Year in, year out, e-commerce is continuing its amazing growth with no sign of a slow-down in sight: in 2015, online sales in France increased by 14.3% to reach 64.9 billion euros*. Pool specialists should definitely get in on this growing market, but not before carefully adapting online practices to the pool sector.
Buying a pool in a few clicks from one’s couch, surely that’s impossible? With the expansion of digital media, pool professionals are faced with competition from online pool stores and mass retail sector websites. Opening an online store seems like a good solution to launch the counter attack, but how far should it be taken?
Drive-through stores, an adapted positioning on the market
Philippe Arsane is Business Development Director at Beltys, a service provider that has been managing, among others, the FPP (French Federation of Pool Professionals) website for nearly 10 years. For him, there is no doubt about it: “Drive-through (or click-and-collect) stores are the solution that is the best suited to SMEs”. As a pioneer in the field, he has set up several drive-through stores for different pool sector players, thereby allowing clients to order online and collect their product in the shops. During the first year of business of these sites, he recorded a 10 to 15% increase in the number of online clients, a growth that was confirmed the following years.
A communication tool rather than a sales tool
“Most people browse the website to check prices before going to the brick-and-mortar shop”, explains Philippe Arsane. Straight away, he admits: “Our main objective is to help our clients increase their brand awareness”. Being on the internet raises the pool specialist’s profile, as he can present his products, prices and showroom. “The site does not generate many direct sales but it brings people to the shop”, claims the Business Development Director at Beltys, with approximately 10% more clients coming into the shops compared to previous years. In providing all the information that internet users are looking for on his website, the pool specialist also avoids losing his client to competitors or non-specialised online stores.
Mistakes to be avoided
The drive-through option removes any fears consumers may have regarding delivery. But to win over clients with the click-and-collect service, the pool specialist must guarantee efficient logistics and impeccable service. He must make sure he assesses demand accurately or else he may quickly be out of stock on certain products. And he must make sure he displays the right prices…
The limits of e-commerce for pool specialists
Sales generated by a website mainly concern small appliances and maintenance products. For the moment, it is not possible to order an in-ground pool online. This feature will be available on a platform that will be launched in a few months in the south of France, but Philippe Arsane does not expect buying processes to change drastically: “There are too many parameters related to the installation of the pool: the plot of land, regulations, etc. In my opinion, this model works more for promoting sales than for finalising them.”
For pool specialists, there are only positives to be taken from having a website: increasing their reputation, showcasing their products, increasing footfall at the shop, etc. But in the long run, nothing will replace the assistance pool professionals provide in the context of such an important purchase.