Online shopping has transformed the way consumers behave. The combination of instantaneous access to product information and reviews, combined with the ability to purchase virtually anything you want in a matter of seconds, has created an unprecedented level of consumer empowerment. The numbers are impressive: According to digitalcommerce360.com, e-commerce sales reached $400-billion in 2016, growing 15.6 percent from 2015. For brick-and-mortar stores, it was a mere 2.6 percent growth.

Naturally this evolution has touched dealers in the package pool business who, like many niche retailers, have struggled to compete with prominent e-tailers like Amazon.

MGK Pools in Lowell Mass., has developed an innovative solution: Mimic Amazon’s model. The MGK Pools site has a tool called Pool Package Builder, a program that allows potential buyers to design their own package pools, from shape and size to liners and accessories, all in just a few clicks.

The page was introduced just last year, but according to company founder and owner Michael Gordon Kern, it’s already proven a success.

“Last year about 50 percent of our visitors built their own package, the rest bought the packages we put together. While we have had to walk a few people through the page, most have no trouble using it,” he says.

Kern reports that he and his son developed the idea based on a site used to build custom computers, with some major tweaks. “I love the control it gave me over the price of my package,” he says. “If the price was a little high, I could choose a different processor, or pick a cheaper video card. I knew what I had to spend and felt like I was getting the most for my dollar.”

The program is a natural fit for the package pool market because, like building your own computer, even the simplest package pools require multiple decisions on the part of the consumer. Kern’s program walks potential buyers through the multiple choices his company offers, beginning with selecting one of four basic pool models, each of which come in multiple sizes with several options. Once the consumer selects the model and size, they move through a series of options including the frame color, wall pattern, liner design, filter/pumps combinations, ladders and steps, accessories and winterizing supplies. The program includes the cost associated with each choice as well as a running total, a helpful feature for the budget-conscious pool owner.

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In terms of marketing the program, Kern says he’s turned primarily to content marketing along some paid traffic from Google search. “I am working on targeting some keywords with a lot more traffic. I don't expect to be on the front page of Google this year for the terms, but when I do, I will be the number one online pool retailer,” he says. “My manufacturer is Buster Crabbe/Aquasport Pools. I’d like to think that my content marketing strategy is pumping up their brand. I sell pools to Texas, Arizona, California, all over the country.”

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.