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Online sales is considered a dirty phrase to more than a few in the HVACR community. It conjures up images of homeowners buying air conditioners on Craigslist and hiring a moonlighting technician to install them. There are many things wrong with this specific scenario that hurt both the HVAC contractor and the consumer.
However, the world is changing and a great percentage of the general public wants to buy products online. A recent study by Invesp showed 80 percent of the online population has used the Internet to purchase something and 50 percent has shopped online more than once.
Everyone from Amazon to Stamps.com is cashing in on the paradigm shift. Is the HVAC industry missing the boat? Former contractor Will Housh thinks so, and he is trying to change that. And, while he is far from the first individual who has attempted to sell direct, he is making a conscious effort to include reputable contractors and manufacturers in the process.
Housh’s site is www.hvac.com (I wonder how much he paid for that) and there you can buy everything from an air conditioner to a boiler.
“We only sell equipment from manufacturers that allow a warranty to remain in place as long as it is installed by a licensed HVAC contractor,” Housh said. “Our industry is shifting. It is inevitable at this point. The scale has tipped to where consumer buying behavior is moving to the Web.”
While some people sell direct and don’t want to hear how the story ends, Housh takes pride in including contractors in the process. When selling products, the company matches the purchaser with local contractors who can legally install the equipment without voiding the warranty. Housh knows many contractors from running in those circles as an ACCA member.
“A lot of people use us as a resource and do not buy from us, which is fine. They see us as an unbiased industry resource that connects them with trustworthy local contractors. They know we are not beholden to any brand or contractor, so they listen to our recommendation,” Housh said.
At this point, Housh is not making money on this part of the business. But, this is a practice in capitalism, so who knows what the future holds? He said he has received pushback from some contractors while being endorsed by others.
“Some are threatened by change and some embrace it,” Housh said. “The contractors that like it enjoy receiving some labor-only leads that provide them a new customer to sell a service contract to while building their brand in the local market.”
Does Housh have the right formula? Only time will tell. The HVAC industry has a time-tested supply chain that has worked well over the years. But just because this is how things were done in the past is not a good enough reason to keep doing them that way. Not to say that any of the principals should be cut out during this online expansion, but the industry can’t bury its collective heads in the sand on this one.
This industry needs to sell how the public likes to buy and this increasingly means online. While buying a furnace is much different than ordering a pair of Crocs, some of the same benefits apply. Saving time by being able to compare prices and features on a vast array of online products is something that is becoming more attractive to the general public. Lives are getting busier, so people are attempting to save time however they can. Most folks don’t want to wait for a salesperson to show up for an appointment, they want to get online.
In today’s world, you can go online and purchase someone to stand in line for you, uranium, and Justin Timberlake’s French toast. Why is it so difficult to imagine consumers purchasing HVAC equipment online?
Publication date: 8/18/2014