In Part I we explored a general overview of how Amazon is impacting golf retail, in Part II we dug deeper into how Amazon is impacting the sale of golf apparel, and in Part III we analyze some of Amazon’s effect on golf equipment sales.
For the sake of this discussion we define “Golf Equipment” as balls, gloves, bags, shoes, woods, irons, wedges and putters, and further segment them into Consumables/Light Durables (balls, gloves, bags and shoes) and Durables (all club categories). Total sales of Equipment thru the On/Off Course channels for 2017 totaled $2.35 billion, with Consumables/Light Durables accounting for roughly 45% of sales and clubs the rest.
Because their purchase cycles and usage habits are not alike, Consumables/Light Durables and Clubs track on substantially different paths. Typically, consumption of balls and gloves are more influenced by frequency of play, because gloves wear out with use and balls get scuffed/dinged up, or more likely, lost or drowned. Light Durables like bags and shoes have longer purchase cycles than balls or gloves, but due to the nature of their typical components and materials, they also wear out and need to be replaced more frequently than clubs. Golf clubs rarely “wear out” (wedge grooves perhaps the exception to that rule), instead they are taken out of play most often when their owner is enticed to put aside their old “gamers” for a new shiny object, that promises the hope of improved play.
Defining the differences in the two categories is particularly relevant when discussing Amazon, because purchasing behaviors on the platform are vastly different by product category. Golfers buying from Amazon are much more likely to purchase consumable golf products than golf clubs, primarily due to the convenience. Push a button, and within hours or days (depending upon the delivery method selected) the balls or gloves of your choice show up on your doorstep, no muss, no fuss. Enough “ammo” to last weeks…or months, depending upon how much the golfer is willing to stock up. Since ball and glove models do not change often, and golfers tend to use and purchase them according to how frequently they play, buying multiples online for convenience is consistent with similar behavior inside a Brick and Mortar Off Course Specialty Store or Sporting Goods location. However, when buying online thru Amazon or any other Online seller, the buyer never has to leave their chair or office. In the Green Grass channel, where balls are more often bought in three-ball sleeves, the pricing is much higher and “need” (often necessary to play the round) is frequently the impetus behind buying, thus the impact of online competition is far less.
In today’s world, premium golf clubs aren’t a particularly good fit for the Amazon business model, at least in its present form. Because high-end golf club models change frequently, clubs are often custom fit, and golfers like to try them in person prior to purchase, the Amazon experience isn’t ideal. No online merchant or OEM has yet to develop an adequate online fitting tool or app for golf clubs. This isn’t to say that one could not be developed and become popular, however at present the technology and user interfaces are not easy to use, accurate, and preferable to in person interaction.
Given that premium priced clubs are typically sold for the same price online as in Brick and Mortar stores, there’s less incentive to purchase golf clubs online, and even less of a reason to consider doing so from Amazon vs. other retail options. Amazon is perceived as a large general merchandise marketplace lacking in golf expertise, which is important when buying clubs, meaning the site isn’t perceived as a place where golfers go to buy top of the line clubs, at least thus far.
While the Amazon Impact Study helped clarify attitudes and opinions around Consumables (Amazon is a good match) and Clubs (Amazon is a poor match for premium priced product), Lightweight Durables were in the middle…sometimes good, sometimes bad. Like almost any footwear sold online, Amazon is a good place for golfers to buy golf shoes, however golf bags have been less than a perfect fit so far, though a significant percentage of respondents to the study indicated they’re interested in buying bags from Amazon at some point in the future.
Details about purchasing the full Amazon Impact study are available from Golf Datatech at firstname.lastname@example.org.