From a very early age, most of us are involved in some sort of competitive activity. Whether it’s competing in a backyard game of baseball, or with a sibling for mom and dad’s attention, we learn the value of competing and winning. As we get older, winning becomes a way of life for those of us who choose to make a living in sales. As technology has evolved, the marketplace that most of us compete in has gotten much smaller. The immediate competition that was located down the street from us used to be our biggest worry. Now we not only have to worry about them, but also the online dealer that might be located on the other side of the country. One of the biggest challenges I hear from brick and mortar dealers in today’s environment is that it’s difficult to compete with the internet. While I agree that the internet has changed the way customers search for and purchase products, I would argue that for the accessories and hard parts that the golf car industry offers, a brick and mortar dealer has several inherent advantages that the internet simply can’t match.

Talking Shop with Stens

One such advantage is that a large group of the customers to which we sell our parts, have neither the ability nor the interest to install the parts that we offer. While buying online may be a slightly cheaper option for this subset of customers, it’s offset by the fact that they now have the responsibility of installing the part correctly. For many, this can be intimidating if not impossible, even with well-written instructions.

I believe we also underestimate the power that being able to touch and feel the products can have on the customer. I’ve purchased products on the internet and the quality of what I received versus what I thought I ordered was completely different. While I might have saved a few bucks initially, the inconvenience and cost to return the product wound up costing me more money in the long run. Worse yet, in some cases I’ve not been able to return the product and now must live with “buyer’s remorse.”

If given the choice, I’d much rather shop in an environment that allows me to see the product up close before I make a purchase.

Once we look beyond price, the value that brick and mortar dealers add becomes even more compelling. While many companies have tried to replicate the service experience that traditional brick and mortar dealers can provide, most have fallen short. When I have a problem, I still value the luxury of walking into a store and talking with the sales people that I originally purchased the product from, especially for technical products like golf car hard parts and accessories. I don’t believe that I’m alone in that opinion.

Finally, for the fast moving parts and accessories that you stock, your ability to address and satisfy a want or need the same day becomes a huge competitive advantage over your internet competition. While it’s not always feasible to stock every part, it is nice to be able to provide that same day service to the customer whenever possible. For the younger generation, the ability to have it now instead of later becomes very important when making a buying decision. Delivering and meeting that need for them helps reinforce the relationship, and provides an opportunity to develop a level of loyalty that the internet simply can’t match.

The next time you find yourself becoming frustrated with competing against the internet, remember the built-in advantages that you possess as a brick and mortar dealer. Never underestimate the value you bring with your expertise and ability to build relationships everyday with your customers. You can still compete and win, just like you learned as a kid.