When OEMs are creating new products and improving their existing products, they should consider making those new products and improvements available to existing customers as dealer installable upgrades.
Technology moves fast and new developments are coming out at an incredible rate. We have watched this for years with electronic devices such as computers and smartphones, and with cars. A new smartphone today is an exponential improvement from a smartphone 7 years ago. The same with technology in cars.
The outdoor power equipment market is on the verge of entering this exponential explosion of technology as well. For the last few years, we have been seeing companies dabble with adding technology to outdoor power equipment products. EFI engines have been around for a while… battery-powered handhelds and commercial mowers have been increasing in popularity… we have seen a few remote-control machines throughout the years, and even a few autonomous machines. None of these technologies have taken off in the space, but I predict that things are about to explode.
The cost has come down, technology has gone up, and the expectation of the consumers and buyers today is that new tech will be included in their new products. We are on the brink of a wave of seeing a wave of technology sweeping the outdoor power world.
But what about the owners of products that want to take advantage of this technology on their existing machines? Maybe owners who spent a ton of money in 2019 for new equipment may not be ready to replace everything, but want to take advantage of some of the new technology? What if they have a perfectly functional 2-year-old piece of equipment, and may not want to (or may not be able to afford) a new machine but want the technology?
As a society, we are used to products becoming obsolete, and we are used to replacing them. New phones replace perfectly good old phones, new computers replace perfectly good old computers, and new cars replace perfectly good used cars. But there are other options. I love upgrade kits and retrofit kits. Years ago, I worked on a project that allowed us to retrofit new technology onto existing military vehicles. It was a great success and allowed us to get some very useful and helpful upgrades into the field for the soldiers to use, at a much lower price point and in a much shorter time than replacing the equipment. This same idea works in outdoor power equipment. Retrofit and upgrade kits are great ways to re-engage customers and show your existing customer base that they are important.
Upgrade kits allow dealers to engage their customers and provide an inexpensive way for them to upgrade their existing machines with the latest and greatest technology features. This customer-to-dealer engagement allows the dealer to promote the sale of both the upgrade kit and, hopefully, the future sale of a new machine. For example, the sale of a retrofit kit that converts an existing piece of equipment into a connected device also gives the dealer a chance to engage the customer in a conversation about maintenance. How is the customer maintaining their equipment? What services would they like the dealer to help them with? Are they buying their parts online instead of from the dealer? This engagement will allow the dealer to show the advantages of the technology and how the technology can help the owner address these questions.