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​When Buying a Robotic Pool Cleaner, Should You Buy Through a Local Retailer…or Online?

Posted by Pat O'Keefe on Mar 19 2020

​When Buying a Robotic Pool Cleaner, Should You Buy Through a Local Retailer…or Online?

Here’s a common situation – maybe this is you.

You own a swimming pool and you’ve decided to buy a robotic pool cleaner. You have a pretty good idea of what you want it to do – some basic features and functions you know you want.

But a big question comes up, mostly because this is a bigger purchase. That question is:

Do you make your purchase through any one of your local pool retail stores, or…do you venture onto the Internet to see what is available and purchase online?

Well, the Internet has forever changed shopping, and making a purchase of most any product (particularly larger price tag items) is not as simple as it used to be.

In this article we’re delving into all the reasons for buying a robotic cleaner through your local retailer AND also as an Internet purchase. In this blog we’re not going to tell you that one way is the only way to go, and that you’d be a fool to do it the other way! Quite honestly each method of purchase has its advantages as well as drawbacks. The key is to know what you need most when buying and let that factor guide you into the purchase method that suits your needs best.

With this idea in mind, we’ve listed some common customer needs when buying a robotic pool vacuum, and will endeavor to help you flesh out your own purchase method. Here are the most common needs from customers.

  • PRICE
  • EASE OF SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE
  • PAYMENT OPTIONS
  • WARRANTY
  • SPEED OF TRANSACTION

Let’s lay each of these needs out one by one to see what your preferred mode of purchase will be. In each of these categories, we’ll list the methods and each one’s strengths and weaknesses.

PRICE – Although this one factor is very high on the list, it is also not always the ONLY reason for how people choose to buy a robotic pool cleaner.

Internet – For larger priced purchases, the Internet is phenomenal way quickly and easily to help you find the lowest prices on just about any brand and model. This often has to do with the fact than many online retailers don’t need a physical retail location (their website is their store!), and only need warehouse and shipping space. This allows for less cost, especially due to less employee payroll. Also due to higher customer visibility of products, these online sellers will have higher volume of sales and lower profit margin than stores with physical locations. Bottom line is lower cost.

Local Pool Store – These establishments have greater costs associated with rental of retail space (property taxes), higher utility bills, retail employee pay and benefits…and the list goes on. The direct result is that most traditional pool stores with a physical location simply can’t compete with online pricing. They may however have sales, honor competitor pricing, or even offer manufacturer rebates to help curb costs.

And the winner isInternet. When it comes to price Internet pricing will almost always crush traditional retailers.

EASE OF SHOPPING EXPERIENCE – This is an important factor as well, up there very close to price.

Internet – The Internet is a lot better than it was in this category not too long ago, but there are some drawbacks. You cannot see, feel, or handle a unit that’s shown on the Web. Also, many sites may offer instant chat options or a phone number, however people still generally prefer to be able to ask specific questions as they arise organically from people in the store. You often will be able to read lists of features and benefits on most sites, however there may be lacking info specific to your concerns.

Local Pool Store – Here you can see the units, open them up, handle the bags or cartridges, feel the weight and quality of the unit, ask questions of staff who will know the answers to most of your questions (and generally will be happy to inquire with their distributors any questions that they can’t readily answer). Often many stores may have an active display of the unit at work in a pool (or tank) to show you how they function. Some stores may even have demo units of the pool vacuum that you’re interested in that you can bring home and test drive!

And the winner is…the local pool store. Think of the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There are so many more pictures you can get in a physical environment where you are looking at and handling the actual robotic cleaners. Although the Internet is improving with product videos, chat boxes, and interactive 360⁰ visual displays, most customers when wanting to know more prefer to be “on site”.

CUSTOMER SERVICE– Obviously on bigger items there’s more to just paying for and receiving the item. Customers need to know that they can have questions answered after the purchase, can get a “real person” to address problems or concerns. Many times people are looking for a more personal buying experience. These factors ease any potential anxieties, feeling that the company has their back…not just their money!

Internet - Most purchases are done with the customer completely “in charge” of the whole transaction from beginning to end – from finding & reading info, typing in their own shipping and billing info, and processing payment. This can be empowering to a degree, but can also leave you with the feeling of bagging your own groceries at the supermarket. Some of the customer service process is simply not there to the same degree, unless you initiate it and seek it out actively.

Local Pool Store – Due to the competitive nature of the Internet in regards to pricing and other concerns, local pool retail stores will gladly show their strengths in customer service, such as one-on-one attention, offering demo units, possibly even going to the customer’s pool to see the unit in action to address any potential issues.

And the winner is…your local pool supply retailer. It’s not that online pool supply don’t have customer service (many company’s make it a priority), so much as the local pool store shops have the opportunity and are better set up to handle customer service as well as offer a much more personal experience.

PAYMENT OPTIONSOnce the question was simply cash or check, now there are many more options.

Internet – Online purchases offer many options – credit card (most with high security features), direct checking deductions, PayPal, VenMo. Unfortunately cash is just not an option online.

Local Pool Store - Payment options at most retailers with physical locations are limited only by each individual retailer. Depending upon what the retailer wants to offer, there may be everything that the best online websites offer in addition to cash, check or pay-by-phone.

And the winner is…this is kind of a tie. The number of payment options is generally about the same, only limited by each particular retailer. Also, although not mentioned above each have similar security risks and strengths.

WARRANTY – As with any higher priced item, warranty is likely to matter more to customers. Customers have legitimate concerns about what is covered and what the process is if the unit fails or malfunctions in any way.

Internet – Most online purchased robotic cleaners certainly do have warranties, however given the fact that they are priced sometimes considerably less than those sold in a local store, the units sold online often have shorter or less extensive warranty. Keep in mind that in order to have warranty work done, customers are typically responsible for packaging up and shipping the unit out…and paying the cost to ship! Shipping out for warranty repairs also means a longer time without a cleaner running in your pool – down time.

Local Pool Store – Although not always the case, most local stores also are authorized repair and/or warranty centers. They be able to perform repairs on site, or even much more quickly than through Internet retailers. Many local stores may even provide a loaner (or rental at a nominal fee) robotic cleaner so you don’t have down time.

And the winner is…local pool retailers. They simply can offer greater service in this area than online sellers. A good piece of advice no matter where/how you buy is to keep the original packaging in case the unit needs shipping to the manufacturer or other repair facility. Nothing else will fit the unit like the original box and packing.

SPEED/EASE OF TRANSACTION All of us are trying to save time and energy when making purchases. This is another important concern.

Internet – The Internet has changed all of our lives forever allowing us to shop on your phone, on the computer, tablet, from your couch , or anywhere you have Internet connectivity! This level of ease cannot be matched. Just find the item you want, select to your shopping cart and process payment. In a few days the product ships directly to your home. The down side? You’ve paid for an item and have to wait a bit before receiving it.

Local Pool Store – A purchase requires you to get in your car and go to the store (leaving behind the comfort and convenience of your home…and fuzzy slippers!). Some people don’t want the hassle. For others, the thrill is that immediately after driving home with your new robotic cleaner it can be in your pool vacuuming in the short amount of time it takes to unpack and read instructions.

And the winner is…this is a tie as well. This really depends on what kind of person you are. Do you want to be sitting in the comfort of your own home sipping your coffee? Or do you want the unit in hand right away? There really is no wrong answer here

As we mentioned in the beginning of this article, there are many factors that will guide you to which way you want to purchase your new robotic vacuum. The key to finding the right choice is knowing what you value most and making the decision based upon what is most important to you.