We are officially past the holiday season. And if your family is anything like my household, between Thanksgiving and Christmas you had the FedEx delivery truck stopping by every day to drop off the many purchases you made from Amazon, Target, etc.
There is also a pretty good chance that all your customers were doing the same thing. Should that mean something to you?
Now an HVAC system is unlike the Playstation 5 you bought your kids or the vacuum you hopefully did not try to pass off as a Christmas gift for your wife. But online purchasing is certainly where the American public is going — if they are not completely there already. So what does that mean for the HVAC contractor? It is time to start thinking about selling online.
Now that last statement is sure to get some folks riled up a bit, but would you rather a third party beat you to the punch? Consumers do not change personas when they are shopping for different items. Whether they are looking for shoes, a refrigerator, or a furnace, the journey usually begins online.
Need data to back that up? Since 2019, Google searches for residential HVAC is up 19%. Five years ago, the majority of searches were for HVAC and proximity. Think “HVAC contractor near Chicago” or “air conditioning contractor near Orlando.”
That has changed. Over the last year price is at a parity with proximity. Think “new furnace cost” or “ac unit cost.” Now which company do you think is going to come up when people search price? Let’s be honest, it often does not lead to an HVAC contractor. Many times it will lead to retail home improvement stores, lead companies, or people who will sell direct to consumer.
HVAC contractors that have pricing online can break through that clutter. We are not talking about someone looking at a condenser online and putting in their credit card to have it shipped to their home — that would not be a smart model. The right answer is a hybrid model, where the homeowner goes as far down the buying process as they can go directly on the contractor’s website before the contractor engages with them to help the customer finish the process.
For those who think it can’t be done because of the high cost of the product, you might want to look at the automobile industry. When you walk into a Ford, GM, or BMW dealership, you usually have a ballpark figure of how much this car is going to cost you. Why shouldn’t your customer have a better idea of what a new air conditioner is going to cost before that awkward price reveal that comes at the kitchen table and hour or two after you have been at their home?
So transparency in pricing on your website is the first step. Then comes the actual online selling. Now this is certainly something that you can dip your toe in rather doing an aggressive cannonball into the deep end of the pool. HVAC contractors should start with the low-hanging fruit.
Your homeowners should be buying filters on a consistent basis. Wouldn’t it be better if they did it off of your website rather than Amazon or Home Depot? How about your service agreement or maintenance program. Is there any reason a customer should not be able to purchase that online? Doesn’t it make more sense to have them find it on your website, look up your phone number, and call into your business in order to make that purchase?
If the technology aspect seems overwhelming to you, there are third-party companies that will handle this for you. But it is not hard to imagine that in the future, every HVAC contractor will have an online store. Perhaps in 15 years, not having such a store will be similar to not having a website at all today.
For more information on this topic, I urge you to listen to our NEWSmakers podcast where we talk with Paul Redman of Contractor Commerce.