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Sharpening Your Edges: What I Learned From Walking The Aisles of Best Buy

Why we should revel in our non-retail, lack of choice, prescriptive environment.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I find myself in a rut. That may seem ironic coming from a technology professional where the only constant in our industry is the accelerating rate of change. Becoming calcified and set in my ways would seem impossible to an outsider, but maybe you can relate? It can happen to the best of us. All it took was a visit to my local Best Buy to wake me up.

“Aisles and aisles of crap,” is what Guy Kawasaki deemed the MP3 player world at Fry’s Electronics before Apple launched the iPod in the early 2000s. Today’s retail smart home offerings at Best Buy feel the same way. Instead of just MP3 players, the smart home category covers video cameras, smart doorbells, lighting control, thermostats, door locks, water sensors, and much more. I’ve been in this business for almost 20 years and my stroll through the aisles left me confused.

Also by Henry Clifford: Becoming Parts and Smarts

How on earth are consumers making intelligent decisions about what technology to put in their homes? If there was ever a case for the home technology concierge model, this was it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Best Buy. This isn’t their fault. They’re doing the best job they can to offer smart home solutions in a retail environment. I clearly don’t have any feedback to make the retail experience better without suggesting an intelligent CEDIA-certified professional guiding the tour.

I’m sure the model of offering tons of choice works well for some folks. I’m also sure that a good portion of the population would rather have a prescription based on their own home layout and personal preferences. Since the CI channel is built around this model, I foresee a continued appreciation for what we do for many years to come as long as we all remember who our clients are. Clients who appreciate service and are willing to pay a premium for it will continue to come knocking on our door after glazing over evaluating 38 different kinds of smart light bulbs.

We should revel in our non-retail, lack of choice, prescriptive environment. Whether you’re someone who goes out to the home to understand the project, has a client in for a visit to your design center, or a hybrid of both, integrators have a huge leg up on the Best Buy approach. It’s got two thumbs and named “you.” After all, who’s reading the trade publications, watching product launches, and incessantly testing gear yourself so your clients aren’t guinea pigs? YOU are. That’s not to say Best Buy doesn’t have their own group of smart home professionals, but I think they’re forced into catering to a more price-conscious market, which dilutes their ability to deliver the kind of personalized attention a true custom integrator can.

Make no mistake, home technology done properly is a guided tour with a prescription at the end vs. a show-up-and-throw-up exercise in a flea market. If we all remember that, we’ll have more business than we know what to do with and your clients will thank you for saving them the hassle of having to walk the aisles of confusion.

How do you set yourself apart from the retail world of too many choices and uncertainty?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

Related: Getting Excited Again