afford to purchase?” Prospective boat buyers often have this question in mind, or worse yet, they learn that the boat of their dreams is out of their price range. You have a chance to be a hero to your customers by preventing them from guessing and, due to frustration, keep them from abandoning the boat shopping experience altogether. By using online pre-qualification programs to your advantage to help your customer avoid this question. By MRAA Vice President of Education Liz Walz.

Access the free, MRAA Mini-Guide on How to Build A Pre-Qualification Program:

Liz Walz MRAA VP of Education image

Your customers want to know they are getting the best possible price from you so they can feel more confident in their purchasing decision. This also relates to them satisfying an emotion driver and because buying a boat is a big investment for them. You have a chance to be a hero in their eyes and help them fulfill their dream of boat ownership. Just remember their journey isn’t over once they can feel comfortable with the price they are getting. Those steps come next, but it’s critical here to know you can help them know what they can afford to buy or not buy. 

The day they secure the boat of their dreams is on par with their first automobile or house purchase. There is a lot of emotion tied to this aspect of the journey as it’s filled with both a reward, learning that they have “secured the boat,” and also with anticipation for the next step in their journey that is to come. That is to take possession of their very own vessel. 

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This portion of our Improve the Boat Ownership Experience challenges you to explore and implement tactics and strategies for improving the customer experience once they take possession of the boat. We’ve compiled resources and courses to help guide your team in your effort to improve your CX efforts regarding post-sale communication, follow-up and retention efforts.

MRAATraining Courses to Excel the Boat Ownership Experience:

Not a member or want to upgrade to Silver and gain access to all MRAATraining Courses?

Email Membership Manager Sherri Cuvala