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3 Keys to Product Evaluation at CEDIA 2017

Packing your bags for San Diego? The home technology industry is more dynamic than ever, making CEDIA 2017 as pivotal a show as ever. With so much to see and so few days to do it, it’s vital to go in with a game plan. 

Packing your bags for San Diego? The home technology industry is more dynamic than ever, making CEDIA 2017 as pivotal a show as ever. With so much to see and so few days to do it, it’s vital to go in with a game plan. Mine for this year is to dive beyond the spec sheets, to understand the intangibles that drive value in home technology product selection. To ensure you’re selecting products that will set you up for long-term success in this dynamic market, here are three key factors to consider…

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Performance is important. But what happens when something goes wrong? CEDIA presents a great opportunity to gauge a company’s commitment to helping their dealers resolve problems quickly. When speaking with a vendor, start with an open-ended question like “what’s your approach to tech support?” Those who take it seriously should have specifics at the ready including their hours of availability, staffing levels, and their modes of contact (i.e. phone, email, and/or chat).

More specific questions you could consider asking include details on their RMA policies and whether or not they track service metrics like average response time and average time-to-resolution. Also, what is the company’s stance on remote support? Do they provide any remote troubleshooting tools of their own? Or better yet, do they make a concerted effort to integrate with any of the industry’s major Remote Systems Management platforms?

Lastly, another great option here is to take full advantage of the large gathering of industry peers and ask others who have worked with a given company what their support experience has been like. Home tech pros know better than anyone the importance of high-quality support so asking a colleague is often the best way to get the real story.

IoT Value Add

Low-cost, IoT products are increasingly making their way onto the CEDIA show floor. Whether you feel good, bad, or indifferent about such products being at the show, it’s worth spending some time evaluating how they may factor into your business. The key is to look for ways that you can deliver a tangible value-add on top of what a consumer would experience purchasing and installing the product themselves. Of course, providing assistance with basic installation and setup may drive sufficient value for many consumers, but CEDIA 2017 will present plenty of interesting opportunities to take to take the IoT value-add much further.

One shining example is Origin Acoustics’ (booth 5513) new Valet Amplifiers. This system allows home tech pros to deliver a premium, architecturally-satisfying house audio experience by leveraging Echo Dots, hidden behind speaker grills in the ceiling, as both sources and microphones. Another example is Eero (booth 633), maker of the popular consumer Mesh WiFi system. The company has been taking steps to make their product more attractive to the CEDIA channel and will surely be touting their recently-announced PoE product and a remote network monitoring solution, designed specifically for professionals, at their booth. A third example is Ring (booth 1600) who recently began shipping the Ring Elite, a PoE, single-gang cut in version of their popular smart doorbell/camera which is being sold through professional channels only. These, of course, are only three examples. Opportunities abound at CEDIA 2017 for those seeking creative ways to incorporate IoT products into their businesses.

Product Differentiation — In Plain English

Speaking of low-cost IoT products, the growing functionality at the low-end of the market has added a new dimension to evaluating more “traditional”, professionally-installed options. Manufacturers in the CEDIA space are being pushed harder than ever to develop products that are truly differentiated when compared to the consumer-focused solutions flooding the market. CEDIA represents a great chance to learn about what these manufacturers are doing to drive the luxury-end of the market forward.

Take time to specifically discuss this challenge with new and existing vendors. It’s not enough to understand spec sheets. The goal should be to come away from CEDIA able to explain to the least technologically-inclined prospect, in language they can understand, what makes a professionally-installed solution better than a DIY one? The focus here should not be on features but benefits (i.e. is it faster, more secure, more functional, more reliable?) Too often, integrators get mired in techno-babble. Instead, focus your energy on learning how to convey the benefits in plain english.

Another Pivotal Year

2017 feels like it’s set to be another pivotal year the CEDIA channel, as well as the CEDIA organization/show. As both the industry and the organization evolve, the year’s biggest gathering of home tech pros provides a great chance to center your focus on key value drivers in your business. When it comes to selecting products that will set you up for long-term success in this evolving market, going beyond the spec sheets to understand serviceability, value-add opportunity, and differentiation are the keys to success.