Industry Vet Joins Amazon on 12V Installation Program

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Ray Windsor, who has lead several car audio companies over the past 35 years, said he will work with Amazon to identify car audio installers for Amazon’s new 12 volt installation program.

He will help identify retailers in 30 markets to act as service providers for Amazon referrals, and will begin signing up retailers today.

Ray Windsor
Ray Windsor will work with Amazon on its new 12 volt installation program

As we reported earlier, under the program, consumers will have the option to view installers in their area when they buy Amazon car audio products.

Windsor said installers will be viewed in similar fashion to the descriptions on Yelp, showing the retailer’s specific areas of expertise, and prices (by hour, by job, etc.) as set by the retailer.

The consumer may see several dealers in some cases. He will be presented with 3 choices for dates of installation. Amazon then emails the retailer the customer contact info, so the retailer may contact the customer to confirm pricing and installation details.

Then the retailer  confirms the install date to Amazon and submits an invoice to Amazon for payment when the job is done. He’s then paid, less a 20 percent referral fee.

Windsor said, “Qualified service providers will of course meet measurable customer service standards, business maturity standards and have the capacity to understand how to use participation in this program to manage a win for the service provider; a win for the consumer; and a win for Amazon.”

Windsor has also emailed us an “open letter” to the industry, which we published here Wednesday in edited form.

Windsor is head of Leadership Systems consulting and has led 12 volt companies including Eclipse and Audiobahn in the past.

Interested retailers may contact Windsor at 949-228-2153 PST or [email protected]

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  1. Interesting read:

    “The only time a specialty retailer should walk a sale is when the specialty retailer determines that the sale will not build a long term and profitable relationship with the consumer but rather that particular consumer will most likely wind up costing the specialty retailer time, money and aggravation.”

    Does anyone believe that the Amazon program will build a long term, profitable relationship with the consumer?

    Does anyone believe that these sales will likely cost specialty retailers time, money and aggravation??

  2. This is all pretty much pointless rhetoric until the Amazon Contract is available for review. Amazon has a reputation of playing hardball with vendors. Call me a skeptic, but this will not be a “negotiation” between independent 12volt shops and Amazon. They’re trying to increase their 12V market share. End of Discussion.

  3. Did anyone happen to click the link & read the CBS news story about the fees associated with being in Amazon’s installation program? Besides Amazon collecting 20% of the installation fee there are additional fees the installers have to pay just to be in their program. Granted, the story was referring to their home installation services, but I can’t help but think the same would apply to the 12v installers. Here’s what the story said:

    “Service providers pay a monthly subscription fee (which Amazon is waiving through June 30, 2015), and cover the $40 to $50 background check fees. Because some of the services take place in customer’s homes, each employee who will perform onsite work needs a check.”

    How many Amazon jobs would an installer have to do to make up for the background check fees & the monthly subscription fees just to break even? So besides helping to legitimatize Amazon selling 12v products Amazon would probably end up making more money off the 12v installers in their program than the installers would make doing the work! Sounds to me like the only one standing to make any money off this program is Amazon (& maybe Ray, through some type of commission, for getting his 12v followers to fall for this scam!).

  4. Stereo warehouse was in the Amazon Installer trial program what a joke they wanted to include all parts in the install price. I tried to tell them that some cars require a $15 dollar harness some a $100 harness they did not get it. after making some of there customers mad as hell one guy even paid extra for the correct harness then called amazon and got a refund even after the fact we did the install and he was quite aware his car need a more expensive part. I called amazon and told them we would not participate in there program if parts were included in the labor price. However this could work if they just sold a coupon that could be used at a participating store at the agreed upon labor price. I will not do installs for them at a reduced rate but I would welcome all add on sales and new customers

  5. Vinney,
    You have obviously had some experiences with consumers who passed on you the first time but afforded you a second shot at converting them into your trusting consumer.
    I contend that this skill of identifying an opportunity for gain in a situation that frustrates the hell out of lot of retailers whose task is to attract consumers, educate them and convert them, can be a very important advantage in a world where consumers have so many quick & easy choices.
    In a perfect world (for brick & mortar, installing specialty retailers) these retailers would be wise enough to elect to buy, support and sell brands that were not so easily available all over the place. I am sure that there must be many of these brands in the head unit, amplifier, speaker, integration parts, accessories, security, etc… categories. Aren’t there???

