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Panelists See Greatest Challenge, And Opportunity, In CE Complexity


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

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:

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.