Custom opportunities 2016: Where should integrators be looking next if they want to grow their business?

posted on Wednesday, 27th April 2016 by Steve May

Trade  Smart home  High Res Audio  Multi-room 

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According to GfK, the independent retail sector is seeing significant declines at the moment, down 14 percent YOY, in part due to the fact that the most popular products don’t lend themselves to traditional retailing. So keeping ahead of the curve is vital for technology professionals if they want to build their business. But where's the beef for hungry installers?

Establishing a niche in the smart home market makes increasing sense for custom integrators and electrical retailers. While many CI pros started off in high-end AV, there are increasing opportunities when it comes to selling control and automation solutions.

Ashley Shorey-Mills, Manager of Hughes Smart Home, says the rise of Smart home technology led the indie retailer to create a dedicated business division to meet demand, but the operation deliberately started slowly, to ensure that it could offer a level of service it was confident with.

“Whether it is simple things like distributing video around a house using something like HDBASE-T, which really should be considered bread and butter, or installing products to help the customer control their heating (NEST, Hive etc ), or helping the customer to feel secure by having CCTV around there home, controlled by the smart phone, the opportunities really are there to take advantage of,” says Shorey-Mills.

Adequate training is key to mastering Smart Home sales, he adds. “Not only for the sales side, but also the installation and maintenance side too,” says Shorey-Mills.  “There is so much training available nowadays at really reasonable rates, that will not only help your teams sell more, but also install to a higher standard. Some of this training is free, some has a small charge, but all can easily be more than justified in the increase in profitability, once you start making the most of the growing smart home market.  The tools are there already, it is just about making contact with the right people.  The most important message here is take it slow.” 

Shorey-Mills is also quick to point out that Smart installers should not try and price match online box shifters. “At last year’s RETRA conference, it was asked that despite having the best sales staff around, how can you compete with Amazon?  Well, if it was all about price, we all would have gone a long time ago, however, why not offer something that Amazon, and your main competition cannot?  We have control over so much, and have built up our brands over the years, so why not start making the most of your hard work and valuing your service by using it, and your name, to its fullest.” 

HDBaseT (1)

Panasonic Smart Home

Rob Scholes, Sales Director for Panasonic, says that Smart Home technology is rapidly becoming the big buzzword for consumers. Consumers are increasingly driven by a lifestyle need, he says. “We believe they will only be interested in products that they will actually use. For example, Panasonic's Smart Home proposition, with home monitoring and security at its heart, gives the consumer peace of mind.” 

Scholes also points to smart opportunities in the white goods sector. The brand’s new Autocare laundry range uses advanced sensor technology to ensure clothes are washed using the correct settings and temperature. “Once again, practical use with a real benefit and great design,” insists Scholes. From home cinema to high-end kitchen installations? “Understanding this proposition is key to getting sales within appliances,” says Scholes.

Merdian Audio says multiroom home entertainment remains a huge opportunity, with more growth to come. “Distributed audio is very regular business,” insists Katy Bradshaw, Trade Marketing Manager. “Every CI dealer will be working on these all of the time and it should be treated as a regular income stream once the concept has initially been sold in. The CI industry prides itself on being at the forefront of innovation and providing the best experience for its clients. Audio should be no different and as an industry we must move away from ‘good enough’.”

Meridian currently offers free to attend CEDIA certified courses on high performance two-channel and multi-channel audio systems (pictured below). Explains Bradshaw: “The Two Channel Masterclass takes delegates through analogue and digital audio signals, the different connection types, as well as the audio path, in appreciating how a two-channel system is put together. Audio sources, control units, power amplifiers and loudspeakers and the impact of each component on the system are also covered. In the Multi-channel Masterclass, installers can gain a thorough grounding in multi-channel design, specification and setup. The course explores important considerations, such as, room acoustics, screen size and viewing angles, industry standards and audio formats.”

Bradshaw says “both courses will provide installers with the knowledge they need to get the best possible performance from the equipment they specify.”  The easiest thing is aim to swap out and displace what is already in the market place with a powerful, compelling, profitable and controllable solution, says Bradshaw.

“We have seen success already with Meridian Sooloos displacing Sonos. With the move to a QNAP core (many of the CI dealers will already include a NAS drive into their systems, QNAP will be popular), Meridian Sooloos is now incredibly compelling. It allows for a higher performing, more profitable solution with multiple control options.  More performance can also be specified via Meridians saleable product solutions but the infrastructure can remain the same.” As a CI business it makes sense to educate clients about better solutions, she adds. 

Meridian Training 2

Howard Saycell Retra, Chief Executive with retail trade body RETRA, told Inside CIthere are less obvious ways to improve revenue. “We’ve produced two online training modules on warranty and finance – and they both make money for our members,” he says. “Quite frankly, our job is to help members continue with their business for a long time.”

There is a real opportunity here, he argues. “if you don’t do either it’s something you should consider. Our online training is very good.”

Saycell says changes in debit and credit card charges are becoming onerous. “Debit cards and credits cards will be set at a maximum of two and three per cent respectively and on big sales that’s a big chunk of money.” To combat that, Saycell says dealers and retailers should take advantage of RETRA’s Buy Now Pay later scheme. “It’s amazing how many people, if they see a sign that raises the issue of finance, will ask after it during a conversation.” And if they do, that translates to an immediate improvement to the bottom  line, he says.

For more stories about Meridan Audio, visit our partner page here.
For more information on RETRA, click here.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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