A broad range of technologies, lifestyle trends and business needs are coming together in ways that promise to make 2020 a pivotal and promising year for both consumer and commercial AV resellers and manufacturers, according to Kevin Kelly, President & CEO of Stampede, the global leader in high value added consumer and commercial AV distribution.
“Technology has evolved from being a utility that enhances productivity to an experience that anchors everything we do at work, at home, at school and all the places we travel to in between,” Kelly said today. “The AV experience has become central to our daily lives in all walks of life and those companies that can deliver an experience are going to thrive in the new year just getting underway. Those who can’t will continue to see their products and businesses become increasingly commoditized. Value, margin and profit increases are to be found upstream, away from the mainstream of easily shopped and priced online solutions.”
According to Kelly, the key to delivering a high value experience that preserves margin and profit for all involved resides in designing and installing system solutions that deliver a higher level of engagement than can be found inexpensively online. “Packaged system solutions delivering good, better, best choice options built around the combination of both software and hardware present solid growth opportunities for manufacturers and all types of retailers, resellers and integrators. In particular, audio manufacturers have a remarkable opportunity because it is a critically important component of being able to deliver a quality experience.”
Turning to the major trends that will define the year, Kelly emphasized several. “Feature rich AV is to be found everywhere, including mobile living, which we believe is going to emerge as a major new growth area for manufacturers and resellers,” he emphasized. “More Baby Boomers, as well as young families, are vacationing at home, creating a huge new opportunity for AV-centric recreational living that includes custom designed and engineered displays, components and appliances.”
And speaking of Baby Boomers, more and more of them are living in their homes longer than ever before, resulting in historically low housing inventory for sale in 2020. The choice to age in place and make the renovations and investments that enable them to do so is creating new opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to offer AV and consumer electronics that are custom designed to meet this new market need.
Kelly also predicted that the builder channel will become increasingly important to both manufacturers and retailers as the next, millennial generation of new home customers comes to expect built-in smart home entertainment, security, lighting and energy controls. “Smart homes are no longer an option; they’re a requirement to today’s younger home buyers who expect to have an app-like experience when they’re home — and particularly when they’re away from home.”
In hospitality, the customer experience is increasingly digital as more and more hotels leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable guests to enjoy all of their devices as well as control the guest room’s heating, AC, room access, television, lighting and shades with their smartphone. Displays are being upgraded everywhere to further enhance the in-room and public area customer experience. “The need to install larger sized 4K, OLED and even 8K displays is becoming more urgent throughout the hospitality industry. In fact, if there was more content available 8K, would really take off.”
The opportunities on the operational side of hospitality are even bigger, Kelly stressed. “Artificial intelligence and voice-controlled customer service, virtual reality-based room and property previews, augmented reality in local tourist attractions and restaurants, facial recognition for security and panic buttons for employees and guests — all of these areas offer growth opportunities for AV resellers and manufacturers that didn’t exist before,” he said.
Business models are also evolving, Kelly noted, thanks to the fact that hardware bundled with software subscription services is becoming much more common throughout the industry and not just in the area of unified communications. As a result, AV as a Service is finally coming into its own in 2020. “The reality is that, for more and more end-user customers, it no longer makes sense to own the equipment,” Kelly explained. “They can just as easily lease it from the reseller or the manufacturer as a service that can be updated as needed and expensed as a lease payment. It works for everyone and it’s really going to catch fire this year.”
Consolidation is another trend that is going to continue to impact the industry, he predicted. “More manufacturers are going to acquire their growth through acquisitions and the same is true for resellers and distributors. Stampede, for one, is going to very aggressively pursue distributors who share our commitment to value added services and can add to our overall volume.”
Finally, Kelly said 2020 is going to be the year that sees Direct View LED Displays go mainstream in every vertical market, at the expense of LCD displays and projection systems. “The difference in display quality overwhelms any short-term design and installation issues and the prices are now at a point where they create a true tipping point for the industry.”
The same is true for other technologies that have been slowly percolating for the last several years, including lower priced, feature rich drones that are customized for specific verticals; virtual reality as a tool that accelerates design across all verticals and generates a new revenue stream for resellers; and, of course, 5G, which Kelly said will change everything in ways known and unknown.
“It’s time to buckle up and profit from the opportunities these new trends and technologies are creating,” Kelly concluded. “The future always belongs to the bold who are not afraid to invest in the ideas of the future. Our commitment to investing in the future has never been stronger than it is today. We embrace challenge as the gateway to future opportunity and growth for us and for our partners.”