Retail web site now offers e-commerce, a first for Caribbean
“We are always looking for ways to enhance the value equation for our customers,” said Sean Kennelly, Managing Director of St. Maarten’s Island Water World, in July. To further that goal, a “new” Island Water World has been born with online shopping, a renovated logo and a new tagline, “Island Water World—keeps you sailing.”
The company says that sailors anywhere in the Caribbean now can just connect their laptops and go to www.islandwaterworld.com, a full-fledged e-commerce website. To further sweeten the deal, Island Water World is offering an online shopping reward with an extra 10% discount.
The company has managed to overcome some standard hurdles often encountered by online shoppers at many sites: Island Water World accepts credit cards where shipping and billing addresses do not match. Kennelly said this is a vital feature for a business dealing with a regional as well as international customer base. The retailer also took into account the sometimes-spotty Internet connections available here.
“We didn’t want a site overburdened with huge pictures and distracting adverts,” Kennelly said. “We developed a fast loading site, easy to use. It has a well organized index, pictures that tell the story at a glance, as well as text and links that provide relevant information. The goal is to give the customer the tools to making an informed decision.”
The marine retailer teamed up with Fedex and regional air carrier LIAT to secure highly competitive air freight prices, and provides reasonable sea freight rates. A shipping map on the website gives an easy overview about available shipping options and destinations.
“With St. Maarten being duty free and having excellent sea and air connections with most the other islands in the region, we knew there must be a way to get products cost effectively and quickly to our customers on islands where we didn’t have a store,” Kennelly explained.
Online payments are secured by a Thwarte certificate, a premier international organization policing online stores. Payments can be made via Paypal, Visa or MasterCard.
Large US-based marine retailers and wholesalers, utilizing both printed catalogues and the Internet, have been selling into the Caribbean for years. “It has always been an issue for us and other Caribbean-based businesses, dealing with large US corporations trading in our back yard,” said Kennelly. “But this made us more competitive over the years. Our prices are much the same or even better as in the US, which is tough when trading in the Caribbean where you don’t have the volumes of the large US giants.”
“We have nevertheless been able to grow a loyal following in the Caribbean because we are physically present. We not only have the goods, we are sailors – we know how our products work, we can help, we can advise and you know that in the unlikely event a product fails – we are here, nearby – just bring it back.”
Island Water World is the first marine business to introduce an e-commerce website in the Caribbean and one of very few fully-featured online stores for any type of retailer in the region.
The virtual store is the new website of Island Water World and links to the various stores (check out the Google maps), contact numbers and e-mails, marina and yard services in St. Maarten, warranty and shipping polices, and so on.
“I am tremendously proud of our staff who have worked long and hard to build this virtual store, and equally grateful to Litemoon, a St. Maarten-based media company, who have conceptualized the imagery, done the site makeover and ensured that we have been able to deliver a strong product in the simplest way. I am continually amazed at what can be achieved right here in the Caribbean,” Kennelly concluded.
Based in St. Maarten, with additional stores in St. Lucia and Grenada, the company has been a retailer and distributor of boats, motors and marine goods in the Caribbean for over 40 years.