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The yachting market is, on the whole, still product oriented, rather than customer oriented. The focus of the way the industry presents itself centres on the product, rather than on the experience. As the yachting industry has seen its double-digit growth of the past decades diminish in the wake of the economic crisis, it now needs to look inwards, to renew and refresh its own design approach and methodology, and outward, to explore new markets, and to concentrate on how to enter them successfully. This requires a people-centred approach, which considers yachts not as mere physical products, but as facilitators of an experience.
User-experience design is built upon an understanding of and dialogue with the potential consumer, in order to create a more “user-centred” product and thereby drastically enhance the ‘total’ experience of the brand. Yachts are luxury products; their major selling point goes beyond their form or function, but also covers the use of the boat, its rarity and what it expresses about the owner. This fits well with the idea of an experience-driven product: experience is invisible, permeating and memorable. It does not contrast with the production volume. Its very uniqueness and individuality means that it can be offered to many, without reducing the perception of rarity.
Many of the yachting industry’s customers now come from emerging markets, and from a younger demographic base. These new customers often bring with them totally new paradigms, needs and desires. Creating yachts for these markets requires not just product design, graphic design, computer science and engineering skills, but also ethnography, cognitive psychology and sociology, as well as an understanding of interaction design, interface design and service design. Tools and techniques that offer insights into these consumers and how they differ from traditional yacht markets will be vital if the yacht industry is going to go beyond the self-referential designs created for the Western luxury market, and new design disciplines will allow the industry to create experiences that endure across individual, social and cultural contexts. To do so, it will have to address considerations such as the democratization of luxury, the desire for bespoke goods, two-way engagement with consumers, differentiation through service, responsible and sustainable luxury and the integration of web and other developing technologies.
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