Open Enrollment | Subscribe to Technology Integrator HERE
Connect
Follow us on
Advertisement
 

In Control

Some of the industry’s top control, lighting and shading companies give counsel on how to present the categories as value propositions in this recessionary economy.

February 2009 By Nancy Klosek

How does selling control, lighting or shading now differ from this time in 2008? What has changed radically about the customer and the market—and what has changed very little in that time? And what do suppliers in the field advise integrators about how best to make the case for control, lighting and shading solutions to an expenditure-wary public? Below, executives in the discipline offer CustomRetailer’s readers commentary on these and other hot topics…

See a slideshow of the products here.

AMX
Jeff Kindig, Vice President, Marketing Strategies

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
The desire is there among consumers to keep integrating more things and make that integration easier. The best example would be  iPhone/iPod integration. As people become more familiar with certain technologies, they want to be able to use them in their control environments as well. If something comes out and it’s popular, the next step is to integrate it into the control system that might be in a residential property.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
What comes as a result of the demand for more integration is more complexity, on the integrator side. As you add things, it makes it more difficult to program. So what we’re dabbling quite a bit with these days is trying to come up with ways to make it easier on the dealer side, by pre-programming and pre-packaging solutions that accommodate most of what the homeowner is requesting. And that makes it easier for the dealer because now he doesn’t necessarily have to be the programming expert. We can take on some of the responsibility for him. And that will become more important, if dealers want to get a bigger business going and be able to keep up.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Our job is generally to help support technologies like iPod and iPhone. The only thing a homeowner may not necessarily have heard of yet is the Anterus RFID tag technology which we introduced last September—a credit-card-sized tag the homeowner can wear. When he walks into the room, it can modify the room setting to whatever they prefer automatically. Each card can be modified to each person. That’s a fun one—very demonstrable. It’s probably most commonly used in the commercial arena, and we’re adapting that to the residential side.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
AMXhome is a new solution set we’re building that is unique. We’re narrowing down the scope in terms of the different options, while still hitting the main functionality points that homeowners are looking for. AMXhome is a combination of marketing materials, programming files, touchpanel files and software applications that help customize systems for each homeowner.
The four bundled packages are Distributed Audio, Media Room, Home Essentials and Whole Home. Each has a completed programming code file, which includes all integrators will need to fulfill any of those four solutions. Inherent to any control system technology, you need two things: the programming code that sits on the central controller and acts as the brain for the system and a file that includes all the graphics that go on touchpanels, which the homeowner uses.

We produce all of that as well, so that the dealer is armed with all of the core base information and support files he needs to go out with and sell the solution. We also have a software application that helps to modify or complete the system. If a homeowner likes the Media Room solution, for example, the dealer has to ask him what kind of TV, DVD player or receiver he has—what devices need to be controlled. And then the application we’ve written helps to integrate all the third-parties’ specific model numbers into the system so that when the homeowner pushes the ‘DVD’ play button, it will start playing.

CONTROL4
Eric Smith, Chief Technology Officer

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
The biggest difference over last year is consumer interest in energy efficiency and “greenness.” People don’t care as much about saving money as about saving energy. Also, our products from Day One have been retrofittable and suited to existing home use. That’s one reason our numbers had been up dramatically in 2008 despite the housing slowdown, and why they’re strong this year. We’re seeing more of our dealer base moving to a retrofit business model. And we’re also seeing more of a ‘flight to value’ by consumers.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
We recommend presenting products as energy-saving. Talking about this aspect of the products can help consumers get over the mental hurdle of spending the money.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
There is obviously a lot happening with content entering the home from outside, via broadband. There’s a lot of interesting things happening there. Content no longer has to be local.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Our partnerships. Companies who partner best will win in the end because one company can’t do it all. Our Partner Pavilion at CES had [a variety of major players]. We have different layers of partnership, with about 50 to 60 companies embedding our technology and many more whose products are certified to work with Control4. What’s key is that we’re willing to give up things that would make us exclusive in order to make our system the best at working together with other manufacturers’ products. You sometimes have to cede ground to other people in order to grow.

