Beyond the Clouds
Investing in Personnel and Systems
The better economy of 2013 allowed retailers to hire new employees and invest in training. Abt Electronics made local news for hosting a job fair, which Mike Abt thought “was a little sad, a reflection on the economy.”
Retailers are investing to improve their operations. BrandsSource members, for example, are slowly adopting a system that integrates their POS system with their website and mobile applications.
At World Wide Stereo, President Bob Cole reports “We are less tolerant of errors; we make fewer mistakes.” This means making conservative bids for custom integration jobs (which Cole reports has not hurt business). Improved integration of the company’s store, custom integration and e-commerce businesses is paying off with improved, seamless customer service and sales across the divisions, he said.
A Time for Experimentation
A huge opportunity is opening up as sensor technology —found in health and fitness monitoring devices like FitBit Force and Shine—becomes more sophisticated and more affordable, said CEA CEO Gary Shapiro. Bringing this new technology to market will pose channel challenges, but Shapiro urged industry retailers to move outside their traditional comfort zones. “Experiment with new categories because there’s so many things coming down the line,” he said. “When you go to CES, don’t lock yourself in a room and just meet with your established vendors. Go to Eureka Park (a TECHZONE in The Venetian) where there are at least 200 start-ups, and there’s at least 3,100 other companies (elsewhere at CES).
“Every one of those big companies you are meeting with now—they started out as a small company,” he added. “You should be experimenting with and establishing relationships (with the smaller, newer companies) early, giving them feedback as you sell and experiment with things.”
Best Buy is doing it, promoting FitBit Force and Shine, and offering a wide variety of LED lighting and DYI home control products. At Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA), managing director Bob Hana is exploring how medical monitoring technology can integrate into home systems. “It’s very early and new, but there are HTSA members involved with projects that deal with how medical technology integrate into the home and allow (clients) to remotely monitor their aging parents.”
With the raft of new, networkable technology coming into the market, “the challenges are really going to be working closer with our manufacturers so we can keep up to speed with it,” he added. DS