I’ve just read a report suggesting that internet sales are really hurting the traditional chain stores. The number and frequency of retail stores that are closing in shopping malls is really quite alarming as more and more customers prefer to shop online from the comfort of their home.
In England recently I had to battle for space in a narrow country lane with a home delivery van from a supermarket. Nowadays you can order online and your weekly necessities are delivered right to your door, even to a remote shepherd’s hut in the middle of the moor.
If there are any remaining butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers left in English villages, they seem somewhat doomed. It’s enough to send you down to the pub for a pie and a pint, except they, too, are also closing in droves.
It seems social media is taking the place of traditional face-to-face social interaction.
Online shopping has become so easy, even returning stuff is a breeze. If something you bought doesn’t make you look as glam as you thought it would, or doesn’t do what you thought it would do, or if you simply don’t like it, then you can return it; no fuss, no muss. The web retailers now have really slick and well organized return systems that make this aspect of the transaction painless while not making it seem like you’re being punished for being such a dufus for ordering the wrong thing in the first place.
So, what’s not to like, and how does this relate to stuff we need for our boats?
In the marine market, shoppers have the option of purchasing boaty bits online from several large internet retailers, with or without storefronts, plus a plethora of smaller, specialized distributors, like Coastal Climate Control, or otherwise through a local marine professional.
But where you buy is usually dictated by what you buy and what level of after-sales service you expect.
Buying a standard item like a water pump, GPS, or an electrical breaker might entail buying online or popping into the local marine store dependent on location and urgency. Customer support for these types of items is not high on the list of priorities when purchasing, as price and availability are more to the fore.
Buying big ticket custom or semi-custom items like engines, masts, water makers, etc., is better done through a local marine specialist who can advise on the best options, perform the installation, and give aftermarket support when and if needed.
That last item, customer support, can only be accomplished by the original equipment supplier if the vessel stays local and within reasonable travelling distance from the supplier. Otherwise help must come from a distributor or dealer who is local to the boat’s whereabouts, or from the manufacturer itself.
Due to the ease of communication, the first options seem to be regularly side-stepped these days so that the manufacturer is often the first party contacted. But there is only so much assistance that can be given remotely, and many items cannot simply be sent back in a box for inspection and evaluation, so local assistance is more often required.
If you buy an expensive and/or complex piece of equipment from a distant supplier simply because of a low price, even though there is a local dealer in your neighborhood, you should seriously consider what level of customer service and expertise that vendor can offer remotely. Local dealers won’t exactly rush to help customers with problems on equipment they bought online and which the dealer could have supplied, albeit it at a higher price.
So, it looks like internet shopping for marine items is here to stay and we’d better all get used to it. But shop wisely and consider whether saving a few bucks is worth the risk and aggravation of potential problems and delays should service be required down the creek aways.
I’m off to the pub (if I can find one); without my cell-phone!