This is a short tail about the progression of the relationship between the Manufacturer of RVs and the Retail Customer.
For decades, the traditional relationship between the retail customer and the manufacturer of RV has always run through the local selling dealer or the local servicing dealer. This three tier approach to handling the customers had a few convenient benefits such as face-to face interaction. A sense of security from the retail customer that the “guy” down the street could take care of them in the event something was to happen to their unit, or the ability to physically look at the inventory on the local dealer’s lot at any moment, even though it may be the third time the customer may have seen the unit.
This traditional Dealership customer arrangement certainly has a place in the market place; in fact, it remains the primary system of new RVs being sold to the retail customer. It may never go away; some people simply enjoy that camaraderie of physically visiting the local shop.
In the 90’s, as the internet was emerging, the RV industry was not quite ready to fully embrace the positive impact because there was still much to learn about and the internet was not considered “safe” for the retail customers. Challenges such as, the availability of the internet, to scams and overall financial security of information tempered the excitement of the internet for many of us in the RV industry. In addition to the overall concerns with the internet that all industries were dealing with, the RV industry debated over the effect on Dealer-Manufacturer agreements, pricing and other legal issues. The result of all this fodder was the delay of the inevitable, the web becoming the principal arena for RVs to be sold.
Somewhere between Steven Jobs’ development of the IPhone or the improvement in the speed of the internet, customers have decided that the internet is the best way to gather information and make buying decisions on their next RV. Easily accessible videos and relevant content from the manufactures have changed the importance of the dealer to focus on other areas of their business to maintain value for the customer or more importantly has added value to the relationship between the manufacturer and the retail customer.
A recent study suggests that 68% of the people buying an RV use the internet as their primary source of information. Moreover, this study indicated that 21% of the customers still do not use the internet as a source of information. This change in the buying habits of RVers is staggering. The importance of the beautiful brick and mortar facilities that span across the US has been minimized by the importance of the structure of the web page on the computer screen in front of the retail customer. The epic change in the way information is gathered will certainly change the landscape of all people making a living in the RV industry.
As dealers reprioritize their business models and manufacturers enhance areas of their operation to deal with these tectonic shifts in who is presenting whom the products. The old traditional way of the dealer gathering information from the factory and dispensing it through their website or through some type of propaganda is no longer efficient or necessary. It seems the dealers will began focusing on areas that they can remain profitable and relevant such as service and pre-owned inventory.
RV Manufacturers will begin to see the value in creating impressive content to sway those customers to buy product they build. This will require many companies to embrace the retail customer uniquely and with pertinent information. For many years, the market will embrace a hybrid approach to satisfying the customer needs of high quality information and the personal touch of the local dealership. Then slowly as the market begins to consolidate and smaller manufacturers try to find their value and improve their market share, the Factory Direct business model will become more prevalent.
As manufacturers get better at communicating with the retail customer and the content they produce becomes more persuasive, the retail customer will see less of a need for the local dealership when buying a new RV. That relationship no longer adds value to the buying process. As smaller manufacturers gain market share because they are able to save the retail customer thousands of dollars by eliminating the “middleman” and the customer get to select the options and appointment they want when they buy from the factory, the bigger manufacturers will take notice.
At the end of this transition, new RVs will only be sold by manufacturers. Local Dealerships will perform master level service and offer large inventories of pre-owned units and the RV industry will have its highest customer satisfaction rating in the history of the industry. Because the manufacturers will build exactly what the customer wants, the product will be newer and fresher, the cost will be lower and the customer will be more educated. In addition, the service work being done in the field by the local dealerships will be the best and the pre-owned inventory will be properly maintained and anyone buying a used unit will be happy with their purchase.
At Nexus RV, we have made the transition. We urge all those people looking to buy what they want at a lower price and receive the very best buying experience available today to come to our website at www.nexusrv.com and join us in the future of the RV industry.