CRESTRON
Bill Schafer, Director of Sales, Lighting Controls

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
When they spend money nowadays, people are more aware of spending on things that will save them money. Control is an easier sell today than it was a year ago because saving energy and saving money is on everyone’s mind. Higher-end clients are very involved with the environment. Multimillionaires are in activist groups because it’s not cool to be not green. So it’s become easier to broach the subject and convince people that control is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
When I’ve talked to people with an integrator, I reference the technology they’re using today—whether iPhone or Blackberry. I say, look at what you’ve got in your pocket—a phone, a scheduler and the Internet, all in one interface. It’s all there, right in the palm of your hand. When you stop and think about it, the home is no different. There are all these different systems—A/V, shading, lighting—and something is needed to bring them all together. That’s where a control system shines. Smartphones are not necessarily the icebreakers to start the conversation, but referencing them makes it easier for consumers to understand and analogize in their mind the control concept. Control is not really a luxury in some of these larger homes; it’s a requirement.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
We have new touchpanels coming out in ’09, but the groundbreaking technology advancement is in things like media delivery, video distribution over CAT5 and HDMI distribution. That’s groundbreaking, and something that’s completely unique to the industry. We’re just starting to ship the DM (Digital Media) line. We’ve done video over CAT5 for a long time, but HDMI threw in a whole new set of challenges and we’ve addressed those with this product.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
The biggest thing that makes us stand out is we do it all. An integrator can do lighting control, HVAC, audio and video distribution. The control system part, honestly, is minor at that stage. We don’t rely on somebody else to make a lighting control product to make us successful.

We have that product. We don’t rely on someone else’s thermostats, and so on. And because of that, it makes the installation go easier, it makes the system work better, and it offers more features to the customer. It’s completely seamless. The analogy I use with customers is that you don’t go out and buy a BMW and then ask them to rip the engine out and put a Mercedes engine in. They can relate to that. You go out and buy an engineered solution, and you know it’s going to all work together, either on a small scale or on a large scale.

ELAN/HOMELOGIC/SUNFIRE
Cat Fowler, Vice President

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Clearly, the environment, in terms of economics and awareness of them, has changed for many in a significant way. What we see via our dealers and their clients is that most people, regardless of income level, are looking for real value now.

They want to know they have purchased a system that will go in as they expect, on time, and for a real value. This should not mean price dropping to no margin on control systems, by the way. Rather, dealers and manufacturers should be even more keenly aware of the value proposition and doing a better job of making that clear to clients. Dropping prices to nothing helps no one in the long term.

With increasing energy costs, greater awareness for eco-friendliness and an unpredictable economy, we are also seeing a much more pronounced interest in energy management and “green-friendly” products. Clients considering whole-home and control systems are very interested in finding ways to view and use energy more efficiently.

We are observing renewed interest in consumers spending more time at home and upgrading existing home and installations. This is yet another ideal opportunity for the custom world.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
It is apparent that many of our dealers are already working these current opportunities and shifting their client presentations, product mix, marketing and installations to take best advantage of them.
As revenue in the electronic systems world continues to decline, our dealers have several different opportunities than they may have had two years ago. The very best advice that we can give is to be flexible and constantly be willing and able to adjust to client needs and interests. Dealers can continue to be the “go to” expert on these new fronts for them. Consider a clear green pitch, consider retrofit opportunities, consider new media formats, and leverage consumers’ current need to nest and upgrade their existing homes.

Dealers can now show clients real monetary return on investment for green monitoring and control products. Soon, we’ll all observe changes, such as greater focus on “Time of Day” (TOD) pricing for utilities. Our dealers also happen to have the answer to this. We have systems that monitor peak times, can auto-setback to specific limits, and more. Our integrators are in a unique position to deliver the best solutions while making money: viewing and one-touch management of lighting, shades, HVAC and—the top user of energy, in many cases—pool and spa.  

Add sensors or solar panel controls to what you are doing. We are an industry that is in a perfect spot to take full advantage of the growing green phenomenon and green awareness. There is no better time to spread the word and ensure mutual success.

