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Even Without Installation Bays, Amazon Has Strong Presence In Car

SEATTLE – All the benefits of showrooming aside, Amazon has still had one thing stacked against it in the car electronics category: a lack of physical bodies to install the products.

But the e-tailer isn’t taking a back seat when it comes to assortment, and offers products in all segments of the category, including car audio and video, satellite radio, GPS, car security, backup cameras, radar detectors and accessories. The consumers who are purchasing them from are those who want to take advantage of free two-day shipping through their Prime memberships or the e-tailer’s broad product selection, Ben Hartman CE VP, told TWICE.

“These customers either install the products themselves, or seek out a professional installer,” he acknowledged.

To compensate for its lack of a physical presence, Amazon has launched its Car Electronics Resource Center (, complete with installation guides, product manuals, do-it-yourself tips, a message board, and category-specific buying advice.

There are also numerous videos, all less than two minutes long, featuring the team from “The New Simple” who aim to demystify the category and offer even more installation tips.

Amazon features SKUs from all of the major manufacturers in each product category, and it receives a boost in this area from numerous sellers that are otherwise known as Amazon’s competitors.

Retailers including TigerDirect, Electronic Express and Beach Audio all sell car electronics products as third-party sellers on Amazon. J&R Music and Computer World have more than 100 SKUs in the car stereo category alone, encompassing in-dash single- and double-DIN receivers, speakers, woofers, replacement baskets, marine units and TV receiver modules.

Amazon isn’t the first do-it-yourself (DIY) direct seller to find success in the 12-volt category: witness A/V specialist Crutchfield, which began as an aftermarket car audio catalog and continues to serve that market with detailed installation guides.

And for those less inclined to tinker under the dash, Amazon also sells InstallerNet Install Cards that consumers can later redeem through a network of more than 3,000 locations.

Hartman declined to disclose specific category sales, but he did note that “all categories including head units, speakers, subwoofers, radar detectors and car security products are experiencing strong growth in 2013.”

Radar detectors, in particular, are receiving a boost from smartphone connectivity, and Hartman cited Escort’s Bluetooth-enabled SmartCord Live as an example. “Customers look for innovation as a key factor in deciding to upgrade their devices,” he said. “Smartphone connectivity has been a well-received modification to radar detectors and has helped the sales of new products.”

When asked about its relationship with Amazon, Gary Oppito, executive VP at radar detector maker Escort, told TWICE, “Amazon is a strong business partner. The buying team sets high expectations for their vendors and is very focused on performance. Financial metrics are critical but so, too, are other elements that contribute positively to the Amazon customer experience. High-performing customers can have a solid relationship with Amazon.”

Oppito said Escort employs a MAP program with Amazon, as well as for its other retail partners, and that the e-tailer is supportive of it.