Post CEDIA 2017 is a perfect time to take stock of what trends are having the biggest impact on the custom channel. Last year, easily the biggest buzz around the show floor was the rampant movement in Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is now poised to evolve into a standard feature throughout the category.
AI makes it easy for a consumer to “drive” a system simply by speaking preferences out loud. And, judging by some feedback from some less-forward-thinking show attendees on both the dealer and developer sides, it’s indicative of the perceived danger presented by DIY products that simplify day-to-day activities without much installation fuss on the part of the end-user.
It’s common for new and popular trends to sometime frighten the old guard. Powerline, for example, was a controversial concept when it became a big story 10 years ago. It was a system that did not require customers to open walls and string wire, thereby depriving the installer of labor charges and other avenues to profitability.
Or so they thought. The more open-minded dealers on the front line saw a way to offer a more complete menu of options for consumers at a variety of budget levels.
Jump ahead to the modern era, and there are some in the business who start sweating at the mere mention of the IoT, or Internet of Things. As new connected products hit the market every day, we again hear the concerns of dealers who see new, simplified home controls, entertainment, security, and communications products as a threat to their bottom line.
And they will be right, if they continue to act as if the new generation of connected home products is a harbinger of tough times ahead. In fact, there are several ways for their concerns can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Here are four to chew on:
It's the Old Way or No Way
As the market continues to open its arms to the IoT, there will be some who say they will stick with a more streamlined and high-priced product and service mix because, well, that’s just what they do.
However, a much bigger and, ultimately, more prosperous group of CI pros are adding IoT products to the mix so that customers can have exactly the type of system they want and can afford, with plenty of opportunities, to upgrade as improved technologies are introduced.
DIY Leaves Installers Out in the Cold
A product that is billed as DIY, or Do it Yourself, doesn’t require installation, assistance or service. Right?
We hear this concern all the time, but not all DIY concepts are within the technical reach of the average consumer. Even CI customers who are technically savvy are, more often than not, more than willing to have a professional handle the installation and future upgrades. It’s the best way to know a product is correctly installed the first time.
Faster Installations = Lower Labor Fees
Faster installations are also, well, faster, allowing an installer to move onto the next project, and the next, and the next.
In a market where expedited installations are now a reality, time on the job site is shrinking while the number of projects on an installer’s calendar increase, especially since CI pros can now market their services to a wider range of consumers who may have been turned off by the thought of open walls and all the challenges of a protracted installation. Now more than ever, one size does not fit all.
IoT Is Growing Too Fast to Keep Up
The IoT is growing fast, period. Keeping up is a matter of taking stock of your current client base and income, and where you want them to be in five or 10 years.
The speed at which the category is growing is indicative of how much it is being embraced by consumers. With its expansion comes new waves of opportunities to re-visit clients to offer service and upgrades that are simple and profitable.
The so-called DIY category is the best thing to happen to professional installers in year, but only for those who keep their eyes and minds open.
Curt Hayes is president and CFO of Capitol, a distributor based in Eagan, Minn.