Additionally, dropping control system prices to bare bones with no margin can be very detrimental to the long-term health of a business. While in the immediate term this may win one job, it stands to harm profitability and client satisfaction, in the long term. The custom dealer will always be differentiated and win by delivering clear value for reasonable prices that exceed client expectations. Continue to hear what they are looking for, and find ways to meet those needs, rather than knee-jerk responding to a low-price-only request for a competitive system that will not make them happy in the end. Right now, this can be key in the sales approach.  

There is also the reality of numerous consumers who’ve historically shopped at big-box retail outlets, many of whom are now reducing staff or shutting down. These consumers still need somewhere to go. A custom retailer or dealer has many opportunities to gain these clients and to upgrade existing ones. This can help both their current and future pipeline.  
These are just some of the major, current opportunities for our industry—dealers, manufacturers and trade organizations can make the most of these areas to be in a strong position now and in an even more ideal position upon economic recovery.  

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
There’s no doubt that iPhone and iPod Touch are driving greater client interest and new product development. The iPod is driving “simple” to new places. What it has achieved in terms of a simple interface has impacted the residential systems world in ways we could not have imagined. To prove the point, our ELAN VIA!migo dock that integrates seamlessly with the home system has been one of our biggest sellers in the past two years. We cannot keep them in stock. The product fits the current paradigm and therefore becomes a very easy add-on sale.  

HomeLogic, our sister company, is about to reveal a new iPod Touch solution for in-home and a simple remote control, which matches this broad consumer paradigm. This will be the first step in a whole strategy we’ll be delivering over the coming 12 months across the ELAN and HomeLogic brands.

Clients are more interested than ever in control and access of online entertainment sources. As such, over the past years, we have been migrating ELAN, and now HomeLogic, products to cover all formats including Rhapsody, MP3, Internet radio and more.

As discussed, green technologies for our integrators are a big focus. ELAN systems will continue to provide control and monitoring of home systems. And, when a dealer is looking at providing monitoring, historical use, scheduling and entire home management, we now have HomeLogic. For years, HomeLogic has been providing unique ways to give customers improved efficiency, management and control from both in and outside the home. And, profit potential for the dealer soars, as they do not have to spend months programming the customized system—it’s the Holy Grail of control. This will continue to be a hot area for our group of companies.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
ELAN has always been a standout as a company that focuses on relevant, unique dealer programs that make doing business with us easy, compelling and more profitable.

From our TRIO and Tech Week dealer events, to our Five-Star Customer Service Standard, to ELAN and Sunfire online universities (where dealers have taken nearly 200,000 courses), to our worldwide training programs, we invest quite heavily in this area. Our dealers constantly let us know this helps make their business better.

With the addition of Sunfire and HomeLogic, we have placed high importance on cross-company programs and solutions so dealers can save money on everything they do—from purchasing to training and beyond. We have something now that literally no one competes with, as we are able to combine programs across brands for greater dealer profitability and service levels.  

For example, ELAN University has expanded to add Sunfire and soon HomeLogic, yet our price remains the same and all brands are added. At CEDIA EXPO, we delivered a new “Power of Three” (P3) Program, where dealers can gain greater discounts, training and support when they sell ELAN, Sunfire and HomeLogic for their whole-home and theater projects.

We are also about to announce a massive, three-month 2009 dealer road show together with Sunfire, HomeLogic and ATON, which will bring our latest programs, products and new selling opportunities right to our dealers’ front doors. Beginning in April, we will be visiting over 45 cities with over 30 products nationwide, with sensitivity to our dealers cutting back on travel to traditional shows and faraway venues. This provides our integrators with the latest tools, while saving them time and money. We will be kicking this off with pre-road show sessions, which will be co-located with Electronic House at EHX in Orlando.

HAI
Jay McLellan, President

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
HAI has always come at the market from the security, lighting and energy management sides. Selling HAI systems continues to be a custom install. It’s the way the product was designed, and that business has not suffered the way the overall market has. What has changed is that there is an increasing number of items that homeowners would like to see controlled. And we continue to integrate the top choices of our dealer network. Lighting control systems, music players and renderers are the chief items.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Keep it simple, as well as application-specific. Make sure that you offer a sound, cost-effective solution. If a customer is mainly concerned with securing his home, having remote access to it, and controlling his energy costs, then focus on that. If he’s really interested in A/V control but would like a single remote that does it all, we have a simple solution for that as well. One of the things in this market that people have to avoid is going to a customer and saying, ‘It will do whatever you imagine.

