Where Do I Buy Dive Gear?

By: Cris Merz

People are fans of shopping online and it isn’t just the “younger” generation. Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers have just as many online purchases as Gen Y or Millennials. As a matter of fact, 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 80% in the past month alone. This past Cyber Monday was the first $2 billion mobile shopping day in the U.S. Around 81 million Americans shopped online that day.  And why shouldn’t people buy online?  Some of the most common reasons have been repeated over and over again in surveys and data research explaining the continuous boom of online sales. Here are some that stick out.

  • It’s a modern and evolving process
     It isn’t just about going on to your laptop and buying stuff. Over half (51 percent) have also bought something from their mobile phone and with voice recognition channels like Siri, Echo, Google Home and “smart buttons” like Amazon Dash. People enjoy the convenience of demanding a roll of toilet paper or laundry detergent be delivered asap as they notice that these items have run out. People no longer need to write a list – just order.
  • Buy things in secret
     You no longer have to be embarrassed of walking up to the counter with very personal items. Privacy is the way to go.  Don’t want people to know you still buy Star Wars stuff? No problem. Have it shipped discreetly in a nice box.
  • Read Reviews
     As you find items, you can read reviews from fellow consumers like yourself. You don’t need to ask for help or get a salesperson looking to earn his commission to try and bully you into buying the “upgrade”. Just listen to what the other consumers say.
  • Coupons are always available
     There are so many sites that will offer online coupons it is hard not to take advantage of free shipping or 10% discount.  It usually just takes opening a new webpage and googling, “coupon for [XYZ product here]”.
  • No People
     Waiting in line, dealing with rudeness, dealing with parking lot traffic – ain’t nobody got time for that.  Buying things online in your PJ’s while sipping a cocktail is the way to go. It is much more convenient and you don’t have to talk to people if you don’t want. Not to mention, you don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff to your car.

Despite all those reasons, did you know that consumers still prefer going to an actual store? 87% of shoppers are still visiting retail stores, so it’s not like brick-and-mortar stores are becoming totally irrelevant. The better news, more millennials visited actual stores than baby boomers in the 6 last months (78% v 70%).  This data comes from a 2017 poll by SalesForce. So, even though we see e-commerce growing by 23% year-over-year, people still like stores.

  The top 3 reasons why consumers still want the in-store experience?

  • Touch it, see it and feel it. Who has said to themselves after opening the box, “Wait a minute. That is NOT what it looked like in the picture.”
  • I want it now. Immediate gratification is not a thing of the past – it still exists.
  • I can return it sooner and faster. Let’s face it, returning online items can sometimes be a pain and often, you may experience additional shipping fees.

These are all perfectly fine reasons and valid.

Let us now add online sales of scuba equipment that is designed to keep you alive in a hostile environment that could kill you if you have equipment failure. Am I attempting to scare you? No, I am telling you the facts. “SCUBA” stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Without it, you would not be able to breathe underwater and enjoy the awesomeness of diving with sharks, rays, and dolphins or experiencing a piece of history exploring sunken shipwrecks.

So, sure, online shopping has a lot of great benefits but is this really the product you want to start taking shortcuts with to save a few dollars?

Many dive centers have extended the online shopping experience to their customers. What are the advantages of buying dive equipment from a dive store – be it off their floor or from their online store?

  • Warranty
    It’s never about whether or not something breaks, things break, it’s about the response the consumer gets from where they purchased the equipment. Most equipment is backed by the manufacturer, online or in store, but you get a real person warranty at a dive store. No dealing with phone calls and RA numbers. If something is defective, or you don’t like the color, you have a place and a person. Most dive stores offer warranties above and beyond what a manufacturer does, solely because they actually care about your dive experience. They don’t want you realizing the fins are too tight when you’re on their trip to Cozumel. They have an incentive to have you outfitted properly, especially if you’re part of their community.
  • Servicing
    Not all dive centers service on site. Some service through larger service centers, others with in-house personnel. Regardless of the method, it’s always better for the dive center (even if they’re only a middleman) to get you taken care of with regular service. It not only keeps you safer but it helps gear last longer, increasing your happiness with the purchase. The dive center’s motivation to increase your gear’s life, and your safety, means that you’re not just a number to them. They’ll double check the service tech’s work, maybe throw in bonuses for timely service, or even be able to offer advice on failed equipment.
  • Customer Service
    This is the main motivation for individuals to buy from a dive center. No amount of chat functions or fancy website can replace the drive for all dive center employees to make your experience top notch. They’re sharing their passion for scuba by offering training, fills, service, sales, and travel. That combination means they’re focused on things for different reasons. Why do they want you to buy gear? So you feel comfortable in it on the trip. To own a camera? To share your love with others. To take the next course? So they have more advanced divers in the community. It’s all about customer service for them and that should be seen in every interaction with them.

As someone that dives with loved ones, family, friends and people close to me, I want to make sure my equipment is not only working properly but also that it has been serviced regularly. Yes, I would pay more for all these things because it is worth it.

The online shopping experience with Americans has been primarily divided into 4 groups; 47% clothes, shoes and apparel, 44% books, music or movies, 19% in health and beauty products and 19% in flowers and other gifts.

So, yes, you can shop around online and look for betters deals and cheaper prices but will those savings cover the overall value that you might get if you decided to purchase equipment from a dive center instead? That is the questions you need to ask yourself and keep in mind, you aren’t buying an espresso machine, you are buying self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

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