  6. Andy W,
    Excellent observations regarding the distributors who pose as the dirt floor discounters, the brands who wink at or even encourage this activity are the sources for many retailers turn to for parts, pieces, fill-ins, etc… That is an absolute and un-disputable fact. Also an undisputable fact, Amazon has several channels through which consumers make purchases Sold by Amazon, Fulfilled by Amazon sold by…, Sold by and Shipped from and a few other drop-ship styles. That said I am reminded of the swap-meets, brick & mortar discounters, guys who sell from the back of a van, the traveling discounters who rent out the local arena, etc… Just like consumers were given a choice of these places from which to make a purchase, consumers have choices at Intenet sites Like Amazon from which to make purchase choices. Sometimes the consumer can and does determine the legitimacy of the “arena sales event” or the “sold by…” opportunity, sometimes not.
    For sure Amazon’s program will not be right for many installers in many markets for a number of various reasons. For others Amazon may represent a second shot at a consumer who elected for some reason or another, to pass on the brick & mortar in the first place.

  7. Scott, posted by Amy…
    First thanks for reading the stuff I have written over the years. I BELIEVE THESE WRITINGS WITH EVERY BUSINESS FIBRE OF MY BODY AND THAT HAS NOT CHANGED. That said, as things change, supplier distribution practices, margins, floor traffic, where consumers have opportunities to research & make & execute decisions, how your competition approaches your consumers, etc… Can have an impact on the way you might or might not consider approaching your current and potential consumers. Like it or not, the Internet (Amazon included) has impacted your business, is impacting your business and will continue to impact your business.
    It has been said that Amazon would like to touch every retail transaction that happens in the universe. I am not certain if that comes directly from Amazon or if it comes from business analysts or from people who hate and may be terrified of Amazon. Either way they sure seem to have a lot of attention from a lot of consumers.
    For sure, some retailers will adapt to derive benefit from Amazon, some will suffer at the hands of Amazon and some will never feel Amazon’s presence. Which category the retailer falls into should determine that retailer’s response to Amazon’s installer program.

  8. Bobbg,
    I agree with your observation about the wrong parts, DOA products purchased elsewhere and the finger pointing associated with the blame, and the low margins allowed to occur on the Internet. That said I think you’ll find installers who participate will have a great deal of control over install price, correct parts and the ability to present their installation advantages to consumers who have elected, (for whatever reason, low price, didn’t know about the retailer, heard bad things, etc…) not to purchase the head unit from them, but who might like another shot at capturing the consumer’s attention.

  9. Girl,
    Well put and very eloquent. Indeed there must be more than good fortune at work as the reason you guys are busy enough to shun installation work when the product is not purchased at your store. You and the staff at your store most likely sell your brand before ever discussing other brands. When it gets around to the other brand discussion I don’t know for sure because I have not tried to discover the name of your store, BUT you probably don’t “sell” a lot of other brands that are not easily available to your customers on the Internet, Amazon included. Or if they are available on the Internet, you are expert at establishing a sense of “value add” which compels your consumer to see a better reason to buy from you as opposed to elsewhere including the Internet. Your admonition “Think people” is most apropos. It should put retailers in a mind-set where they “add this value” every day with every consumer. In sequence maybe then consumers would be less likely to feel a need to search for a lower price because they are securing the best value from the brick & mortar installing specialty retailer. Then maybe the Internet guys, Amazon included would be less likely to see the good business opportunity they see in the 12 volt business. Then maybe the suppliers would not have such willing Internet customers. Then maybe the suppliers would elect not to try to sell to the Internet guys, Amazon included. I may have the sequence exactly backwards, but either way it represents a business condition possibility that most of us are not currently enjoying.