What is it you want?’ All of our systems are so flexible they can do a lot, but what it boils down to is, most customers are easily impressed by a well-defined program they know will work 10 years down the road that won’t need a lot of babysitting. If you incorporate too sophisticated a control system, then it takes a major reprogramming simply to replace a TV set when it dies; and you don’t want that hassle. People just need concrete, reliable systems they know will take them into the future.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Generally, what will be hot is continued integration and more control of Internet-based products along with easier installs. There will be more wireless equipment, of course, and also, the energy sections of these products are beginning to mean more to customers. Over the next five or six years, everything will be tied in with a smart grid—meaning that utilities will be able to override things within a home to help them balance their load with renewable energy.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
People have different hot buttons. Some want home theater control. We provide a simple description of our partnership with Philips so that clients can understand that they can have a beautiful, handheld Pronto remote which controls the home theater as well as all of HAI’s security, energy management and lighting. In terms of marketing, it used to be, here are all the pieces and parts; make it whatever you’d like.

Now, we show vignettes of what we think are the most popular applications. When it comes to home theater, we humbly suggest HAI paired with a Philips Pronto remote. When it comes to security and energy management, we think our Omni home controllers are the best bang for the buck. And we continue to improve that platform with new features, software and integration partners. CR

HOMELOGIC
Joe Lautner, Vice President, Marketing & Sales

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Lautner:  Dealers are changing their pitches because of the green movement. There’s an ROI you can use to sell some of the products we sell. It’s all about lifestyle enhancement and increasing life safety. The folks who are investing in this are indulging in the ‘cocktail-party green’ aspect. It’s hard to put an ROI on what we do in these typical big-home systems. However, there are significant savings that make people feel good. When you put something in your home and know you are lowering your carbon footprint, and saving energy while being comfortable, it gives you a good feeling.

It’s like investing in a Prius. It might cost more than its gas cousin, but are people buying it because it saves gas dollars? Not really. They buy it because it’s a statement and it’s the right thing to do. So smart dealers will use this and integrate it into their selling pitches. I almost look at it as a ‘green ROI’. Green is a commitment people are making to themselves and the world and are paying a premium for it. That’s probably the biggest thing that’s changed. Also, there’s more awareness about control—and there’s the fact that it really works.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Lautner: Three things: Dealers have to do a good job of understanding lifestyles of the homeowners and that of their kids and grandkids. And they can then present a system that will grow with the client over time. Dealers should also sell in packages—a ‘peace of mind’ package covering lighting, security, camera, climate control—easy-to-sell, small packages that allow for upgrades. And they need to approach the sale with an integrated sales approach—1 + 1 + 1 = 4. By that I mean that the dealer should show the value of the system as greater than the sum, when things ‘talk’ to each other. It’s taking the value of one thing and by adding another, you get more value than the sum of the parts.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Lautner: For us, iPhone control is an exciting element. The 3G network has really opened up our Windows phone application and our soon-to-be-released iPhone application—both very effective home management tools.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Lautner: We offer customized solutions that are ours but that use efficiencies of mass production. We provide scalability and flexibility without the high overhead of custom programming. We’ve offered green benefits for six years now—our products report on energy usage and on zones that are driving up costs. We’re not a security company doing automation—we’re a control company. And we give dealers and homeowners the choice of the best product for the application—and choice is key for when the next great thing comes out. 

LIFE|WARE
Steve Cashman, Chief Strategy Officer

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Cashman: The most dramatic difference is the number of new devices that are now coming on line into the home. Apple is perhaps the biggest catalyst—particularly through the iPhone—that has enabled people to experience fingertip control. It has removed objections to touchscreen control and added to the consumer appetite for touch-control of more things and more integration within the home. There is also more low-cost, retrofittable technology now on the market in the control space. I think the average consumer’s expectations have greatly increased the way they think things should work together.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Cashman: What I would say to integrators is to start presentations with things that are not foreign to the customer, even though they might tend to like to show the most expensive, complicated logic to the homeowner. The industry has a great way of overwhelming people when they walk into showrooms.
Dealers should start with a customer’s new Apple iPhone and add technology onto it so that you give the client a starting point from which they feel comfortable, and then listen really well to what they need and to how they live.

