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David Keene on the AV Path to Purchase

As you read this, you are already planning for 2017. And in this booming market for AV in general, and AV staging for live events, you’re probably planning equipment purchases of video, audio, and other staging gear to replenish your inventory and prepare for whatever the market throws your way next year. Of course, folks on the “staging” side of the AV market are– unlike their counterparts on the installed AV side– the end users of that equipment, so the buying dynamic is much different, right? Stagers are not just buying for their customers, they are buying to own the gear. That makes them more picky, and more cautious in general on buying vs. subrenting the gear on a job-basis.

What is the most profound trend in AV, on the business side, as regards the path to purchase of AV gear? InfoComm has just released its 2016 Global Pro-AV Distribution Channel and Trends Report. (See news item in the InfoComm Update section of this issue.) The report looks at the ways pro-AV products and services move through the market, from manufacturer to end-user organization.

Of particular interest is the InfoComm report’s emphasis on “distribution channels.” The report delves into the “growing role of distributors, how services differentiate integrators, consumer products as components of commercial offerings and the proliferation of hybrid models.” The report, available from InfoComm, features a lot of research and data devoted to the role of AV distributors, and how the market has seen an increasing shift to distribution and away from old manufacturer to “dealer” (AV integrator or AV staging company) and other models. That trend has been pretty strong for a while. Many re-org’s internally at the manufacturers in the recession and beyond, meant that the manufacturers leaned toward outsourcing a lot of product sales and product support service to the distributor. And now, have you noticed that the big AV gear distributors are now offering “services” as well, like content creation help, or programming services. Of course, some of that latter activity is an attempt by the distributors themselves to differentiate their offerings in an era of shrinking margins for pure hardware, and should not be taken as some grand shift in the industry. But it is all part of a pretty big shift of resources to find new efficiencies and to diversify revenue. So even if you think the distribution dynamic on the installed AV side of the market does not affect you, it does. And it will, increasingly, in 2017 and beyond.

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