There has been many discussion of late that refer to ‘the superyacht experience’, but have developments up to now failed to grasp the idea of an all-encompassing superyacht experience? That the experience of being on board a superyacht for the duration of a charter or holiday is of the highest order is seldom in doubt. However, has the market done enough to ensure that the purchasing experience that leads to this eventual fulfilment of utility is of a sufficiently high standard to encourage new charterers and owners? At The Superyacht Forum 2017, Mark Duncan, former commercial and marketing director at YPI and now industry consultant, suggested that the superyacht market has been so reliant on word of mouth marketing and a high-quality end product that it has, at times, neglected to develop entry level marketing to a high enough standard.
“When it comes to the brokerage houses, whether its buying and selling boats or chartering boats, marketing it a little rough at the edges,” stats Duncan. “Invariably brokerage houses are middle men and they don’t quite have the resources to come up with marketing campaigns that enable them to get into the magazines, journals, websites and networking areas that they require to get the message out. The first problem is limited expertise and limited resources to pitch the experience and sell the experience of yachting to newcomers.”
According to Duncan, there has been a number of studies, by WealthX and others, showing that around 70 per cent of the individuals that engage in yachting as a past time are researching the superyacht market, whether that be through brokerage websites, word of mouth or otherwise, before their first contact with a brokerage house of charter house.
“What this means is that before a charter broker or a sales broker gets to speak to a customer, 70 per cent of those individuals have already made their minds up about whether they want to go further with yachting and who they are going to talk to,” continues Duncan. “The broker, therefore, has no involvement with the decision-making process for that 70 per cent of people, which means that the only influence that those people have had is, invariably, the communication that has gone out courtesy of marketing.”
Duncan believes that a lot of brokerage houses, whether they are charter, sales or both, haven’t quite caught on to the fact that the message they communicate with, where they communicate it and how often they communicate it, has a huge influence on the markets potential to generate new custom. Furthermore, the tools that are being used to market the industry are not always up to scratch.
“One of the problems we have in the brokerage field, both charter and sales, is that the tools we use when we talk to newcomers, or even someone who has done a bit of charter and is thinking about changing brokerage house, are not good enough in many cases,” Duncan says. “The platforms that a lot of the brokerage houses are using are, to say the least, slightly archaic. I often comeback to a case I encountered once wherein a charter broker sent a client a list of 15 links to different vessels for them to compare. That is not bespoke service worthy of the world’s wealthiest individuals.”
When compared to the quality of bespoke service provided by the luxury holiday market, the superyacht market, in general, pales in comparison. For each enquiry in the luxury holiday sphere a unique online interactive dashboard is created that makes comparisons easy for the client, depending on their preferences, as opposed to a list of links to yachts or a generic landing page. This is not to say that some brokerage houses don’t do this incredibly well, but high standards are not uniform throughout the market.
At The Superyacht Forum 2017, Martin Redmayne, CEO of The Superyacht Group, discussed what he called “the touch points for the market,” the idea being that any time a potential customer makes contact with the market, a bespoke service of sufficiently luxurious standards needs to be there to greet them. The market in its current guise provides this standard intermittently, the work now is to ensure this happens across the board. The superyacht experience needs to be seamless from the bottom to the top.