I did an editorial a few years ago about shopping on Amazon.com for a big-screen TV. The response from most readers was something to the effect of: “You must be a hater of local integrators. We have supported CE Pro for a million years and this is the thanks we get?! We will never read you or your stupid magazine again.”
The fact was, I was in a hurry. I needed a TV. I wasn’t picky about the TV because video simply isn’t a priority of mine. I just wanted to click a few buttons and have a large TV brought to my house in a couple of days without ever having to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to be up-sold. I didn’t want to be bothered with any more decisions. I just wanted a large TV that worked well enough.
The TV was cheap, to be sure, but that’s not what motivated me to buy it online. It was all about the convenience.
I placed the order. I got a confirmation. I got a phone call the night before with a delivery window, another call the next morning confirming the delivery window, and then another about 15 minutes prior to delivery. The guys delivered the package. I didn’t have to be particularly pleasant. They just did their thing and left.
I plugged in the TV and it worked and I was happy. And I’m still happy because the 73-inch Mitsubishi rear-projection DLP will last for a decade or more, just like my last two.
Too often, A/V dealers think they’re losing business because they can’t compete with cheap products and low online prices, or because customers are just cheap these days and “no one appreciates good service anymore.”
In fact, “good service” nowadays is often about no service at all – at least not personal service. We don’t want to talk to people. We don’t want to mess with scheduling contractors and being home (and dressed … and pleasant …) when they arrive. We just want to get it over with.
Why do you think SnapAV succeeded so quickly when it entered the custom market with OK products that were mostly commodities? It’s because they had a top-notch e-commerce portal that meant dealers didn’t have to talk to anyone if they didn’t want to. They could just go online at 2 a.m., place their orders, change their minds if products were back-ordered, and then stay up-to-date on delivery schedules.
Back then, the big-name speaker manufacturers accused dealers of being disloyal and cheap for buying SnapAV speakers. But the reality is that the speakers worked just fine (they grew to work really fine), and it was just simpler to shop for a wide variety of products from a single vendor that made it so simple.
Let’s go one step further. Consumers don’t necessarily go the DIY route because they’re too cheap to hire a pro, or the products themselves are cheap (they’re not always). They do it because it’s just simpler that way. Configuring the products is simple enough (at least consumers are led to believe), and they can complete the transaction — from ordering to installation — without having to talk to a salesperson or let a stranger into their home.
The DIY Movement: Now it's Scary
As a channel champion for 22 years, I’ve never been all that concerned about DIY automation displacing pro-installed solutions.
But now it’s getting a little scary. Not just because products are in fact becoming simpler to install and configure, but because the systems are now in place to automate the entire process, starting from the moment a consumer decides to buy, perhaps by pressing a “yes” on an interactive ad while watching Hulu.
We have tech-savvier consumers, mobile phones, search engines, referral and rating resources, online stores, impossibly fast delivery services, automated remote diagnostics and support, automatic billing, automated door locks and cameras to allow unattended entry, peer-to-peer payment systems … and so on … and so on … and so on.
Smart devices are indeed becoming simpler to install and configure by the untrained consumer. But we’ve been heading that way for years. It’s all the other bits and pieces of the business ecosystem that are falling into place.
What are you doing to exploit these new realities?