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One of the nation's largest HVAC companies is leveraging e-commerce to change the way homeowners and business owners shop for heating and air conditioning products and installation work.

Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, which has 95 locations in 30 states and Canada, recently partnered with Contractor Commerce, which offers sales technology to contractors in several trades, to launch an online sales platform that lets buyers compare and choose air conditioning, a new furnace, or a complete HVAC system from local Service Experts contractors via computers and other internet-connected devices.

The platform has customers answer a few simple questions about their HVAC needs and their home or business and then provides several choices — in a “good, better, best”-type arrangement — with details about each choice and at prices that include full installation. Customers have the option of asking for more information, through the platform, about a specific choice, and the contractor may also opt to seek more information about the home, if needed.

Service Experts Website.

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The platform has shoppers answer a few simple questions about their home or business and their current HVAC system. (Courtesy of Contractor Commerce)

The online stores, customizable on the sales end by each Service Experts contractor, were up and running at 10 locations as of late December, said Paul Redman, vice president of sales at the Lebanon, Ohio-based Contractor Commerce. The e-stores will eventually be available to all Service Experts contractors.

"The goal here is not to, you know, put an air conditioner on a pallet and ship it across the country to some random house," said Redman during a phone interview. "It's really to give the homeowner in the local market the feeling of transparency and trust and good information, and let the contractor be the authority of that information. Not some third-party website and, most importantly, not a competitor."

Service Experts Website.

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After a few questions are answered, the platform comes up with recommendations for suitable replacement equipment at prices that include complete installation. (Courtesy of Contractor Commerce)

"The trend is definitely moving towards more of these the online tools to be able to build and price and order equipment.”
David Moody
Vice President of Marketing and Customer Engagement
Service Experts

Redman and Dave Moody, vice president of marketing and customer engagement at Service Experts, said the e-stores come at a time when consumers are increasingly shopping online and, with the coronavirus pandemic still a major concern, allow buyers to limit the number of people with whom they have in-person contact as an HVAC system is purchased and installed.

"The trend is definitely moving towards more of these the online tools to be able to build and price and order equipment," said Moody. "We've certainly seen ... how Amazon has responded and benefited from a lot of the reluctance to go into a retail store. So I think this fits in with that trend very, very well."

Service Experts Website.

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Each of the recommend options comes with details about its price, performance, efficiency, and other characteristics. (Courtesy of Contractor Commerce)

Redman said an HVAC sales platform is a natural extension of the online marketing contractors already do.

“Contractors spend a ton of money and energy getting traffic on the website. And that's a good start. But then there's nowhere to actually conduct business on the website, there's no way to actually transact,” he said. “So what we're doing with Contractor Commerce is allowing the website to … handle and facilitate actual transactions.”

The system lets shoppers view pricing for systems remotely and without a visit by a salesperson. Because designing and coming up with a price for a system involves specifics about the building to be serviced, it's difficult to do over the phone, Moody said, but by answering the online questionnaire, the customer provides the needed information.

Service Experts Website.

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Each selection also includes payment options, system customization options, and the ability to ask for more information or schedule a site visit. (Courtesy of Contractor Commerce)

A buyer can also use the platform to customize parts of the HVAC system she or he chooses by, for example, opting for a Wi-Fi thermostat instead of a basic model, or adding a whole-house humidifier.

"We have noticed a lot more (online) activity because there's a lot of interest in knowing what it costs for an HVAC system," said Moody. The platform provides more transparency in HVAC pricing, he said.

“It's a wonderful tool. We're excited about it,” he added later. “We think it has great potential.”

Buyers still need to have a pre-installation visit, which can be scheduled through the online store, in order to have a technician verify that the system chosen will work in a given building.

Service Experts, based in Richardson, Texas, has several payment plans, and an HVAC purchase can also be made through the company's Advantage Program, a pay-as-you-go plan that allows customers to get new equipment with no money down at a monthly price that includes installation, planned maintenance, and all future repairs.