Mercury Marine Web Site
FOND DU LAC, Wis., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Subj: Mercury Marine Joins The Information Super Waterway http://www.mercurymarine.com to be "The Boater's Resource" Date: 97-06-23 10:21:35 EDTFOND DU LAC, Wis., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Mercury Marine has announced the opening of its long-awaited site on the world wide web, and promises that it will be among the most comprehensive sites of any marine manufacturer. Boaters and non-boaters alike will find http://www.mercurymarine.com to be a one-stop resource for most any boating-related information. Safety, weather and tide information; race and tournament schedules and results; favorite cruising destinations and on-board recipes; and a customized boating profile for the first-time buyer are all available on the Mercury Marine site. And there will even be information about Mercury Marine outboards, sterndrives, propellers, and parts & accessories.
"Other manufacturers have web sites that deal with their company and products," said Greg Kissela, Director of Marketing Services, "we want the focus of our site to be what people do with our products, and how to improve and better enjoy the boating experience."
In addition to the customary product information, mercurymarine.com will offer a company history, frequently asked questions about maintenance and service, warranty information, recent news, and the ability to order catalogs or find the nearest authorized Mercury Marine dealer.
At "The Fishing Spot," browsers can select fresh or saltwater fishing tips, find out where and when to see their favorite TV fishing shows or share their own favorite fishing fable. "We want the site to be very interactive --- like the boating experience," Kissela said, "we will constantly solicit input from visitors to the site for their favorite boating-related activities and places." Within the near future, "The Fishing Spot" will offer guide and resort referral information as well.
Similar information will be available on cruising, water-skiing, jet boating, and racing. Plans are to make available articles on these topics from popular boating, fishing, and outdoor magazines, as well as from visitors to the site.
"By tapping into the expertise of our professional racers, anglers and skiers, along with material from a variety of publications, as well as the boaters who visit our site, we will be able to offer the freshest, most up-to-date and comprehensive information of any marine manufacturer. We hope it keeps people coming back to the site again and again," Kissela said.
SOURCE Mercury Marine Copyright 1997, PR Newswire
by Gary Polson RBBI 24 June 1997I would like to begin with 3 thoughts:
The site was written by Fallon McElligott, their advertising agency. Their name (Fallon McElligott) is at the top of the HTML code for each page. I found a press release announcing Mercury's change to Fallon dated February 1996. It is now July 1997 (one and a half years later). That is a long time to get a web site up and running. My "one man band" has put up, and maintained, 4 new websites (two of them approach the magnitude of this site), since Sept 1996 (in 10 months). During this time I was also maintaining another large site I had priorly created. But, I didn't have to deal with the inner workings of several large companies while doing it.
The site is noticeably "end user' oriented with no "dealer specific' areas or information. I assume they are going to construct an extranet similar to the Merc Xtranet already in place for their European dealer network.
I find the opening graphic a bit confusing. Sometimes the site comes up with an opening page that says "Mercury Waterline" and has some small blurry watery graphic on it. I am a bit confused about what I am supposed to do. If I click somewhere, then it goes to the opening navigational page. At other times, the site opens with the navigational page (not the confusing page).
We notice the promotion of a new logo and theme throughout the site, "The Mercury Waterline". The traditional logos of Mercury Marine, MerCruiser, and QuickSilver are noticeably absent from the site. Seems unusual to leave out some of the most recognized logos in the industry? Wonder what the reason for that is? Trying to distance themselves from the site?
Also, I notice the total absence of the word "Brunswick" from the web site. It's a touchy issue with some of the independent boat builders. They don't like using Mercury Marine products and having to compete with Brunswick boat building companies. If the site is really designed for the end user (the independent boat companies would be using the Xtranet) it seems like this is a place to try to get some synergy out of the Brunswick name. Show the tie in with Zebco, Sea Ray, Bayliner, Boston Whaler, the bowling group, pool tables, and all the "active recreation companies" Brunswick recently bought? Seems like this is a case of define your audience and write to them.
The black background seems logical for a Mercury Marine site. The initial navigational page talking about coves and bays has the feel of the old Bombardier / Sea-Doo web site, which has since been revised. The use of red type for links on a black background makes them difficult for me to see. Also if you do click on one, it turns silver and is even harder to see.
The site is overran with nice graphics that load reasonably rapidly. The site does have real "substance" as their is quite a bit of significant information posted on very units and models, but it feels a little "deep'" in that you have to click on several links to get all the way to some substantial information. You can speed the process up by making selections from the text index, but it is still a few clicks to real information.
The "home page" has a link to a sound file that is supposed to play the sound of "water waves". The file is in "x-wav" format. That is pretty weird in today's normal ".wav" formats or "real time audio" formats. They do not even provide a link to the proper player. A site of this nature needs several novices "plowing through it" on their own computers to find these problems before the real end users do.
