I have worked for 3 integrators over the last 13 years, working on projects that include everything from structured wiring in residential to corporate boardrooms to award winning digital signage projects at universities.
As such, I know the advantages of being a one stop shop. In residential for instance, being able to offer structured cabling, audio video, security, and central vacuum as a single company really had an advantage for the builder in terms of negotiating contracts as well as managing and paying trades. It was easier and more cost effective to deal with 1 firm than having to deal with 3.
I’m sure many other integration firms across verticals and markets have seen the advantage of being a one stop shop as well, and offering as many of the complimentary services and products as profitable. This sometimes means bringing in new lines as technology changes, getting new licenses like high volt electrical in case you need to move an outlet to power a flat panel, or as of late, developing or acquiring IT skillsets to better manage VTC and or digital signage projects.
This has always worked fairly well in most AV installs, as our major points of contact were typically project based. They were IT managers, Facilities Managers, General Contractors, etc. The scope of our systems really stopped at hardware installation and maintenance.
Today however, I think that if integrators want to be more successful or maintain their market shares and margins, we need to redefine the “One Stop Shop”.
I want to take this opportunity to address the digital signage (DS) market directly, as according to Gary Kayye, the AV industry still only performs about a quarter of the digital signage installations being performed today. So how do we change that?
The first answer typically given, which I happen to agree with, is develop high level IT skillsets, seing that IT companies are doing much of the DS work today. Many integrators have started to do this and have reaped benefits, probably resulting in the 10% market share we have gained in the DS arena over the last 2-3 years.
Stopping there however I believe is short sighted. All you do by developing the IT skillset is put yourself on an equal playing field with IT companies. If you want an advantage in the battlefield, you need to put yourself in an elevated position. So how do we do that?
Digital Signage is more than an IT subsystem. It is in many case a marketing initiative as well. Poorly placed screens and bad content can do as much to suck the ROI out of a DS install as does the dreaded blue screen of death.
We need to become Digital Signage Agencies of sorts. If you want to have the advantage in a meeting discussing a DS install, you need to develop some marketing skill sets as well.
AV companies should be learning about the dynamics of store design, like bringing people through the door, and then a well placed table steers them right or left into regular priced merchandise so they can’t take a straight shot to the clearance items at the back.
We need to be developing skillsets in house so that we can sell content creation, whether it is static or interactive. To do that effectively, we should be hiring or training people in buyer behavior. What makes someone pay attention, what inspres them to go deeper into content, what makes the barrier to a purchase lower?
How do we use technology in a way that is in line with the current culture or experience that the company provides its clients, without dissolving the human interaction of employees and customers? The goal shouldn’t be to relegate everyone to a kiosk.
Then, how do we make the content sticky, so that it travels with the client after the experience is ovver, either in their head and senses or even in their personal digital device, soi that it can be triggered or recalled later to gain repeat business?
If as AV integrators in the digital signage arena you know not only what screens and media players to provide and how to install them, but also where the screens should optimally be, what the content should provide, and how that interaction should flow from discovery, to purchase, to a repeat customer, then you are providing a one stop shop for the project, and not just the commoditized hardware.
(Of course all of these screens need to be secured to the wall, floor, or celiing somehow as well and I may know someone who could help with that if need be;) )
In short, the introduction of marketing initiatives into systems like Digital Signage really adds an additional layer of skill to being a one stop shop. I see a bright future for AV intergrators who embrace that knowledge and make an investment in getting there.
What say you? Chime in in the comments!