Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can Audio Be Successfully Sold Online?

More and more manufacturers are turning to the web as another medium to sell their products. Of all the CE categories, you'd think that audio brands would steer clear of e-tailing altogether. After all, how can you sell a sound system that you can't hear? But it appears this isn't the case, as several A/V companies have joined the online retailing foray over the past few years.

In April of this year, it was Klipsch that, after many years of lawsuits against unauthorized sellers of its products online, decided that it would go the online route legitimately. At the time, President Paul Jacobs said that the move was made for several reasons, including helping to prevent customers from unknowingly getting B-stock inventory or used products; and to make it easier for customers to find products in "markets where retail consolidation has made this an increasing difficult task." Naturally, the six online retailers that Klipsch selected for authorized sales had to meet very stringent requirements.

One of these retailers was Crutchfield, and in Canada, that company has just made agreements with Bose, Logitech, Mirage, and Onkyo to offer their products to Canadian consumers online. While the Website does offer plenty of educational material about buying an audio system, and things like customer reviews, can one really buy audio online?

The answer is definitely yes if the person knows the system they're buying ahead of time and has listened to it live at some point. Even a referral shouldn't be enough. Don't get me wrong: a fantastic listening experience will likely be universally agreed upon. But in many cases, the choice can be very subjective, based on the particular application for which the system is being used, the type of music the person listens to, and of course just simple preference. If buying online is your thing, go for it. But keep in mind that either way, nothing can replace a true demo...not even a virtual one.

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1 comment:

Lee_D said...

In addition to traditional audio brands going after the Internet sales channel, don't forget that some brands, like Axiom speakers have developed a successful strictly direct Internet-only business. Garnering good magazine reviews as well as positive word-of-mouth on Hi-Fi boards and forums. Their success seems to indicate that if your reputation and guarantees are adequate, customers don't even need a demo at all!