I Spy the Lost Demo
Over the last few decades, our industry has undergone some radical advances. Start with the products, of course. We've gone from stereo receivers, tape decks, turntables, speakers and CRT televisions in six different sizes to an almost limitless number of products and technologies in dozens of product categories and sub-categories. The source content has grown from LPs and a few network television programs to hundreds of options.
To a large degree, the industry's selling practices have kept pace with the speed of new technologies. Retailers and suppliers now build libraries of knowledge about their customers and can target-market to them with pinpoint precision. We can manage just-in-time inventory to mere days-on-hand for the shortest of product life cycles. We can make enough information available to consumers so they can help themselves make intelligent purchases.
So why is it, with the industry advancing in so many areas (not unlike the move from horse-and-buggy to space travel), a consumer still can't get a good product demonstration at retail?
Every retailer and manufacturer would agree that customers are better served when they are engaged, stimulated and excited during product demonstrations. Customers can then better understand how products serve their lifestyles, enhance their entertainment experiences, or simply make their lives easier. Such people should be more receptive to wanting to plunk down the bucks to actually buy…right?
Certainly, some do. But here in the San Francisco bay area, home of affluent, technologically sophisticated demographics, I set out to see and hear what was going on at specialty C-tailers. The experience was not surprising. And that's not good.
I WANT ONE OF THEM THERE AUDIO SERVERS
I set out to look for one of our sector's key new products, an audio server, and one of our key lifestyle propositions, multi-room audio. My story went that I had recently attended a friend's birthday party at a rented house out on Stinson Beach, and he brought with him this really cool thing that had all of his CDs and downloaded music on this one box. He had made up lots of different playlists and was able to play different playlists in two different rooms. "Do you have anything like this I can see?" I asked.