  10. Caveman,
    Apologies for not being clearer in the initial description of how the program works. IN FACT each individual participating installer, sets his own prices. He even can decline an installation request. He has the ability to invite the consumer to his shop to eyeball confirm all install details. Just for the record. I contend its best to hold positions, advocate for those positions and comment on conditions when in possession of the facts.

  11. Dan,
    Product doesn’t fail because you didn’t sell it. Maybe you could charge for the warranty work. Maybe if, because of your superior install skills, you install the products in such a way as the failure rate with products you install, is substantially lower than installers with lesser skills. Maybe this is just such a terrible program that no installers will participate… Maybe it is so bad that the suppliers will all stop making their brands available or allowing their brands to be available on Amazon or other Internet sites. I guess there is…hope…?

    Regarding Yelp, Google and other reviews… A business person is subject to these type reviews regardless of whether he does business on Amazon or any other site, regardless even of whether the consumer actually visits the store. I know a few retailers who received terrible reviews (deserved or not) just because of a phone conversation. That part of the Internet is a part of our lives whether or not we approve.

  12. Paul,
    Thanks for the open arms, I think… I have been in the Internet age since it started. Before that I was in the age of the “Inside Track” method of discourse. When I took actions viewed by some as good and some as not so good their observations and comments were published without filter then too. I like to think that I think most things through. Sometimes I think ‘em through well enough that I have successfully predicted the worst that could happen. I believe in this case I have not yet heard anything that I didn’t prepare for ahead of time. In addition it is fairly easy to have figured out who would espouse which position. Not too many surprises there either. On the other hand I could be barking up the wrong tree. The industry might rally. They may elect to take control. They may elect to solve the problem at its source. Or… they may not.

  13. Mitch,
    Thanks for remembering some of the ideas (quotes) I have created and put forth and/or stole from smarter people and advocated. There are of course many others that you did not include. That said I believed in and continue to believe in every one of the quotes you sited. Some people took those concepts to heart and some even tried to follow them. Some did not. I perceive that is the way things usually work out. Some of the implied questions are address below in reply to direct questions or assertions.

  14. The shop I work at has been very fortunate to stay busy the past few years that we don’t take in installs for products that aren’t purchased from us. I pray there doesn’t come a day where we have to entertain the idea of joining forces with Amazon. Is it really fair to put off installs for someone who wants to support your local business, comes to you for all their automotive work no questions asked because they trust you will give them a fair price and quality products, for someone who buys their crap on Amazon? Absolutely not. We aren’t selling commodities, people. Let internet shoppers buy food & clothes & other commodities online all day long. If a part doesn’t work as it’s intended as soon as you open up the box, we need to make people understand that they’re not only paying us for the product but for our services & expertise. In a perfect world, we’d all unite in our hatred of Amazon and their business model (that they’d rather LOSE money just to knock out other businesses, knowing that eventually they’ll be the only place to buy from) because if we did, we could make a statement and put more money in all of our pockets. I sure don’t plan on buying window tint on Amazon and taking it to my local store to have it put on. Think, people!!

  15. Famous mantras that we all learned from:

    “Selling at low margins is like eating soup with a fork. You stay busy but stay hungry.”

    “All things being equal, people will buy from the cheapest place.”

    “Profit. Identity. Predictability”

    All coined or propagated by one fellow…

  16. Seeing a lot of product coming thru our store bought from Amazon, we as installers/ store owners should be able to set the installation fees that is fair, By region or by state. Because the labor rate for backcountry store maybe $50.00 to install a deck while big city store 2hrs away maybe $20.00. Warranty issues need to address by Amazon directly to the customers not the stores as we are not selling the product. I kind of foresee a failure in this department. I know that Installernet has fizzled out in our town because of paperwork issues and couple of shops not getting paid for work done.

  17. The poster child for “Brick n’ Mortar” retail just went rogue to the industry. Sad…truly sad. I’m trying to see any upside to this news and am coming up with zilch…the same amount any retailer will make on this.

