DJI’s most-expensive and advanced products are now available for purchase directly from DJI. As of March, high-end products including the $6,200 Phantom 4 RTK, the $6,300 Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, and the $13,200 Matrice 300 RTK can now be purchased directly from DJI’s website. But is the news that you can now buy enterprise drones directly from DJI a bad or a good thing?
Up until now, enterprise-level drones generally could only be purchased through DJI’s network of licensed dealers, which included RMUS, DroneNerds and Heliguy (you can view an entire list of DJI’s dealers here). To become a DJI dealer, businesses have to go through a fairly extensive application process that requires a cooperative agreement and signed contracts. Meanwhile, DJI’s own online store typically only sold consumer-friendly drones (think Mavic Mini, Mavic Pro and Phantom drones) to the general public.
That changes now. While you can still purchase Enterprise drones from DJI dealers, you can also purchase DJI’s most complex drones and other accessories directly through their own website. This model is not unheard of. You can purchase a new MacBook Pro directly from Apple’s website or at the physical Apple store. But you can also buy it from huge retailers like Amazon, or from electronics-specific sites like B&H Photo, and yes, small dealers.
It’s a move that might make it easier for some customers to get their hands on the high-end DJI drones they need. But some industry experts expect that the news will likely shake up the broader drone industry for better or for worse as drone dealers lose potential business, and customers potentially don’t get the same level of customer support that they might otherwise be used to.
In fact, David Benowitz, who currently works as Head Of Research at DroneAnalyst and formerly worked in Marketing and Communications at DJI, calls the news “drone channel mayhem.”
“This shift in channel strategy by the industry’s sole dominant hardware provider (at a 69% market share globally) will have serious repercussions across the industry, as dealer margin on DJI’s enterprise products brought an estimated $180 million in 2020 to local distributors around the world,” he wrote in a blog post to his site, DroneAnalyst.
Benowitz estimates there are currently about 200 DJI Enterprise dealers globally. Here’s what that news potentially means for customers that buy enterprise drones — and for those 200 dealers who sell them:
You’ll no longer be able to take advantage of exclusive deals from DJI dealers
DJI requires that its Enterprise dealers commit to a set of minimum pricing requirements, so dealers cannot under cut each other (or under cut DJI itself). The good news for consumers is that the prices on DJI’s online store are the same that Enterprise dealers typically sell their drones at.
DJI did acknowledge the importance of not undercutting each other in a prepared statement.
“DJI is listing Enterprise products online without discounts, at the same price recommended for dealer sales – preserving their ability to negotiate prices directly with customers and respond to bidding opportunities,” according to a prepared statement from the company.
But consumers will lose access to savings. Enterprise dealers used to offer additional “deals” in a sense by selling bundled products from other manufacturers. For example, they might throw in a free memory card, or allow you to purchase a carrying case at a 50% discount if you also purchased a drone. Under the new changes, DJI no longer allows dealers to not only allow price reductions, but also prevents them from selling bundled products at a discount (if at least one of the products in the bundle comes from DJI). That means consumers lose an opportunity to get discounts on other gear when purchasing DJI products.
It might become too easy to buy the “wrong product”
Among the concerns with allowing customers to buy expensive DJI drones without consulting a dealer: someone might end up with the ‘wrong product.’ Customers of DJI enterprise products tend to be experts in fields like law enforcement, oil & gas, agriculture and emergency rescues. But those customers aren’t necessarily experts in drones.
While a hobby photographer might purchase the “wrong product” in that they cheaped out with a Mavic Mini, only to realize later that they need 4K video, that’s only a $399 mistake.
But what about a government agency looking to augment their efforts by drones, and they’re unsure of the difference between specs. An experienced dealer could theoretically talk a customer into buying a better drone for them, and avoid what would inevitably be something closer to a $13,000 mistake.
Of course, those customers that buy enterprise drones have other means of avoiding such mistakes — doing research online, working with consultants, or getting in touch with DJI customer service themself — but dealers tend to be proven ways to serve all those purposes, without any hold music or confusing Google searches.
You likely won’t get the same level of customer service
In that same vein, customer service goes beyond making sure you buy the right product, but that it serves you long after you’ve bought it. Dealers certainly don’t have to — but to maintain lifelong customers often do — provide post-purchase services, such as helping with minor repairs or consulting on installation and setup.
That’s not to say DJI won’t provide its own service, but it’s not a guarantee. If you do purchase an enterprise drone through DJI, it’s recommend that you actually pay more for DJI Enterprise Shield, a customizable drone protection service plan that provides enhanced insurance for many of DJI’s enterprise drones. DJI Enterprise Shield is effectively an extended warranty plan that provides broad accident coverage, repair and replacement services, free shipping and delivery, and more, with no deductible.
Otherwise, DJI also offers up a repair website.
What to expect in the future when you buy enterprise drones
In 2020, a plurality of enterprise drone purchases were made via dealers, according to the DroneAnalyst 2020 Drone Market Sector Report. 29% of drones were purchases from dealers, 20% from the manufacturer’s website, about 10% from Amazon, and about 7% were purchased used.
What’s more, the 29% figure of drones purchased directly from dealers is up from just 16% in 2017. The number of authorized dealers was rapidly growing — and this news likely won’t be good for them.
“The largest impact will be seen on the behavior and profits of distributors,” Benowitz wrote. “Generally speaking, DJI’s online store will work to squeeze distributors who provide little value-added services and keep DJI products in contention while many start to consider diversifying their drone fleets.”
Benowitz dives much deeper in an extensive blog post on his site, Drone Analyst. Give his entire post a read here.