Then you can give them a system that can start very basic and gradually grow to be more complex later on. Fifteen million people are walking around with iPhones now, and when I show them Life|ware control on it for lighting or for an HVAC system, or anything, it wows them. And then I show them how to get those things onto PCs and touchscreens, and it feels very consistent from one thing to another—it doesn’t feel like a big learning curve. Showing them things they’re comfortable with first is key.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Cashman: There are a couple of big tech trends to watch in 2009. The first is WBA—Widget-Based Architecture. TVs have the ability via their on-screen menus to render different things. At Life|ware, the TV has always been the dashboard to home entertainment. The new technologies being put in TVs are impressive, and anything that has a user interface can be presented through the TV with WBA. What that does is turn the TV into an ‘app store’ for services.
Retailers should also be aware of the new ‘flavor’ of devices out there. Cisco Linksys showed a new Wi-Fi audio system at the recent CES that basically would cost just a few hundred dollars a room. It has touchscreens, is sexy, sounds great and is easy to put together.

It’s one of many different products out there that will start to introduce consumers to the concept of using home control systems. The consumer who desires multiple rooms of audio is no longer bound to wiring infrastructure or to having a very complicated or high-priced install. If you’re a custom retailer, it really starts to lower the bar for where to begin selling control. Those retailers who don’t offer the super-high-end control systems because it’s hard to sell them on the floor or hard to deliver them from the back room will now have access to some middle-market technology, where assisted installation is possible without having a large backroom staff.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Cashman: Life|ware has always been hardware-neutral. We don’t build cameras, light switches or audio systems. We are uniquely positioned to take advantage of all these low-cost, intelligent devices by major manufacturers and work with them. For the custom retail space, I refer to us as ‘glue’: we can glue together the IP camera, the multiroom audio system and the thermostat and put it all on the iPhone today. We’ve greatly brought down the learning curve to deploy an integrated system, and the market opportunity is getting larger for that, based upon this new device technology that’s available. These are very exciting times for our company.

LITETOUCH
Angie Larson, Vice President, Sales & Marketing

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Larson: It’s about simplicity. Five years ago and maybe even as near as last year, people were looking for control options. What they’re looking for more now is to make it simple. That’s part of what changes how dealers and integrators sell. We encourage our integrators to offer lighting control as an upgrade. Everyone has lights in the home, so it’s a much easier sell to just upgrade lighting rather than trying to sell them something they weren’t already buying—they come in contact with lighting every day. After that, they can tie other home automation devices to that system and end up selling a large package, as long as it’s based around upgrading lighting control and ease of use.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Larson: Integrators need to set up systems to be easy to use. As an example, we sell keypads that range from one to nine buttons on a single gang. The one-button keypad can be ordered but some integrators prefer to order the nine-button to offer maximum control; the problem is, that isn’t maximum simplicity for the client. Interfaces are getting easier to use, but the dealer has to set them up so the homeowner can use them easily. And dealers are becoming more aware that simplicity is what’s driving the market now.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Larson: Some things include energy solutions—greening is certainly a hot topic in lighting control and shading. It’s more of a social consciousness than a dollar savings, and being aware of more ways to conserve.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Larson: A hot product for us is our Daylight Harvesting Keypad, which reads the light level in a room and determines if lighting is necessary. It’s all about not wasting resources rather than saving money. It’s a social awareness. What really makes us stand out is that our products afford the freedom to integrate with almost anything—flexibility. Our integrators can literally write customized user programs. Also, we have an engineering philosophy of backward compatibility—integrators can always upgrade a system on any job; and dealers can always go back and get that business.