  18. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but playing devil’s advocate here, if I were in a BIG market (which I’m not) and Amazon moved enough product in my market to keep my install staff busy all the time, I could literally shut down my retail operation, reduce my inventory by 95% (or more), keep basic install accessories on hand, bump my labor rates by 20% and keep a bay full of cars. Don’t think for a minute that there are not business people out there not contemplating this right now. No doubt there could be money to be made. When we started shifting from a more retail profit based model to a more labor based model a couple years ago we were able to make the change and it has been for the better. This would be taking that to the nth degree. I’m not at all a fan of this, but with so many of the large manufacturers selling out small/medium independent retailers, this may be a hard train to stop. There would be headaches of course, but many other headaches would disappear. Putting well over $100k back into my pocket rather than inventory has an appeal. To me, this deal is an all or nothing kind of set up, I’d give up on retail if I signed on here and I’m not there.

    I love reading all the comments on here!

    1. @Me, what you fail to understand, is that YOU don’t get to set the labor rate for the things Amazon sells and tells you to install, and then STILL takes 20% back from their already undercut-to-you install rate!!

      1. “Windsor said installers will be viewed in similar fashion to the descriptions on Yelp, showing the retailer’s specific areas of expertise, and prices (by hour, by job, etc.) as set by the retailer.”

        I haven’t look into this any further than the article, but going by the article it appears retailers set the rates.

        Warranty work does bring up an interesting aspect. We don’t warranty anything that is not brought from us, not labor, not parts, nothing. It’s one of the ways we try to keep people buying in the store rather than the net.

        1. Yep, warranty work is a big question. Another big question is the ‘customer rating” system being like Yelp. So you install a cheap product from amazon and breaks quickly, you tell your customer sorry, YOU have to pay me to take it out, then YOU have to ship it back to amazon, get one shipped back to YOU then YOU have to pay me again to re-install it. @Me, have you ever dealt with negative reviews on Yelp ? it`s a total nightmare that can kill a business. All that time and money setting up your business model and very quickly you have many negative reviews. You would be resting your success in the hands of the internet. Again, good luck.

    2. What would you do when a regular customer walk in your store with your shelves empty? Are you going to send him to Amazon to buy stuff from them.?

    3. It appears I hit a bit of a nerve. Guys (and the few gals in the industry), I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I’m not making any changes to help Amazon be better at their business. But to think that an enormous company like Amazon wasn’t fairly confident they could make this work I don’t think it would have gotten this far.

      I’m in a smaller town and won’t be on the radar for Amazon anytime soon. I’ve worked with installernet and insurance companies, etc over the years and one thing I’ve learned is that someones else’s customer is hard to make your own. Internet shoppers used to be “cheap” people, but now they are moms and dads, grandma and grandpas.

      Your major name manufacturers don’t give a rats ass WHO buys their stuff, as long as they move boxes, they are good. There are the exceptions, of course. I’m not rooting for Amazon to succeed, but if you think they won’t get some retailers, and likely a few prominent ones to sign on, I think you need a reality check. Some shops having hard times in big cities may be chomping at the bit to make a last stand and this may be their option.

      I see it as another opponent in the long list of opponents that have come and gone over the years. To the 6 other shops that have come and gone in our locale, to audio king, circuit city and eventually best buy, to the guy that was selling out of the back of a home stereo catalog 25 years ago, they are all the same me. Just be prepared.

  19. WOW THIS IS GREAT !!!!! We teach the customer all about the product taking up our valuable time, not to mention all the time we spent in trainings or on training our staff about the product, just to have the customer leave our store and go purchase it on AMAZON at 30% less than our quote. And have the BALLS to bring it back into our store and install it for them thru AMAZON NFW !!!!!!! Good luck with this one we need to start a National boycott on this idea.