It looks like most of their product lines (Mercury Marine, MerCruiser, High Performance, QuickSilver, and Propellers) all have a substantial presence in this initial web offering.
The press release says, "we want the focus of our site to be what people do with our products." There is not a single photo of a person in a boat on the site.
The press release says, "we will be able to offer the freshest, most up-to-date and comprehensive information of any marine manufacturer." It seems like that will be awful hard to do when you have to get the information to an outside ad agency and wait for them to process it and post it. Here at RBBI we post breaking news in a matter of minutes. Large ad agencies that are working on many other projects for many other firms at the same time sound like a long response time to me.
Nice use of some of the racing reports and race coverage information.
One pet peeve we have had with the manufacturers is their lack of strong promotional literature with some real facts in it about the two stroke engine oils. We have told them that the internet looks like a great place to post some test results and facts to substantiate their claims about the OEM TCW III engine oils and defend their high prices. Mercury Marine falls flat on that one. They post the blurb below:
Formulated for the hardest-working engines in the world. Whether you need 4-stroke or 2-cycle oil for your sterndrive, outboard, gas or diesel engine, QuicksilverŽ sets the standard - protecting engine bearings from chemical attack and keeping pistons clean. Quicksilver 4-cycle oil makes promises other brands just can't live up to.They don't even tell you what the claims are for the 4-cycle oil. And just tell you they "set the standard" for the 2-cycle oils.
Another pet peeve we have talked to them and others about is utilizing the internet to visit directly with their dealers and end users about service problems. The site does have an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page in the service area. It only has 5 outboard questions and 5 MerCruiser questions in it. What makes it even worse is they don't even ask the real most frequently asked questions (no talk about carburetor problems or prop sizing) they only post a few easy to answer non complicated questions. All they provide in the way of interactivity is the text below:
Your satisfaction is as important to us as providing you with an engine that runs virtually trouble-free. If, for any reason, you have a problem, question or concern about your Mercury Marine engine, feel free to contact your local Authorized Mercury Marine Dealership. They're there to help.We thought the internet was supposed to be interactive? If my satisfaction is so important to you, give me an e-mail access to somebody who can help me. You tell me to contact my local dealer and the "dealer locator page" doesn't even work. There is not even a way provided to suggest a question for posting in the FAQ!
The "Guest Book" asks too many questions.
There are no special attempts being made to address the international audience (text in multiple languages or some gathering area for international information).
Brunswick and the NMMA have talked a lot about the importance of women in the selection, purchase and operation of a boat the last few years. I see no "women's corner" for them to seek information specifically for them. Also, since many users of the net are quite young, it might be nice to have a 'kid's corner" as well.
Many companies talk about mission statements and vision statements on their web sites, we don't see them here.
No general "links page"' pointing to other boating sites (like RBBI) although it does have a weather link and a somewhat unusual link to a west coat tide site. They don't even provide links to other Brunswick sites. No links to other Brunswick marine sites, might be due to trying to keep that in low profile to keep from aggravating the independents? How about a Zebco link?
Several areas of the site are "established" but yet to be developed. Among them is the dealer locator. The press release talks about "a customized boating profile for the first-time buyer", but that page is blank.
How about some online factory tours? Some real boating photos? Maybe some testing photos? A chat group? A listing of the boating newsgroups?
How about a "face to face" with some real people who work there (not just execs - and I can't even find photos of them). Let them tell us "how it is." Mercury has a great heritage and almost innumerable long term (25 year plus) employees. Let us hear from some of these folks and maybe some "temps" too. I always liked reading about their truck drivers with incredible safety records. How about showing us some of your "great people". We thought Brunswick said people were its greatest asset. I looked all over the site and I never found a picture of a person.
The product pages would be more valuable if they carried some kind of "list price" so the visitor could at least determine the relative pricing of the units.
I think they are missing a real opportunity not offering the "clothing" (caps, t-shirts, knick-knacks) for online sale via a credit card.
I don't see an Updates/ What's New Page that can quickly guide the repeat visitor to new materials. They are using cookies. This gives them the opportunity to guide the visitor to new materials in the areas they visited before.
Here is a list on features I think would be nice on a drive manufacturer's web site that are not yet present on the Mercury Marine site.
Recommended Possible Additions to the Site
Although we are suggesting a lot of possible additions, we realize that when designing a site like this you have to "go with it" before it is perfect. If you work on it for ever to perfect it and never post it, it doesn't do you much good. I think they went with some pretty good stuff, but we need to remember they had two years longer than most of the others to try to "get it right" in.
