The recent launch of torodealer.com has brought qualifying Toro dealers to the online marketplace. Customers visiting the site now have the option to purchase trimmers, blowers, mowers, snowblowers, parts and accessories online from local Toro dealers.
The program has received some skepticism from dealers, but in the end could grow their customer reach. The program is designed to push Toro sales while educating customers on Toro products and the many benefits of purchasing from a local dealer online or in store.
"Toro was hesitant to bring the program forward because of pushback from some of the dealers," explains dealer Craig Wolf, of Powerhouse Outdoor Equipment in St. Joseph, MN, and president of the Toro Dealer Council. "The dealer's fear is that Toro is going to customers directly and cutting the dealer out of the loop. I was one who really embraced this. We might as well have a presence out there. It is hard enough to run a business, let alone run a business that is online and actually drives traffic and generates sales."
The bonus sale
Torodealer.com directly connects the customer with a local qualifying dealer through a personalized list based on their location. Dealers need to participate in certain Toro programs in order to qualify as a dealer partner on torodealer.com.
"To qualify for the program, dealers must participate in the PWP Stocking Program and be an A-Level dealer stocking $25,000 in a broad range of Toro equipment," says Wolf. "I think torodealer.com is an incentive for people to participate."
For many dealers, this opens them up to a new customer base they have not had access to previously. While they may have seen growth in the popularity of online retailing, many dealers don’t have the resources to partake.
"I don't have the time, energy, or people to sell online," says dealer Sharon Radke of Killians in Hickory, NC. "Customers are told up front that they have a servicing dealer in their area and are notified of (the dealer's) location. It is something Toro is offering until the consumer one day realizes going to a servicing dealer is the best way."
While toro.com offers products online through big box stores like Home Depot, Toro is now helping dealers to become more competitive by putting them in front of those same online customers at torodealer.com. The online sale goes toward the selected dealer's annual sales volume, just as an in-store purchase would.
"There is a fairly significant effort on our part to get dealers on the same page," explains Dave Francis, Toro e-commerce manager. "When you first start talking to dealers, they are skeptical that we are trying to take their customer away from them. Our position is that this is a customer that was going to buy online regardless. We are basically offering dealers the opportunity to participate and get the incremental sale. They would not have gotten that business otherwise."
Once a customer on torodealer.com chooses their desired product and the local dealer they want to buy from, the order is placed. Products are then delivered directly to the customer. How they are delivered, and by who, depends on the product. Most Toro products are shipped directly to the customers from Toro. Larger items that require more setup are delivered by the dealer.
"If the item can be shipped on a UPS truck, Toro is going to fulfill that order. If the product can't be fulfilled that way, they are fulfilled through the dealer," says Francis. "Zero-turn mowers, our TimeMaster mower, two-stage snowblowers, and anything the average person can't just pick up and take off a truck, are delivered by the dealer."
Dealers are given the option of using equipment from their own inventory or having Toro ship the product to them for assembly and delivery. Much literature on how the program and orders are handled has gone out to dealers, and Toro sales reps are having one-on-one conversations with dealers about participation.
Service after the sale
Another advantage for dealers is the service business they will get after the equipment sale. They are now connected to that customer regardless of whether they or Toro delivered the product.
"We are treating this customer as the dealer's customer," explains Francis. The dealer has the customer's information and is free to market to them any way they wish as long as (the customer doesn’t) opt out."
If there is a problem with a product delivered to the dealer or customer from Toro, Toro has proven to work with the customer and dealer to handle the issue promptly.
"I have to say that in the instances where we ran into issues with a damaged product, Toro has taken care of it," shares Radke. "At the end of the day, Toro is thinking about us."