Beneteau – Avant-Garde Boating
We learn about the Beneteau that’s not just making yachts but making yachts accessible.
Later they made history in becoming one of the first companies to introduce fibreglass production, and in the 1980s they introduced their first cruising boats, which even today are one of their most important product ranges. They’ve made a number of acquisitions over the years, and today Group Beneteau is made up of 12 different brands and boasts more than a billion dollars in turnover. But it all started with the mother company, Beneteau themselves, where everything started. It is the leader in the sailboats sector, worldwide, with one of the biggest ranges on offer.
“Our tagline is ‘Avant-garde in boating’ and it clearly defines us as bringing innovation to our products,” says Luca Brancaleon, the firm’s Managing Director. “We build industrially on a large scale, keeping the price aggressive enough to make them affordable for a large audience. We believe in approaching the boating industry for a big number of people and offer the possibility to experience boating to a large number of users.”
This approach also involves recognising that there is a huge audience out there who love the idea of boating, but who lack either the money or indeed the time to invest in owning a boat. Beneteau is working to reach out to these people.
“We launched the Beneteau Boat Club because we really believe in a new segment of customers and users which would not have been boating today without the boat club,” Brancaleon says. “We give them the possibility to test and try and discover the boating experience with a very small amount of money. The concept works thanks to a fleet of boats made available to members who pay a small fee of a few thousand euros for a lifetime membership, and only a few hundred euros per month to give you full access to our fleet. We have fishing boats, sailboats, water skiing, people can move between boats.”
It’s a strategy that Brancaleon believes is necessary for the attitudes of modern consumers. He tells us, “It’s much more in tune with what consumers expect today- a peer-to-peer business that works by spreading the passion virally among the people who would love to fish and use a boat but in other conditions could not afford to buy one, or who could afford to buy a boat but don’t have the time managing a boat requires.”
“By always offering the highest value for money we give all people access to the water to share our
passion for the seas,” Brancaleon says. “Our service network takes care of all boating needs – on-site and online. We provide boaters around the world with forward-thinking innovation across a wide range of boating solutions – from sailing and powerboats to complementary services and digital offers. This way we enable dreams on water and shape the maritime industry.”
Riding the Waves
Indeed, Brancaleon cites a constantly changing market as one of the biggest challenges for the boat manufacturer. Fortunately, Beneteau has over a century’s experience meeting the needs of a constantly changing market.
“The biggest challenges are the evolution of the market, and the changes in the user demographic. The first one because obviously the needs and demands of the market are changing very quickly and the time-to-market for a boat requires a certain amount of development time so we need to anticipate as much as possible,” Brancaleon says. “At the other end, on the distribution side, there is an evolution of user-experience customers are looking for.”
For Beneteau, this means not only providing a high standard of service and products but to make sure the experience is consistent every time.
“We have to make sure that the experience our customer has is in line with the brand identity and image we want to promote,” says Brancaleon. “We need the same brand consistency throughout all the different networks. That’s one of the main challenges we have with the changes in the world today.”
This isn’t something Beneteau can achieve on their own, and the company depends on the strong relationships it has built up with its network of dealers, as Brancaleon points out, “Our dealers are the main point of contact for the customers. They’re on the ground listening to what the customer really wants and where the market is going. We do a lot of analysis of different segments and businesses to find what the customer wants.”
Beneteau is also paying close to attention to other potential shifts in the market.
“If the economy changes there are practical and logistic issues that come out of that. We also need to take into account the ageing of the boats that already exist in our portfolio,” Brancaleon says. There are also connected markets that the company needs to bear in mind. “We don’t have strict control of what happens in the furniture, or RV business, but there are multiple ways to anticipate the demands of the market.”
Looking to the future, Group Beneteau is thinking about how to replenish their crew, with a lot of their workforce about to enter retirement.
“That’s one of our main challenges, especially in the last two years where a good portion of our people have been very close to retirement. So we’ve had to handle a big transition, with 500 people who have been replaced at the same time while also increasing production capacity to meet demand,” Brancaleon explains. “It pushes us to a different solution, taking untrained people and training them ourselves. We have a training centre; we cooperate with local schools and implement more and more skills every year to bring people into our sector.”
That new generation of talent will find themselves working in a very different business, that is faster moving and more digital than ever before. But somethings will never change.
“We’ll move towards a distribution system that will be a more digital experience, and to do this we will absolutely not distance ourselves from our network, but on the contrary, we have a full plan to accompany our dealer network,” Brancaleon says. “We are not a company that believes it would be possible to sell directly, because our product as a boat it needs a lot of additional services that only our distributors are capable of offering. The history and relationships we have with our dealers make us strong and our dealer network is one of our main advantages. We will keep this instinct Beneteau has always had, and are constantly in search of new ideas and innovative products and new technologies to bring to the market.”