Panelists See Greatest Challenge, And Opportunity, In CE Complexity

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What will be your greatest challenge or greatest opportunity in 2011?

Fred Towns, New Age Electronics:

The greatest challenge will be in education, from the distribution partners to the retailers. The customer has to be educated as to the right product, the ebb and flow of the product, and what the right inventory levels are to maintain the product.

You have to look at the different types of resources that are available. Customers still need help and consultants on the floor, as well as experts where necessary. The web, at times, can give too much information, so confusion is still a factor. It’s up to us to provide as many tools as possible from the manufacturer, and then we have to push the manufacturer to state what’s really needed. The retailer’s job is to help filter the information.

Karen Austin, Sears Holdings:

The beauty of our role as retailers is we have the connection with the customer and the relationship with the manufacturers. The opportunity will be to connect the two.

Dan Schwab, D&H Distributing:

It’s the year of mobility. The number of devices and the different platforms are going to be what is talked about all year. There will be some confusion, but it is a tremendous opportunity. The rash of product releases is going to be exciting.

Jeannette Howe, Specialty Electronics Nationwide:

Money will be made by integrating the categories. There is confusion, and I do worry about someone who buys a 3D television from Amazon and then comes home and tries to set it up. They all need help. Integration of the products in the different categories is still where we’re going to make our money.

Paul Ryder,

I have an opposite view. Regardless of all the channel conflict issues, people will start researching online to learn about these technologies. Manufacturers need to come to grips with having the product representation online in its most perfect form, and education is critical. Not every manufacturer has embraced that.

For example, with 3D, everyone has this idealized view that in every store the glasses are there, they are powered up, the content is running, and it works, which is just not true. Online, people can have that experience, that accurate explanation 100 percent of the time.

Customers will do what they want to do. If they believe they have the capability to set it up, they will do it themselves. Customers are smart enough to make that choice, but they all start online, whether it’s

or Crutchfield or Amazon or all of them together. The opportunity for the industry will be when the manufacturers fully embrace it to make sure the content is variable and accurate because that is where the research plane starts.

Michael Vitelli, Best Buy:

Opportunity and challenge really is the same thing. I am thrilled, stunned and excited by the innovation I’m seeing and how fast it is happening. What is key is that we collectively as an industry, and certainly Best Buy as a company, simplify the connected world complexity so we are actually creating that excitement and demand in the customers, rather than hesitation and confusion.

We have to simplify the process and show consumers “here it is, here are all the options,” and however it is done, either online or in person, you have to have the consumer excited by it vs. overwhelmed by it. We talk about it in our environment every day. It’s hardware, it’s accessories, it’s connections, it’s content and it’s services — it is the whole thing. It will never be just one thing. The greatest opportunity will be simplification of the innovation for the consumers.


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