Spotlight on InfoComm 2019


InfoComm’s Labuskes: Direct-to-Consumer Products Might Actually be Good for Integrators

Labuskes says opening more direct channels between manufacturers and end users is in fact enhancing the channel, not replacing it, and challenges AV professionals to create valuable solutions and experiences for customers.

If you haven’t talked, read or thought about AV’s future yet, it’s about time you start. Here’s why:

The AV integration industry is constantly changing, from consolidation among businesses, to shifts in what AV clients are valuing, to the way industry professionals need to be trained and educated.

While it’s impossible to predict what the industry will look like five years from now or even one year from now, it’s become absolutely vital for professionals in the industry to begin thinking about how they are going to adjust to the major changes that have occurred and continue to occur in the AV integration business.

With manufacturers creating more “out-of-the-box” solutions, as well as solutions that need to be connected to “the network” or cloud, AV integrators are finding themselves in quite the predicament.

There have been an increasing number of questions about the value AV integrators will bring to clients if they are 1) simply not needed to integrate technology if the solution is simple enough for an end user to install themselves, or 2) not trained or educated in IT.

While the industry hasn’t quite hit panic mode yet, AV organizations and businesses have certainly started to think about how they are going to prepare integrators for “the future” of AV.

At the 2016 Stampede Vendor Summit in Buffalo, David Labuskes, executive director and CEO of InfoComm International, shared his thoughts on what the AV industry can expect business to look like in the future, as well as what role InfoComm will play in ensuring integrators are prepared for the future of AV.

Direct-to-Consumer Products: Good or Bad?

With more out-of-the-box solutions being developed and sold to end users, many industry professionals have begun to wonder what the channel will look like in the near future.

“What we see is this great concern from integrators that the manufacturers are opening up more and more direct channels with end users,” said Labuskes.

Want to avoid being a late technology adopter?

We’ve identified 5 technologies and trends that will define the next 5 years of integration. Navigating technology is as much about understanding what is in front of you and as it is about anticipating what’s coming down the road. This article will help you navigate.
Click here to download 5 Tech Trends That Will Define the Next 5 Years.

Despite the development of “simple” technology, Labuskes doesn’t expect integrators to be eliminated in the channel.

“In 2016, one out of ten products is sold direct from the manufacturer to the end user. There really is no anticipation of change here,” he said.

Labuskes added that opening more direct channels between manufacturers and end users is in fact enhancing the channel, not replacing it.

In addition to the market research conducted by InfoComm, distributors such as Stampede have also gained some insight into the future of AV due to their unique position within the channel. Working with manufacturers, integrators and even end users, Stampede has watched the industry evolve first-hand.

“[End users] are purchasing solutions, not products. Solutions are less complex and easy to do-it-yourself. There is little differentiation [between products], and the margin compresses. Manufacturers are reaching out directly to end users and integrators are doing consulting work,” said Kevin Kelly, COO of Stampede, at the Vendor Summit. “People are looking to change their role and deal with some of the margin implications.”

While the channel isn’t eliminating any key parts in the near future, responsibilities within the channel may look a bit different.  In order to respond to the consolidation in the industry and market trends, Kelly says Stampede will need to evolve with the industry.

“It’s a force that’s happening right in front of our eyes. Opportunity is knocking,” said Kelly. “[We need to] evolve with the industry and position ourselves for the next phase and the next new technologies that are coming. It’s an opportunity to harvest.”

Kelly focused on Stampede’s approach to industry changes, but his message should certainly resonate with all industry professionals, including integrators. Labuskes agreed industry professionals will have to adjust to changes in the industry in order to succeed.

“Those people who want to do business the same way they did in 1985 are absolutely challenged,” said Labuskes. “Our message to them is they need to change.”