The 2009 Aftermarket Factbook from the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association is out, and there are some numbers related to tool-buying decisions you should find interesting, particularly if you are spending more and more time worrying about online tool sellers.
The top four factors in purchasing decisions are quality, availability, warranty and service. And though you offer all four of these (at least I assume you are if you’re interested enough in your business to be reading Professional Distributor in your downtime), there is one segment you offer every customer that an online seller cannot: Service.
Online tool sellers try to make purchasing easy for their customers with the Internet, but they’re not in the shop every week for repairs, returns, warranty service or anything else, even just a bottle of water and a mini candy bar. They don’t develop relationships with their customers. They don’t check to see how the tools they sold them six months ago are holding up and working out. And they certainly don’t anticipate their customers’ future needs and let them try out tools they haven’t heard of yet.
All the free shipping and returns in the world won’t replace actually being there. Since you are there, make the most of it.
As to the other factors: if you don’t feel you’re already selling top-quality tools, why are you in business? Your warranty policies should fall in line with your brand’s and be as top-notch as the quality of the tools you offer. And you should always be working on availability by keeping your inventory stocked. That’s standard operating procedure.
The online sellers can say what they want, but they’re only selling on price — every time. So if you’re selling and not concentrating on service, you’re missing out.