  20. OK. So I read the letter from Ray “An open letter on Amazon”. He seems to be saying, since store traffic is slow do whatever it takes to get someone in the store. Please forgive the analogy, but this reminds me of the advice some people were telling women in case of rape. “If you’re going to get raped, might as well relax and enjoy it.” If Amazon is going to rape your business, at least try to get a little of the crumbs left over and make sure you put 20% of the crumbs back on the table. But wait! You’ll get “an opportunity” to sell that customer something. And if you do recommend something, WHERE do you think this person is going to buy it? WOW! (Back to the analogy: If you talk nice to your rapist, maybe he’ll take you out for dinner afterwards. Amazon has realized they have maxed out their business model and needs our help to go further. WHY would you help out your competition who wants to put you out of business? WHY would you continue to do business with suppliers that encourage unauthorized, internet sales? Yes, internet and Amazon are a reality (we’ve been dealing with for years). Don’t succumb to the short term enticement of 80% of your normal labor fees. THEY WANT YOU GONE AND ANYONE WHO DOES BUSINESS WITH THEM AGREES.

      1. I’m a musician, and although I will never make a living at it, I do know how much effort and expense goes into your craft. Just like us 12v industry professionals who pour our lives into our business. Even with music, unless it’s a hobby, you can’t afford to give away your work. Let’s go back to when the internet and some of the internet technologies were new. There was this great new music technology that allowed you to get all of your music for free. Some may remember it as the early days of Napster. There was this band, Metallica, that publically waged a war against Napster. Unfortunately they were chastised by the public, and in some ways made out to be the greedy bad guy. There were other musicians who thought this was going to be a new medium for their work to be discovered. They felt they could afford to pay for their craft out of their own pocket and the exposure (floor traffic) of this new technology would some how pay the bills. They thought it would be worthwhile to gain a new audience, albeit for free, and that would somehow make up the difference in lost wages by having more exposure (insert floor traffic). It didn’t take long to discover that the new business plan didn’t work. More than ever before, artists, labels, and music industry people went bankrupt. Nearly 15 years later it looks like Metallica was right. Granted, during those times Napster and other providers were stealing. But the current internet has evolved into Pandora, Spotify, etc. These services are again paying fractions of pennies to the songwriters and artists. I know most reading here could care less about Taylor Swift. But she has probably poured her life into her craft and feels that she should be paid a fair price for her product. She has recently pulled her collection from Spotify, and other artists have followed. I apologize for such a long post to make a point. But the point is, just because others say this is the new way of gaining customers, or if you don’t do what all others are doing, you’ll be left behind, I don’t agree. The internet and business will evolve and we might have to stand up and take some control.

  21. Now the comments and conversation with Ray in the previous story make more sense. I thought to myself at the time that it sounded like Ray had a dog in the fight. I’d like to pose a question. Not being sarcastic; I truly don’t know. Can you take your own parts to a reputable automotive service shop and have them do your service or repair? I really don’t know because I would never even consider such a thing. Can your wife or girlfriend take her own product to the salon to be used for her appointment? Can I take a Papa Murphy’s “take and bake” pizza to my local pizza parlor and have them bake it for me? Well this one I know the answer to… Anyway, my point being is this whole scenario is going to make me rethink our entire policy of installing products purchased online. It seems we’ve always done it, because if we don’t there will always be someone else who does. I am going to speak with the other shops in our market and talk to them about their thoughts. Not as a competitor, but as an industry member who’s interested in still having our doors open 5, 10, 15 years from now. There will always be a shop in every town that will do any install for twenty bucks and a six pack of beer, and my guess is this will be the only shop Amazon can add to their referral program. Let’s go back in a year a see what this program has evolved into.
    Remember; sometimes it’s okay to say no!

  22. I dont like this as most of you don’t either BUT you have to consider the Amazon fee as a customer acquisition cost much akin to advertising costs. Get the customer in your door and make them yours.

    Charge them for a self generated warranty for say $75 and you will diagnose and remove anything for free on this product afterwards. Its another way to make revenue with very little give back.

    I’m only playing devils advocate, I personally dont like it either, but we must be creative here.

  23. So you’re helping Amazon take the sale out of my drawer AND you’d like for me to pay you 20% of my labor rate as well. Shouldn’t I be the one getting a kickback from your hardware sale?

