Business-to-business sales are increasing at RepairClinic.com, where small businesses like home appliance repair shops and lawn-care services as well as consumers turn to its 1600 self-help videos as they shop among its more than one million replacement and maintenance parts, says Chris Hall, president and co-founder.
Sales rose to a within a range of $40 million to $60 million last year, up 30% from 2012, Hall says. The privately held company doesn’t report exact revenue figures.
Hall gives several reasons for the growth: The company is seeing strong sales in its new category of parts for lawn mowers and other lawn care power equipment, he says, while sales are also starting to grow in another new category of heating and cooling products. In addition, its traditional category of parts for home appliances like washers and dryers is also experiencing double-digit percentage growth in sales, Hall says. Sales are evenly split between small businesses and consumers, he adds.
Hall, a former self-employed appliance repair technician, co-founded RepairClinic.com in 1999 with CEO Larry Beach, a software industry entrepreneur who had founded the Creative Solutions accounting software firm and sold it to business information publisher Thomson Reuters. RepairClinic’s targeted market has changed a few times in the past 15 years, Hall says.
The online company’s initial plan in ’99 was to sell parts on behalf of household appliance manufacturers like Frigidaire, Maytag and Whirlpool to the independent technicians that repair and maintain their products. “But all of these companies said they would not support us to sell to their technicians,” Hall recalls. “Businesses back then were all about territory that they wanted to preserve. They told us to go ahead and sell direct to consumers—they didn’t think we’d succeed at that.”
But after more than a dozen years of selling to consumers, RepairClinic is now also building sales to small businesses. And a main reason for that is the company’s widespread use of online videos posted on YouTube and linked to RepairClinic.com, Hall says. On an average day, he notes, the retailer’s collection of 1600 videos are clicked a total of 45,000 times—far more than the average number of daily online customers. He adds that RepairClinic hears directly from business customers who say they find the videos helpful.
The videos provide detailed steps of how to find a particular part or part number on an appliance or power tool, or how to test if a part really needs to be replaced. One video, for example, shows how to use a multimeter, an electronic measuring device, to test if the heating element in an oven or dryer needs to be replaced, or if there’s another reason for the appliance’s lack of heat. “Those testing videos get watched tens of thousands of times,” Hall says, giving a modest estimate. A recent check on YouTube found more than 400,000 hits on a video about how to test a dryer heating element.
RepairClinic routinely posts content about its videos on Facebook and other social media outlets, including blogs catering to repair technicians and do-it-yourself consumers. It also includes links to its videos in e-mail sent to business clients, Hall says. The overall marketing strategy, he adds, is to use a combination of videos, social media and e-mail to keep bringing customers back to RepairClinic.com. “All roads lead to RepairClinic.com,” he says.
RepairClinic produces its videos in its own photo studio. It also developed in-house its e-commerce site, using Microsoft Corp.’s .Net technology, with assistance from web design firm Grand River Inc.
Among other services helping to drive sales, Hall adds, is a policy of accepting returns of any item—regardless of its condition—for up to one year after the purchase date.
Going forward, the e-retailer plans to work with Grand River to make shopping easier on RepairClinic.com. That includes more images used in site search results and on product pages as shoppers navigate the site.. And it will consider offering its business customers new credit options for purchasing other than credit cards, Hall says.