Go online and search for places to buy windshield wipers.
What are the first five links you see? If it’s remotely similar to my experience, you saw a couple of big box retailers, an online retail giant and an e-commerce site that I’ve never heard of pop up.
As you scroll through, did your jobber store come up in the search? It didn’t for me either.
There are at least two jobbers within a five minute drive from my home. In between them is a Walmart with its own automotive department. Just down the street is a PartSource with its parent company Canadian Tire a block away. Home Depot is across the street and it even has an automotive section.
Guess where my search results pushed me? Yup, to the big box guys.
There’s a lot to be said for search engine optimization. It’s essential if you want to be found online, though it appears few are bothering to invest a nickel in this essential service.
It’s troubling going to the websites of various jobbers and seeing what is not being offered.
However, given what the vast majority of jobbers have to offer online, it’s probably a good thing SEO is being ignored. There’s no point drawing customers to your website if your digital shelves are empty.
Let’s take Canadian Tire’s website as an example. I was able to browse all of the wipers it sells. It included guides to ensure I was getting the right one and it told me how many were in stock at any of its locations. I could reserve it online and pick it up in store in a couple of hours – walk in, get what I need and be on my way.
So if I’m the average consumer, this experience was appealing. It was simple and just like shopping at most places online. If that’s the experience of a typical customer, why would they shop anywhere else?
Think about that for a moment. Chances are, the customer is being shown a great experience online from a mass merchandiser. Not you, a jobber and expert in automotive aftermarket products. Not to say the folks behind the counter at Canadian Tire aren’t good at their jobs, but the customer has no reason to believe that you are. Why would they shop for something as simple as wipers – forget about anything more complicated – from you?
There’s a failure here. It’s troubling going to the websites of various jobbers and seeing what is not being offered. There’s little to entice the average consumer to go beyond your homepage. Too many websites are just there for the sake of being there, it seems. A small percentage – NAPA and some independents – provide the ability to browse the products they sell. The rest list the manufacturers they carry and that’s it.
If you’re waiting to offer value-added services when they come in-store, guess what – it’ll never happen. They’re checking you out online first and being turned off.
Much talk has been centred around going up against Amazon and RockAuto. But it doesn’t look like many are even interested in competing against Canadian Tire or Walmart. Easy business is being lost here. You’re sending customers away by telling them you don’t want their business. That’s not your direct message, but that’s what they hear.
Customers know how they should be treated online. They have expectations. Too many jobbers are falling short.
Forget about not being competitive, most are not even playing the game.
If you have any comments on this or any other topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.