At this point you may be thinking, "Okay, but does any of this have to do with specialty AV?" I assure you, there is a lesson to be learned from this story, beyond merely a recipe for game-changing popcorn that any home theater fan would love. The lesson is about client retention and development. While HomeTheaterReview.com supports all sorts of AV product distribution pipelines--be it big box stores, warehouse stores, online retailers, catalogs, what have you--we still believe the traditional brick and mortar "stereo store" is key to the development and growth of the hobby and business. Good stereo stores know how to do what The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills does. They engage new customers as well as long-time customers like me.
When you get right down to it, Norberto and crew share some of the blame for my (hopefully temporary) obesity. Every time I go into the Cheese Store, the make me try something new. They are always engaging me about what I'm making at home. What's you plan for Thanksgiving? They actually care. Stereo stores can do the same thing. Implement a CRM (a fancy contact program like Salesforce.com or Zoho that allows you to track all sorts of details about your customers) and you can engage them on their level of personal interests. How much would it cost to buy a dozen or two Ultra HD Blu-rays of a movie or documentary and give it away to good prospects or excellent past clients? Imagine playing Blue Planet II from the BBC in 4K on, say, an LG OLED or a Sony 65-inch MASTER Series set, and then handing the guy a disc to take home to play on his older, lesser set? You think he can't tell the difference between his weak-sauce contrasts and these new sets that reproduce absolute black? He can. And you might just land yourself a $4,000-plus-dollar TV sale.
Dealers can do the same thing with music. Buy and rip a file onto a small thumb drive with the store's logo on it so that your audiophile clients can listen to a hot track on the latest and greatest audio system in the store, then go home and listen to it on their system. Whatever the thumb drive and song cost to buy is a small investment in inspiring consumers to continue to invest in their AV systems.
A local money manager friend of mine who used to work at Goldman Sachs is very down on the future of retail, and we often discuss (argue about) it on the golf course. He says, "get into or invest in business that can't be replaced by Amazon.com," and I know what he's talking about. Go into the West Los Angeles Staples store and note how lousy the quality of the products is and how little inventory is packed into a 10,000 square foot, two-story-tall retail location. Literally, Amazon.com does everything better and soon will deliver my six-pack of packing tape or a box of printer paper the day I order it. Staples is dead. But AV stores are not. Amazon.com can't provide the personal experience that a traditional brick and mortar AV store can. Costco or Target can't nurture your system's growth and development. Nor can they tell you how to make a bowl of popcorn perfectly to your tastes.
How does your local AV dealer (assuming you still have one) live up to the standard of the popcorn experience? What other retailers have you been to in your world that provide an experience that is notable, fun, or unique? We always want to hear from you in the comments below.
� Read A Tale of Two L.A. Malls Sheds Light on the Future of AV Retail at HomeTheaterReview.
� Read�Ten Reasons Why Brick-and-Mortar AV Stores Aren't Going Away Anytime Soon�at HomeTheaterReview.