At the consumer level, remote tech support service revenues in the U.S. are keeping pace with consumer tech support in general (see “Remote Tech Support Takes On More Significance In The Supply Chain). Parks Associates expects the development of remote online services to complement the growing premium tech support industry, including retailers and service providers, by providing improved marketing channels and enhancing automated and live support services.
According to Parks’ research, consumer demand for remote services could boost tech support revenue to $5 billion by 2014 (see the figure). Parks says the development of remote services across a variety of channels, including broadband providers, Internet security vendors, PC OEMs, and consumer electronics (CE) retailers, will help meet the demand for premium technical support services.
“The emerging markets will experience the strongest growth in personal computers over the next few years, so there will certainly be some residual opportunities, mostly in developed markets,” says Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst of the market research firm.
Walmart, for example, is following the lead of other consumer electronic chains, currently testing a new program that lets customers pick up their online orders of CE products at a local store within hours of their purchase. The chain’s free-shipping option normally takes a week to 10 days delivery time. Walmart is expected to expand its program to about 800 stores in large metro areas by the end of October.
BestBuy.com has allowed its customers to pick up their online purchases at local stores for some time—in some cases within an hour of their purchase. The Walmart and Best Buy programs, designed to make it easier for consumers to improve the convenience of online shopping, are similar to the one pioneered years ago by Circuit City.
Walmart also expects to expand its FedEx Site to Store program from Los Angeles and Boston to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The program allows customers to purchase items, including those listed online, and have them shipped to a FedEx office rather than a Walmart store at no cost.