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PANEL: Mobility retailers relax over online fears but grey areas still exist

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Mobility retailers are rethinking the role online plays in the future of their businesses, a trio of leading industry professionals has said.

In an increasingly digital world, mobility retailers have proven the importance of analogue sales techniques in providing the best customer support and aftercare but many are revaluating the potential pitfalls and opportunities online presents to their business.

“From my point of view, online sales are appropriate for certain lines of products,” TPG Disable Aids managing director, Alastair Gibbs, said as part of an exclusive panel discussion at Monday’s AMP Awards 2019. “Sometimes there are better routes to the customer which means we can give those assessments, we can give the added value that other products sometimes need.”

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In a world where more and more retail is being conducted online, the shape of the high street is changing and this is presenting a unique challenge for mobility retailers.

With customers increasingly looking towards the online space for better deals on mobility equipment, dealers are having to decide whether or not to provide aftercare for products not bought through their stores.

Graham Johnson, owner of Ability Plus, said: “If somebody comes in with a scooter that they’ve bought online, do we take it on board or do we say no we don’t look after that product?

“We’re unsure really. We may lose a customer with regards to the fact that they may have bought that product and it may be their lifeline but at the same time our profit margin is in the selling and maintaining of the product.”

The topic of aftercare for products bought online is a sensitive one, with mobility retailers often operating to provide the best care possible for customers within the scope of their own resources.

“If somebody is bringing a product to ourselves that they haven’t purchased from us they will be looked after,” began Daniel Griffiths, owner of Easy Living Mobility. “Will they be looked after as quickly? Possibly not, sometimes. If we’re scheduling in our diaries, that person will probably come second to the person that’s bought from ourselves.”

While there are challenges presented by online for mobility dealers, there is also an opportunity for dealers with unique products and skills to harness the platform in innovative new ways.

Beyond simply e-commerce, dealers are looking to the online space to help give customers more detail regarding the aftercare provided and products they sell.

Griffiths added: “I think that the internet is just a really good platform for us to showcase our business and showcase skillsets that we have.

“We do quite a lot of clinical, specialist equipment, so, I think that’s a good platform to showcase details.”

In an evolving retail landscape, the online sphere allows dealers a unique opportunity to present their businesses to customers. “That’s how I see the internet, for ourselves,” Griffiths said. “There’ll always be the need for a purchase, maybe some incontinence products that someone doesn’t want to be seen walking to the car with, but for ourselves, it’s a case of showing what is available.”

The panel discussion preceded the announcement of the winners of the 2019 AMP Awards.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ALL THE WINNERS

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Matthew Trask

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