I can buy an entire heating and cooling system on Amazon. I can do the same thing on eBay. Or The AC Outlet. Or any number of direct-to-consumer sites. I love this. I love the idea of being able to put a whole air conditioner in to my shopping cart. It’s sort of funny.
Not everyone feels the same way. I’ve talked to many business owners and sales people about on-line sales. Generally they all hate the idea. Vehemently. They all say the same thing about it: “You can buy it on-line but who’s going to install it?” As if that won’t happen. As if Home Depot and Costco and Lowes haven’t already marginalized the contractor to a tiny little kiosk. They have. And they’ll continue to put the squeeze on them. Just like the internet. This is happening. We’re in the nascent stages of it, but it’s happening. And it’s a very good thing.
The internet and the box stores force the HVAC contractors to confront and re-evaluate their relevance in the market. That’s a good thing.
The internet and the box stores force the HVAC contractors to candidly assess the strength of their value proposition, their “Why Us” message. And that’s a good thing.
The internet and the box stores force the HVAC contractors to honestly ask: “Do I bring anything truly scarce to the customer?” And that’s a good thing.
Best of all, the internet and the box stores force the HVAC contractors to swallow the bitterest pill of all: That purchasing a product from them may be a surly, unpleasant, messy, confusing, confounding, and muddled process for the consumer. It forces contractors to ask questions about the quality of their consumer experience. It forces them to look at their sales cycle: is it simple? Is it easy? Is it trustworthy? Is it truly unique? Is it frictionless? And that’s a very good thing.
The unpleasant reality for HVAC contractors is that the people trust the internet more than they trust a stranger in a van or a salesman in a snazzily wrapped car. They trust box stores more than they trust contractors. They trust their neighbors more than they trust contractors. So wouldn’t they point-and-click their way in to a new heating and cooling system? Why wouldn’t they talk to a few of my friends, read a few reviews, and take it from there. They’ll find a contractor to do the work. Probably a start-up or someone who is slow, or has a Technician with a light schedule or an opening on the installation board. That narrows the field.
There will come a time, and I hope it’s soon, when contractors are selling their products on-line. It’s a very real future. The smart ones will get going and do something about this. They’ll get over the idea that the world will know their pricing. Better yet, they’ll come to grips with the fact that their pricing is already “out there” in one form or another.
Best of all they’ll come to terms with their own relevance, market scarcity, and ability to accelerate trust. And that’s a very good thing.