Moving sheer volume is the number one goal of the mass retailers, bringing with it inevitable price-cutting, margin erosion, and commoditization, which is inherent with this strategy.
As I write this, it's the holiday season, and the consumer purchasing frenzy is in full swing. Finding the right gift at the lowest possible price is the primary goal. As in recent years, many of the hottest products of the season are consumer electronics such as iPods, PlayStation 2s, and digital cameras. Moving sheer volume is the number one goal of the mass retailers, bringing with it inevitable price-cutting, margin erosion, and commoditization, which is inherent with this strategy.
As the line between many consumer and professional AV products continues to blur, the pro AV industry has been forced to deal with many of these same issues. But recent research is beginning to re-focus the lines of separation and support the idea that for pro AV, price is not king.
According to a recent Pro AV purchasing practices survey (on pg. 29), systems integrators and contractors place price a distant second (29 percent) to “product quality, reliability, and performance” (71 percent) as the most critical factor in equipment purchase decision-making. And — what may be even more surprising — price ranked about the same as “technical support from the manufacturer,” and “previous experience with the brand,” which was followed by the “relationship with the manufacturer.” At the bottom of the list of what's important were “manufacturer programs” — rebates, incentives, and “buy-two-get-one-free” come-ons that are a staple of consumer merchandising. Only 2 percent of you considered this a critical factor in the purchase decision.
Of course, everyone wants the lowest price, but it's not the most important thing. What's more important is that the product is of high quality and won't jeopardize your relationship with your customer. And, should there be an issue, you expect your supplier to quickly and easily solve any problem, because this is what you do for your customer.
The message to equipment manufacturers is simple and clear: pro AV is not a consumer market. Our end-customers use our products and systems for commercial purposes, and having it work properly when it's supposed to is far more important than saving a buck on the purchase. Resources used in developing ever-lower cost products could be better utilized in enhancing product quality and other value-added intangibles such as service and sales support. These things go a long way toward maintaining a long-term business relationship, which is, after all, the name of the game in pro AV.