We are unable to determine their bandwidth capability and if the server can really "carry the load" when the site heats up. We did notice the site to be down this afternoon (24 June). The evening of June 25th the site seemed quite "slow." Maybe it is now loading up and taxing their system? Also, only time will tell if they will follow through on their statements about keeping the site fresh with new content. We also notice they are not making their site statistics page (hit and visit counters) public.
I won't bore you with the details, but I have tried interacting with the site via e-mail and phone and found they have not yet "captured the vision" of the opportunites the internet allows for rapid communications.
Seem like they need to recognize (have a credits page) who wrote the site, put a link to them, and thank them for it rather than hide Fallon's efforts in the source code? I know this review has been very tough on the concept of using of an outside agency like Fallon McElligott for preparing corporate web sites. I would like to say that in terms of the appearance, content, and function of site as it has been launched, I think Fallon has did an excellent job.
Anyway, I said I was going to be "tough on them." Even being tough on them, mercurymarine.com comes through pretty good. I think their "first attempt" has surpassed the first attempts made by anybody else in the industry in the U.S. The Bombardier / Sea Doo (international firm) first attempt (over two years ago) was awesome as have been some of the sites posted by international boat builders. Also I would like to give them an A+ on having substantial content on their site. Many sites are just fluff, this site has some real information in it! Congratulations to Mercury Marine for a job well done, its just a shame it wasn't up and running a two years ago like everybody else's.
If you want some industry sites to compare it with, try the URL's below:
by Gary Polson RBBI 24 June 1997Following are some technical details about the site that most "non-techies" will not be interested in.
In terms of the mechanics behind the site, it was written by Fallon McElligott, their advertising agency. Looking at some of the code, it appears to have been written on a Mac (which makes sense when your an advertising firm) using "Bare Bones Software" and some other tools. I see portions of the site trying to issue "cookies", a technique used to store information about you and where you have been, on your computer. Some sites tell you first, they do not.. That is humorous, in that Mercury internally uses Lotus Notes as a browser which will not accept "cookies".
We strongly urge manufacturing firms (and other firms as well) to bring the "internet presence" function "in house." It allows you to much more rapidly respond to changes and to directly interact with their customers. Putting it off on an advertising agency removes you from ever getting direct interaction with your customers. You might need to use some consultants to help you establish a site, but we strongly believe you should run it yourself. Mercury's use of Fallon McElligott makes their site the equivalent of a print ad. Note they even remove the addresses and phone numbers. It like they are just flying over dropping leaflets with no opportunity for feedback. There are a couple of opportunities to say something, but those comments go to the ad agency not to Mercury. I'll wager they will get a lot of Mercury questions that they just "throw away."
Additionally, you need daily access to the "logs" to determine who is visiting your site, what kind of servers they were on, what browsers they were using, what country they were from, how they are moving around through your site, and how they got there in order to "continuously improve" the site. You can see what search engines delivered visitors to your site, how many they delivered, how much of your site they viewed, and what words they entered in the search engine. The "log" statistics can be a great asset in improving yours site and meeting your customers needs. If the logs reside with an advertising firm, you will probably just get a hit count output.
We try to "spruce up" our entry page for the holidays and for breaking news items. It is much more difficult to respond with special graphics and comments to holidays, special events, and breaking news items when working through an agency. You can try to anticipate the holidays and make some special messages to post, but we have yet to see anyone actually accomplish that through an agency.
I am unable to determine their bandwidth capability and if the server can really "carry the load" when the site heats up. We did notice the site to be down this afternoon (24 June). The evening of June 25th the site seemed quite "slow." Maybe it is now loading up and taxing their system? I also notice they are not making their site statistics page (hit and visit counters) public.
The black and dark color scheme allow them to use a limited number of colors in many of the graphics. Saving the graphics in 16 colors or less allows them to load much more rapidly. The dark color scheme allows them to still look nice.
Below is the site registration.
Brunswick Corp. (MERCURYMARINE2-DOM) 1 North Field Court Lake Forest, IL 60045-4811 USA Domain Name: MERCURYMARINE.COM Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact: Jannusch, Matt (MJ31) mattj@FALLON.COM 612-321-2393 Billing Contact: Jannusch, Matt (MJ31) mattj@FALLON.COM 612-321-2393 Record last updated on 10-Jun-97. Record created on 10-Aug-95. Database last updated on 24-Jun-97 05:23:33 EDT. Domain servers in listed order: SPARC.FALLON.COM 126.96.36.199 INDY.FALLON.COM 188.8.131.52Looks like the registration was updated just a few days ago (June 10) to move control of the site from Brunswick's original registration (just to hold the domain name) to Fallon McElligott's control. Note the Sparc and Indy listed as servers. They should be able to handle heavy traffic, but don't forget Fallon also hosts some other high profile web sites, probably on the same servers and incoming lines.