Let’s talk about stores for a moment. No, let’s talk about customers; the real end users. As a technology manager, I am sometimes referred to as a sort of end user, but I’m not the professor really using the products. Nor am I the home owner in the $100 million home (no matter what you have heard). However, for those of you trying to get the attention of the latter you need to reach out where they live. As the saying goes, you need to “fish where the fish are.”
So, where are they? Online is one place. Increasingly it is THE place that most consumers are. Especially those who would be in the market for a home automation/home theatre/security system all rolled into one. Having an online presence is the reality anyone selling anything is faced with. It is the 21st century version of your phone number. Even more so than your email address at this point. It is where customers can browse through your wares and see the past work you have done. It is a “virtual showroom” for those of you who do it correctly. However, what is one of the drawbacks of it being “virtual”? It’s the fact that it is “virtual” and not real. Let me explain.
List price on an AMX or Crestron HD over category cable system is somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 (ish). When someone is spending $35,000 on the latest Samsung OLED 4K display, that is no big deal. Or is it? Getting people to part with their money seems more difficult than it used to be. One thing that would help is to give your customers the chance to not only visualize what you are proposing, but actually put their hands on it. Enter the “actual” showroom.
According to a recent Economist article, “multichannel” is “letting customers shop with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even in stores as if waited upon by a single salesman with an unfailing memory.” In fact, more and more retailers who started out online (i.e. “virtual”) are going the way of brick and mortar as well as online. The article lists Kiddicare and Screwfix as two UK companies who have successfully jumped out of online and into the real world to the tune of over 200 shops. In addition, Amazon is putting in “lockers” in local shopping centers all over the U.S.
Then you come to the world of AV. Crestron, a business who sells through dealers, has gone out into the real world with their Experience Centers. They see the value in allowing end users and consultants touch and feel the product instead of being forced to “visualize” it.
I’m not saying you need to open up 200 stores. What about one store, at Christmastime? It would give you the opportunity to get out into the community you serve, put this great technology into the hands of the public, and educate your customers on what a system would look and feel like in the real world before they sign onto the project. Not just as a computer rendering on your laptop.