    Indeed, sign me up!

  24. Ray is looking out for Ray, trying to make a buck and I can’t blame him for that. But looking out for you and me? This keeps getting better and better.

  25. If there was ever a time for the industry to rally and set precedence on how we are to move forward, it’s now! Most of us have spent our entire lives building the 12 volt industry into what it is. As if we don’t have enough to contend with the hurdles put forth by the auto makers, we have individuals from within the industry that are quick to jump ship…or should I say, “sell out”. We are the ones that put 12 volt on the map. We are the ones that made 12 volt cool. We are the ones that continue to fight each and every day to keep our doors open, employees and bills paid. We fought against big box retailers, and as far as I’m concerned, the fittest survived…big box will lose in the 12 volt arena, just as Best Buy did in Canada. So just as you would call on your local political representative to fight for your rights, do the same with your suppliers…those who’s bills WE help pay with the blood and sweat WE put in each and every day. Good luck Amazon…we didn’t work our entire lives to become your service outlet.

  26. As per the International Business Times, “In nearly 20 years of business and Amazon has not made a profit”. The investors don’t seem to care. With Ray Windsor as a consultant we can expect to see Amazon’s end result the same as Audiobahn and Eclipse. It is just difficult to understand why an individual with so much potenial to help the 12 volt industry take a path of least resistance. Maybe Ray Windsor always has taken the path of least resistance and we just never saw it. Independent dealers will not have to ban together, this will fail all on it’s own. Pressure reveals character and rarely changes it.

  27. Next maybe Amazon can broker a deal with McDonalds. If I bring my muffin, egg, cheese and canadian bacon, how much will you charge me to make my McMuffin?

  28. So I have a showroom full of people and 3 Client Advisors at the front counter writing up sales and scheduling dates for install and some clown pulls up with a truckload of components from Amazon and starts hauling the boxes in 2 or 3 at a time setting them on the front counter and then, not wanting to not wait his queue and starts blabbing about how he got all this gear from Amazon with the brown Amazon tape all over it for half price and 2 of the 3 customers walk out on the work order in progress wanting to do further online shopping thus not leaving a deposit or keys to the car. This is not hypothetical. It DOES happen now and we don’t encourage customers to come in that shop on Amazon as Ray’s new venture does so I can only imagine how many times a week it will if we got on board with this. As a retailer that still makes 70% of his gross profit for the year on his showroom and only 30% off the bay this is a slippery slope that we will not be sliding down under our current business model. This may work well for a one man operation without a 5,000 sq ft showroom that holds 400k to half a million in inventory. Like just a guy in a storage garage or a guy working under a tent. Good Luck

  29. “Windsor is head of Leadership Systems consulting and has led 12 volt companies including Eclipse and Audiobahn in the past.”

    Great idea Ray. Strange how both of the companies mentioned in the article that Ray has led before disappeared. Doesn’t anyone remember what happened to Eclipse and Audiobahn. Audiobahn went bankrupt and Eclipse left the U.S market.

    Supporting goods sold on Amazon is a stupid idea. The only way to make it worthwhile is to charge 50 percent more than normal on labor and sell customer install supplies and accessories.

  30. Very simple…when Amazon realizes that no self-respecting 12v dealer will sign up for this BS, this idea will fade into oblivion. Those that DO sign up, will certainly be chastised for it. Don’t be a sell-out, don’t conform, don’t give up the fight. Brick and mortar has a place in the 12v space, as there is no such thing as a “virtual” installation. Amazon knows very well that they need an install program to support the category. It’s certain that they and their suppliers are dealing with warranty returns up the wazoo. Don’t be skewed by how much 12v business Amazon does…without a professional installation tied to the product, it’s likely coming back to them.

  31. So let me get this straight, I make nothing on the equipment and then I give them 20% of the labor?? I think I’d rather start selling German Maestro.

  32. I am afraid that you have sold out for short tern gain and hurt your credibility for the long term.
    Much like the rest of the higher ups. say it isn’t so.

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