LUTRON ELECTRONICS

Phil Scheetz, Home Systems Marketing Manager

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Scheetz: In 2009, we will continue to see fewer new homes being built. But with the DTV transition, and with people still focused on doing media rooms in their homes, we will see demand for single-room solutions that integrate well with other systems.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Scheetz: One thing is that most dealers will have fewer customers in 2009 than in 2008. There’s still a huge number of dealers out there in the custom retailer space that don’t do that much lighting control yet, while they sell audio and video and the integration of that in a room, using a universal remote. Well, why not use that universal remote to add another job to the category? If you sell $1,500 or $2,000 in video and another $1,500 in audio, why not add another $800 worth of lighting control and make that job even higher revenue? Our new RadioRA SR (for Single Room), because of its price, gives them a chance to put their toe in the water.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Scheetz: One thing we’re seeing, and it applies across the business spectrum, is the idea of control from the screens you already own – whether it’s an iPod, an iPhone or a Blackberry down the road. We’ll see it from more and more devices. Not to say that dedicated touchscreens will go away entirely, but these additional devices are popping up in the house. My kids can now control lights from their iPods from their rooms, where previously you’d have to use a dedicated touchpanel. At CES, we also saw some open-source designs that will be coming into the market, based on things like Google’s Android software. They’re early in their development, but it points to where things are going.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Scheetz: What we have done with our new RadioRA SR is to introduce a simpler single-room solution with robust integration to other systems. It’s designed around small systems idea, but it incorporates shading and lighting. And then there’s an integration piece that comes with it designed to be either Internet or RS-232 so that when you have a high-end remote, these things can be integrated and talk two-way to other products. It creates a small control system for that room. With it, you can do three zones of lighting very inexpensively. We’ve previewed it to retailers, and they see it as something they can sell in a lot of their single-room jobs and renovation projects. It uses Lutron’s proven RF technology, a new protocol we’re starting to roll out, and it’s easier to integrate and program; it ships in March.

MECHOSHADE HOME SYSTEMS

Victor Razon, Director of Sales and Business Development

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Razon: The upper end of the residential market has seen some downturn due to the economic factors facing our country, but there is no difference now concerning the sales to these clients. In the upper-middle segment of the residential market, there has been a change. It has become more competitive, and the customers in the upper-middle segment are spending more time on the decision-making process to ensure they get the best deal.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Razon: Regarding shading products, we enthusiastically promote integrators’ involvement in shading solutions because shading offers consistent profits, unlike consumer electronic products, in which profit margins become weak after distribution occurs.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Razon: The green initiative in residential housing is strong and growing. We excel in this sector with our Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM EcoVeil® textiles. They are sustainable, fully recyclable shadecloths that can be appreciated by the eco-conscious consumer.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Razon: MechoShade Systems, the parent company of MechoShade Home Systems, has been serving the architectural and design communities for over 40 years. We’re providing its dealers with new business opportunities, which are being generated by our Web site, print and online advertising, literature, trade shows and other events. The range of products includes Roman shades, Skylighter® shades, MonumentalShades™, the WhisperTrac™ drapery-track system, PanelTrac system, and of course, manual roller shades, which are the company’s staple.

Our line of controls is based on an open-architecture platform, which allows us to offer control solutions to fulfill the requirements of most, if not all, of the control systems of other manufacturers. Be it Internet protocol (IP), RS-232, RS-485, dry contact, infrared (IR), radio frequency (RF), ZigBee® or other communication methods, we provide flexible control solutions along with quiet motorized shades to meet the needs of any project. In addition, our textile expansion into eco-friendly shadecloths, woven woods, grass cloths and the new fashion-fabric collections extend our reach in the marketplace.

