Making the Transition to E-Commerce (2015 NAMM Retail Summit)


At the “NAMM Retail Summit,” NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond called on Jon Haber, a previous NAMM Top 100 winner, for online retailing advice. Haber, owner of Middletown, N.Y.-based Alto Music, shared his strategies for transitioning from a brick-and-mortar-only retailer into a multichannel e-commerce powerhouse. His company was NAMM’s Dealer of the Year in 2012.

“We’ve been dabbling in [e-commerce] since 2000—we did a little eBay stuff—but it was never a primary focus,” Haber said. “About five years ago, I saw that the writing was on the wall. I really focused the majority of my brainpower to tackling this issue.”

Highlights from the video:

Getting started with e-commerce:
It’s like opening another store, and it really needs to be treated as such. If you want to do something, you really have to have a dedicated person to take care of things. It can’t be someone who is selling guitars and he comes off the floor for a half-hour and does it and gets called away. It’s a full-time job. If you’re opening another store, you wouldn’t put one person in there who works part-time. It has to be looked at like that.

So we really focused on how to get everything across properly with pictures and people answering questions and the customer service. And there’s a lot of logistics with shipping and boxes. You can mess up really easily if all of a sudden you get a hundred orders that you never had to deal with before.

Driving brick-and-mortar traffic:
There were people who live, like, an hour away that were never in my store, but they saw maybe a guitar or effects box that we had online. That’s how they first found out about us.

It helped our walk-in, as well. It helped us. It was probably the best form of advertising because everyone’s looking online. For an independent retailer, who may be a guitar store or maybe you have some unique pedals that aren’t in a lot of bigger competitors, it’s really an opportunity.

There’s something that you really, really know just instinctively. Even if you just take that and focus on just what’s in your wheelhouse and put your efforts into letting other people know, because there’s other people with the same interests … you can really specialize and add to your client list.

Third-party sites and niches:
Maybe you do a lot of drum business and you get a lot of used cymbals. Maybe you have in your store 100 used cymbals. If you were to focus on used cymbals and make a nice picture of each one, you’ll get drum guys out of the woodwork contacting you, which would then hopefully become new customers. You can put [products] on a third-party site like eBay or

​[] is a relative newcomer to this industry and really has something great going on there. I’m very impressed. They’re also relatively new to doing what they’re doing, so they’re very easy to get ahold of if there’s a ‘how do I do this’ or there’s a tech question, unlike some of the behemoths that are alternatives to them.