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How Best Buy Inspired AudioVisions’ Showroom

AudioVisions' staff uses a scripted tour in its new "experience center" to ingeniously unveil "invisible technology" for clients.

For most integration companies, the ability to seamlessly weave functional technology into a room's aesthetic design is illusive. For many, it's downright impossible.

Why? Well, because most integrators are technology geeks who only have a vague idea about elegant interior design and architecture.

AudioVisions' new 2,800-square-foot showroom in Lake Forest, Calif. might just be the first and only showroom (aka "experience center") in the country where design and technology live in perfect harmony. There are no:
  • Noisy front projectors dangling awkwardly from the ceiling in the middle of the room
  • Gaudy flat-panel displays hanging lonely on a wall
  • Obtrusive wall clutter to control glaring lights
  • Ugly acoustical treatments
  • Boxy mega speakers or subwoofers to stub your toes against
  • Monolithic racks filled with receivers, amps and processors in plain view
To both the trained and untrained eye, when you enter the building it simply appears to be a beautifully appointed residential space, including a kitchen, family room and foyer. So where is the technology? It's there, but it has been so discretely blended into the environment that even a technophobe client will feel at ease.

The only visible hint of technology is a Crestron touchpanel on a wall flanking the kitchen and breakfast nook. Every detail of the experience center has been meticulously planned to allow AudioVisions' technical sales staff (aka systems designers) to conduct a carefully produced, step-by-step 45-minute "capabilities tour" for clients.

As the tour unfolds, clients are surprised and wowed by invisible technology that, in some cases, they are standing right next to but don't know it's there. The company's seven-page, 137-bullet script was developed as a team effort, painstakingly crafted and refined by AudioVisions' sales and marketing departments working closely with the executive team.

"The goal of the project was to clearly demonstrate the company's brand promise: To enhance and simplify our client's lives," says AudioVision president Mark Hoffenberg. "Our vision was to create an experience center with comfortable ambience, a unique use of space, simplicity of operation and creative application of technology."

Building the Dream

AudioVisions, which was acquired by Best Buy in 2005, maintains its headquarters in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Orange County, Calif. But this is a world away from retail. The facility is located in an industrial and technology park. There is no cash register and no wall of TVs. The company bought the building eight years ago and previously had a smaller footprint vignette-style showroom in it.

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Article Topics

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About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

5 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  10/09  at  03:52 AM

Great article. We dropped our showroom a few years ago because we found that nothing beats taking the new client to the last clients home to see the latest greatest, installed in a real world setting.

The bit about BestBuy acquiring them is news to me. I think custom installation is a good move for BestBuy and it will allow them to stay in business as walmart continues to nibble at gadget sales.

Posted by Hanging in There  on  10/09  at  06:01 PM

I find this article insteresting as you act so surprised by Audiovisions presentation plan, but I would like to point out that Best Buy did the same thing with Magnolia Audio Video and now this once premier A/V specialist retailer has shrunk store locations, eliminated all of the talent who was driving their innovative marketing and sales and has been relegated to a somewhat second class status within the Best Buy organization.
We need specialists, I hope Best Buy doesn’t tire of Audiovisions….

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  10/11  at  05:10 AM

My only experience with Magnolia is the tiny little cubbyholes inside of BestBuy’s around Chicago. I haven’t seen a thing in any of them that even remotely resembles the AudioVisions showroom.

Obviously, BB’s current business model doesn’t have a place for AudioVisions right now IMO but over the next few years i see a huge low to mid end market opening up due to falling CE prices and (hopefully) easier to configure control systems.

I also think that more people will be buying gadgets online which will hurt BB’s current business model. I think the geeksquad and Control4 could be their ticket to becoming SUPER TWEETER. This would allow them to survive.

Their “move more boxes for less” business model cant compete with online retailers who don’t have to carry the overhead of retail locations. And dont forget about the continued growth of walmarts electronics department.

I dont know what BB is planning to do but at least it looks like they have a plan. Or it could be like when ebay bought skype smile.

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  10/11  at  09:20 AM

I agree with 39. In the present economic client, the businesses that are growing and will continue to grow are low to mid end. Personally, I love the $10K-$20K jobs… You’re in and out in one day, the customer loves you, you get paid on the spot, and they refer you.

All of us high end dealers have fallen into the trap of our own reputations for selling only $100K+ jobs. How many times have we lost jobs because clients are afraid to approach us because they believe that “WE” our out of their league?

Granted, it’s always great to close a big job, but these clients, (in my area), are now shopping price on the internet on what used to be key profitable products such as remote controls and surge protectors. If you try to charge full retail like the good ‘ol days, any client that can now find it on Amazon for hundreds less, will now take a microscope to the rest of your proposal.

The days of making a couple of $K on a Pioneer Elite flat panel are over. Even in this rotten economy, people still paid top dollar for the TV because most dealers sold them for the same price. Now, we literally have to sell flat panels
like VCR’s and expect to make next to nothing to keep the job. Sure we all charge more for labor, wire, small parts, etc., to make up the difference. However, even brands like Chief are whored out on the internet and now you can’t make money on the frigging brackets. To make things worse, even Home Depot has gotten into the game by selling Denon receivers, Crestron remotes, (which are made by URC), and Panasonic flat panel TV’s.

AudioVisions has a beautiful showroom, but how many systems are they going to sell? I,like 39 Cent, gave up my showroom 9 years ago because you simply have to go to a clients home in order to propose a correct system. Not to mention, clients feel more comfortable making a deal on their own turf, and they can actually see what is going to go where in their home.

So what’s the solution? Who really knows for now. I have too many friends that spent mega bucks creating beautiful showrooms only a year ago, and now they’re deciding if they are going to shut their doors at the end of the year because they can’t pay their employees or vendors. Luckily, my business is strictly referral and the phones continue to ring. I’m no longer too busy to do a $5K install, but if that’s what it takes keep on going, so be it.

No matter what anyone says, IMO, clients with only a $5K budget still don’t want to go into a Best Buy… we forced them into it because our products were out of their reach. To regain our market place against big box dealers, we still have the power to draw the clients back to us because they already know we bring an expertise to the table that BB & Wallmart can & will never achieve. For now, we just have to embrace the cards we’ve been dealt and roll with the punches.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  10/19  at  04:01 PM

FYI—This showroom was recently awarded the CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Award for Best Showroom. That information was not available when this article was being written. Congratulations AudioVisions!

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