NILES AUDIO
Mike “Sparky” Detmer
Vice President of Sales and Marketing

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Detmer: Selling control has gotten simpler in the last year because of breakthrough products like the iRemote TS, a wireless touchscreen interface that brings whole-house audio/video and home theater together at last. Audio and visual feedback provide users with immediate confirmation and the necessary metadata to navigate today’s popular digital sources such as the streaming digital music and content from sources like iPods and Satellite or HD Radio. Additionally, customers appreciate one-touch to complete home theater automation that includes integrated lighting scenes, screen drops and shade control. What has changed radically is that the type of advanced control available from products like the iRemote TS sells for less and system integrators can install and configure it in minimal time.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Detmer: Structure your proposals and presentations to draw attention to what your clients will touch every day to wake their system up, control it and put it to bed. Maximize your returns by selecting user interfaces that are easy to configure and scalable to other jobs. If you believe that time is money—and who doesn’t—you’ll want to specify user interfaces that are easily configured. By doing so, you can enhance your billing-to-labor-time ratio and subsequent profits. But, quick to configure isn’t the only criterion. Make sure that you are able to scale your programming so portions can be reused in future jobs to further reduce your labor time and boost your efficiency.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Detmer: Products that hit the sweet spot in the market with just the right combination of benefits will drive 2009 sales. The Niles ZR-6, for example, is a single-chassis solution that is fully loaded with the desirable features such as plug-and-play iPod integration, metadata display, a built-in AM/FM tuner, one-touch-to-entertainment operation, and optional video distribution—all at a price that breaks new ground and able to be installed and programmed quickly and without a computer. In slower economic times, the market will gravitate to higher-value products like this.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Detmer: We provide integrators with a complete and up-to-date product assortment that is available when they order it. Our ease of installation, margin structure and dealer support programs provide integrators with the high attainable profits they require and our extensive training and technical support give them the skills and answers they need, when they need it. Naturally, with 30 years in the game we pride ourselves in exemplary customer service and believe that our strong and consistent branding makes us a name integrators and their customers can trust.

REMOTE TECHNOLOGIES INC. (RTI)

Pete Baker, Vice President, Sales and Marketing

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Baker: Professionally installed control systems in the past may have been considered an optional luxury amenity; they are now widely accepted as a necessity to access all of the desired media in the home. Further, consumers have a heightened interest in accessing more high-quality media content throughout the home, such as music libraries (iPod), HD television and HD-quality DVD content. Most of this media can be added into the home at a very modest price; however, it is useless unless it can be easily accessed. The key to enjoyment of this entertainment is easy access—through a professionally installed control system.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Baker: Offering a professional-grade control solution is the best product decision you can make for your business. Offering professional-grade products adds value to your service business. These products allow you to highlight the added value you offer your customers compared to a conventional electronics retailer.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Baker: Integration is key in 2009. As such, we will continue to focus on providing seamless integration with other manufacturing partners’ products, through our Integration Partner Program. And we look forward to a very exciting year ahead with the launch of our support for two-way control on our control devices. Further access to information technology such as weather, stock quotes, news clips and etc., will continue to be a hot feature, for control panels, in 2009.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Baker: As a leading control system manufacturer, RTI offers integrators a very broad product line of professional-grade, award-winning control products. All products in the RTI line are programmed through the very intuitive and efficient Integration Designer programming platform.

SAVANT
Craig Spinner, Director of Marketing

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Spinner: With a struggling economy and the economical restraints of the consumer, it is crucial for the integrator to promote the “value” of control and automation for the home and to homes’ occupants. It is not just about selling the “wow” factor or “coolness” of automation, but more about the tangible worth—centrally managing your lighting, HVAC and other utilities to best supervise the cost of these utilities, increasing the level of security in your home by being able to view and control security cameras and alarm systems, and adding net worth to a customer’s home by installing a ‘structurally wired’ control system.

Purchasing patterns of the wealthy have radically changed during this recent economic decline. Whereas in the past, a poor economy was less likely to impact purchasing habits of the upper class, studies have shown, more specifically in CustomRetailer’s January issue, that “luxury” clientele whose net worth is $10 million-plus are cutting back 40 percent on purchases.  
With this said, the control and automation sector continues to grow and is expected to grow steadily in the coming years regardless of the most recent recession, which is good news for Savant and our competition.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Spinner: Again, promoting the value and significance of control and automation is important. Studies suggest that consumers during these tough economic times are less likely to spend their money on items that are not essential to the home and products that do not add value to everyday life. Sell control to a potential customer as an essential and convenient element in the digital world.  
 
2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Spinner: iPhone and iPod Touch integration into control systems. Savant was the first company in the CEDIA space to offer a native complete control and automation application on the iPhone and iPod Touch to our dealer base, which was incredibly well-received.  This solution is a terrific cost-effective alternative to large and cumbersome touchpanels currently offered today.    

