Magazine article International Trade Forum

South African Boat Builder Sets Sail with E-Mail

Magazine article International Trade Forum

South African Boat Builder Sets Sail with E-Mail

Article excerpt

When Peter Dean set out to harness the benefits of the Internet to sell boats, he had no idea of just how useful e-mail could be for winning and keeping customers. Building custom boats has always been a delicate and lengthy process of consultation between the builder and the client. Dean Catamarans, a South African maker of luxury catamarans in business for over 20 years, discovered that it could use technology to extend its reach to far-away markets. As the boats take up to nine months to build, it is important to keep clients as far away as Malaysia and the United States engaged in the progress of the boat's construction. Customers receive personalized services, including digital photographs that document construction progress on a regular basis.

Technology has made it easier for customers to take part in the manufacturing process. Dean discovered that the images were especially important for clients to visualize and respond to alterations. Through the firm's web site, clients can assist in choosing specifications and components and suggest modifications. A photographic history of the boat's construction also serves as an ongoing archive for both customer and manufacturer that can be used for insurance and repair purposes. To create a sense of community and aid in the marketing process, Dean employs e-chat rooms and a web-based skippers' log for documenting voyages on the yachts. …

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