As part of a new direct-to-retail distribution strategy announced at the start of 2010, Harman International made consumer interaction with its products on American showroom floors a high priority. And at Kansas City, Kan.’s Nebraska Furniture Mart last week, the first iteration of this strategy saw the light of day, in a 12-by-15-foot area of the store’s newly merchandised consumer electronics department, where the press of a single, big button will enlarge the soundfield of a flat-panel TV to a fully staged 5.1-channel demonstration.
“Selling direct to retailers isn’t new for Harman,” said Chris Dragon, director of consumer and field marketing, Harman Consumer Div. Americas, “but not selling to independent distributors on the multimedia and home audio sides is new.” He added that this go-to-market adjustment will provide Harman with more control over how its products are being presented.
“One thing that’s happened over the course of time at retail is that televisions have gone to one end of the store and audio has gone to the to the other end. That’s doing a disservice to the customer – and it’s leaving money on the counter,” said Dragon in explaining how this aspect of retail merchandising makes sense in facilitating a richer consumer hands-on experience that should result in more sales conversions. “By creating an atmosphere where consumers can hear the miserable sound coming out of a flat panel, press a button and then suddenly have a full 5.1 experience, it will be instantly understandable to them what they’d be getting by attaching some audio components to a television purchase. Or it will work for someone who’s just coming in, who already has a flat-panel TV The salesperson can say to them, ‘This is what your flat-panel TV sounds like – it’s these six little one-inch drivers – and this is what your home theater could sound like,’ by just pressing the button.”