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Spinner: Sleek industrial design and well-tailored ergonomics allow Savant’s state-of-the-art equipment to blend into any environment. With some of the most advanced, attractive and fully customizable touch-screen interfaces and digital artwork available, Savant’s products are changing the face of home integration technology. The three products that stand out from our competition are Savant’s iPhone & iPod Touch application, On-Screen Display technology, and RacePoint Blueprint.

Savant was the first company to introduce a native iPhone and iPod Touch application delivering complete home control and automation. This graphically rich and sleek application allows end-customers to simply control and manage any service in their connected home.

Savant also pioneered OSD (On-screen Display) control and automation technology that transforms any HD display in the home or office into a “control portal” with user interaction previously only available with touchpanels.  
In addition to the innovative and award-winning products mentioned above,

 Savant provides an intelligent open-programmable control and media management software solution—RacePoint Blueprint. Blueprint is a GUI-based design tool that configures and controls any A/V component or sub-systems—without writing a single line of code. Savant’s RacePoint Blueprint provides the CE and CEDIA channels a solution that overcomes the complex nature of integrating various A/V products and the lack of standards in the industry.

UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL

Lars Granoe, Vice President of Sales

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Granoe: Our higher-end and mid-range products are being sold into more high-end installations because homeowners are looking for complete control solutions that are more cost-effective than some of the ultra-high-priced product that is on the market. We are seeing an uptick in sales of our higher-end models as the larger control systems budgets are tightening up and customers are rethinking their expenditures for their overall installations.

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Granoe: Two things. First, don’t make the remote the last thing you present to a customer. Aside from the video display, the remote is the one item that the customer interfaces with the most. Would it make sense if you bought a car and the salesman said, “Oh, by the way you’ll need this and it’s an additional cost” as he handed you the steering wheel? Of course not! Stop thinking of the programmed remote as an accessory; it’s a necessary system component. Tell the customer that without professionally programmed control, your A/V experience won’t be a pleasant one.

Second, let the customer conduct the demonstration. Give the programmed remote to the customer at the beginning and ask him or her to press “movie” or “watch TV.” I have witnessed numerous times the amazement in a customer’s eyes as the necessary components turn on, lights dim, shades close and then the picture actually shows up on the screen. By the end of the presentation, the customer has a death grip on the remote, as it’s the first time that everything worked without asking the kids for help or referencing a stack of notes they have on operating their system. At this point they will usually say, “I have to have this!”

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Granoe: With the proliferation of home networks, we expect Wi-Fi control to become more mainstream. Installers’ confidence has grown to the extent that they are now poised to “take command of the home network.” For our company in particular, we expect that our URC Lighting by Lutron line will continue to grow in popularity because it provides native control that does not require a “black box” interface, it’s easy to operate (the homeowner can even reconfigure lighting scenes ad infinitum without the installer’s help) and it’s fully scalable—you can start with one dimmer (even a lamp dimmer) and expand control, one dimmer at a time.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Granoe: We’re known for innovative and reliable products that are fairly priced and strongly supported. We have the best training crew in the industry and back it with a top-notch live Tech Support team that’s USA-based. No one knows more about control than Universal Remote Control.

VANTAGE/LEGRAND

Andrew Wale, Vice President of Marketing

HOW THE MARKET HAS CHANGED
Wale: In our experience, nothing has changed radically. Customers in the custom/luxury home end of the market are looking for more seamless integration of systems—but that’s more of a trend than a change over the last 12 months. Consumers do appear to be more sensitive to energy savings/management.  

PRESENTATION ADVICE
Wale: Our dealers do a good job describing the experience rather than the technology. The benefit of the technology can be lost in industry jargon, so it’s important to give the homeowner a value proposition that’s relatable.

2009 HOT PRODUCTS/TRENDS
Wale: Interfaces will remain critical—in simple keypads but also in touchscreens. The look and feel of a home is vastly improved when lighting, audio/video, security and temperature control are all integrated into one interface rather than banks of switches.

WHAT WE OFFER THAT’S UNIQUE
Wale: Vantage offers the best system design, control and programming software in the industry. Vantage integrators are known as the most effective and efficient when installing complex projects—which makes for happy homeowners and happy integrators.  


 

COMMENTS

Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: