The Miami International Boat Show has it all. More than 2,000 local, national and international companies showcasing more than 3,000 of the newest boats, engines, gadgets and gear. Among the projected crowd of more than 100,000 was a team of HY Connectors, including me, attending on behalf of our client, Yamaha Outboards. And while I wasn’t able to make it to every booth, there were a few takeaways beyond the brochures:
All about confidence. All signs seemed to point toward confidence in the industry, based on my conversations with people at the show. This industry was hit hard by the recession because as you can imagine, a new boat or outboard engine doesn’t fall into the “necessary purchase” category. The last three years have been all about consolidation, cut-backs and survival, with some boat companies unable to weather the extended downturn. When the dust settled, the industry became smarter and stronger. And the results prove it. The National Marine Manufacturers Association reported an estimated 10% growth for the boating industry in 2012, and based on the positive outlook observed at this show, confidence will continue to grow.
The joystick is back. When Atari first launched in the 1970s, it took the video game world by storm thanks to a simple joystick that you used to maneuver. Now the joystick is back as the newest technology boat engine companies are offering in an effort to grow the boating population. At this year’s show, Yamaha Outboards introduced Helm Master, the fully integrated boat control system, which features a joystick that allows the boat driver to move laterally, maintain direction or do a complete 360. Mercury Marine also introduced Joystick Piloting for outboards, allowing the driver to have total control at their fingertips. Volvo Penta is in on the game as well. With this technology now available, boaters have control and convenience like never before.
Interactive is king.Trade shows have been around for a long time, and unfortunately so have some of the displays. A booth that hasn’t evolved just isn’t effective. Nothing draws foot traffic quicker than a fun, interactive booth. Yamaha, Mercury and Volvo Penta took advantage of its joystick product by offering potential buyers a simulator game to practice taking the helm. It was a hit. Numerous companies, including Mercury, went a step further and displayed iPads with videos, specs and photos. Overall, the interactive experience resonated well with consumers, and the companies that chose to do it reaped the rewards.
Time can only tell what’s in store for the boating industry long-term, but based on my experience at the 2013 Miami Boat Show, it’s full speed ahead.