July 29, 2011, 4:53 PM

Boating supplies retailer rides a new wave of sales

At web-only merchant Wholesale Marine, web sales are up about 40%.

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John Bissman says Wholesale Marine has posted 40% growth in sales this year over last.

Though it no longer sells boats, web-only retailer Wholesale Marine is taking several steps to grow a boating parts and supplies business that has grown sharply over the last two years, e-commerce manager John Bissman says.

“We’ve seen about a 40% growth in sales this year over last, along with an increase of more than 40% in conversion rates,” he says. And that’s on top of a strong 2009, he adds.

Wholesale Marine (despite its name, it operates only as a retailer) switched in recent years from selling boats to boating parts and supplies.

For example, it offers personalized product recommendations through Baynote Inc., and it has deployed a more effective site search feature with Thanx Media, which provided it with site search and navigation technology from Endeca Technologies Inc.

In addition, Wholesale Marine has built its own parts-finder tool on top of its Miva Merchant e-commerce platform, which it also built in-house with Miva technology. The parts-finder tool, as well as the separate site search function, has proved effective at winning over shoppers who often find it difficult to find just the right part for their water craft. Finding the right part, Bissman says, can rely on a long list of criteria such as whether a boat is used in fresh or salt water, the type of engine, and whether a customer wants to emphasize speed or fuel efficiency.

To ensure its parts-finder and other applications function properly, Wholesale Marine runs performance tests with Dotcom-Monitor, a provider of web site and application performance monitoring services. “With our new features, we have improved the user experience, and increased time on site, conversion rates and revenue,” Bissman says. But to get those benefits, he adds, the retailer must constantly test that all of its features are loading and operating properly.

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