New HARDI member Jim Bunce has spent a great deal of time in counter areas as a player in the electrical distribution business. His entry into the HVACR world caused him to note striking similarities between the two industries: contractors standing around, sipping coffee and munching on doughnuts while they waited for service or for parts to arrive.
You couldn't help but think that there was all this valuable time that a distributor could use to influence and educate these contractors, says Bunce, product manager for Tradeview, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based AVI Systems Inc., one of the nation's top five audiovisual integrators.
The leap from down time to educating and influencing time sharpened as Bunce became the point person for AVI to demonstrate how the company's branded Tradeview digital signage is the newest and most powerful way to connect with a distributor's customers.
Just as e-books, PDF files and PowerPoint presentations have replaced many books and manuals, digital signage is the most recent technology to surpass traditional retail signs. The technology's ability to grab a customer's attention at the best possible moment — decision time — with a specific message is unprecedented. It offers speed, flexibility and customized responses in a manner that traditional retail signage or print media simply cannot match.
The program's delivery mechanism is a screen behind the counter that keeps customers and employees informed of promotions, products and company information while they go about their business.
In the past, a stumbling block for digital signage has always been content. Will contractors and distributors read it? Tradeview addressed the question directly, forging a partnership with Penton Media, resulting in relevant and up-to-date information for digital content from Contracting Business magazine and its website (www.ContractingBusiness.com) displayed to customers on a daily basis.
Previously, customers seldom had content that really mattered to them, says Bunce, but with our partnership, a distributor's customers can tune in to the latest in HVACR industry information that helps them in their business.
The ability to provide information almost immediately is stunning, says Bunce. In the past, if there was a recall or warranty issue, you might have fliers that would explain it. But days or weeks could go by before the fliers appeared on the counter, he says. With Tradeview signage, you can provide the information in a matter of minutes, without printing a single sheet of paper. Distributors can change messages in an hour or in minutes depending on the intent, nature and timing of the message. Tradeview can even provide weather and traffic reports.
Digital signage is in short supply at most distributorships for a simple reason, says Bunce, who estimates that possibly five percent or fewer offer it. “You must be able to offer the high-end technology, the content that customers want and need, and the support system to make it function effectively.” Until now, no one had the ability to offer all of these key components, he says.
But as sophisticated and compelling as the digital signage is, the ever-important question of who backs up the system still lingers, says Jane Phillips, vice president of AVI. Would a contractor continue with a distributor if he couldn't return for help, a replacement part or advice?
Tradeview provides a managed services package that takes the worry out of supporting the system, she says. It provides content hosting, remote monitoring, help desk support and extended warranty. In short, the distributor can tend to his customers without worrying about the mechanism that delivers the content.
Tom Peric' is the editor of HVACR Distribution Business magazine. Contact him at 856/874-0049 or [email protected].