Selling HDTVs online is a challenge. Buyers want to see the televisions in person, and want to be able to compare the image quality of different sets side by side. Amazon is trying to address buyers’ concerns by launching a new “Click-to-Call” HDTV call center. The idea is to provide a 24/7 live service where customers can call in and get buying advice. The company plans to eventually offer this for all models selling for $1,000 or more.
According to a company representative, Amazon’s TV sales have grown faster than the industry average. This is interesting, as the conventional wisdom is that buyers tend to research on the Web and buy locally. It will be interesting if customers respond to this free advice service by buying more TVs online.
I admire Amazon as a company, and am a frequent customer. There are some things that I hesitate to purchase online, however, and that includes displays. There were more than 850 new HDTV models released last year, and there’s no way that a single person can be totally current on all the quantitative and qualitative details about all those products, no matter how well trained they may be. I want to be able to see the image quality for myself, because I have found that manufacturer specifications are poor predictors of the display perfomance. I want to see the connectors, try out the onscreen menus, and run some of my own quick tests before I make my choice. At some time in the future, we may get to the point where all HDTVs are more or less the same, and it won’t be so hard to pick one. For now, however, I want to see for myself before I buy.