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Industry Opinion: Justifying the Cost of Good-Quality AV Furniture and Mounts to Your Customers (3/8/2011)
By Yasmin Hashmi, HiddenWires
As a trade, we know that cheap is not always best. Indeed much of our time is spent on explaining why it makes sense in the long-run to spend a little more if you get better quality for it. However, with the cost of TVs perceived to be so low, what arguments can installers use to justify the expense of good-quality AV furniture and mounts to their customers? We asked a number of key suppliers for their thoughts. Here are their replies:
Mark Trickett, Director, Unicam Audio Visual
The justification for the expense of good quality AV furniture comes in various forms. It also depends on whose point of view it is taken from, and ultimately, on their unique requirements.
From an end user's perspective, good-quality furniture is an investment in lifestyle choice - complementing and enhancing the environment they are creating. Cheaper furniture, on the other hand, whilst functional, can often lead to a disharmony in theme and finish as it does not satisfy the designer requirement of those whose considerations are more about refinement and individuality.
The installer's point of view is also crucial. Typically, the installer is entrusted to influence the purchasing decision and provide the right solution. Therefore, factors such as durability, maintenance, ease of integration and capacity to support the system designed are key in the specification process. Good-quality furniture can provide all of these, and therein lies the justification for the price.
Research, design, trialling and production come at a cost, and any discerning user and installer will recognise and appreciate this. I therefore don't necessarily see the need for justification, rather it is more about instilling confidence in our customers. They need to know that they are making the right choice by investing in the quality AV furniture that meets their needs. It's just amazing how easily we sometimes forget to do that, which then leads to cheaper systems seemingly representing better value for money, when in fact they can be a false economy.
Melinda von Horvath, Sales and Marketing Director EMEA, Chief Manufacturing
It's perfectly understandable for customers to question the need to spend more on the mount/furniture than on the TV. However, there are a lot of valid reasons to invest in a quality solution. For example, a mount that allows the TV to easily tilt and swivel gives the customer a wider viewing range, and the ability to reduce glare for a better viewing experience. Secondly, a quality mount provides end-users and installers with installation features that allow the installation to be moved left/right up/down after it is installed on the wall. This means if the location of the installation needs to be changed for any reason, this can be achieved with a good quality mount. Low-cost mounts do not offer these adjustment features and require either new accessories or an installation that needs to be redone, which will add to the bottom-line cost.
There is also the issue of security. Setting up the TV with the included manufacturer's stand may be economical, but it's also a lot less stable. TVs today are getting increasingly lighter, so it doesn't take much force to accidentally tip one over, potentially damaging the screen or even injuring someone in close proximity. For the same reasons, it's important to invest in quality mounts and AV furniture to guarantee solid support for your TV. Buying the cheapest mount on the market could end up costing a lot more if it fails and damages the screen, or if the installation location cannot be fine-tuned.
The right mount can also add to the aesthetics of an installation, especially with the prevalence of ultra-thin displays. There is a variety of thin mounts on the market now that can hold TVs very close to the wall, however, only quality mounts offer features that can, for example, offset the TV by 15 degrees from the wall in order for the cables to be connected/disconnected and hidden correctly behind the screen. With so little spacing available behind the TV, this would be very challenging without having such a feature incorporated into the mount.
Brett Stenhouse, Vice President of Product Management, OmniMount
Although the relative price of TVs has come down, consumers are still investing considerable money in technology. The expense of complementary mounts and furniture can be justified by focusing on two key factors: quality and aesthetics.
High-quality mounting solutions are backed by industry standards and UL ratings, guaranteeing their strength and safety in a home. Installers can easily justify the need for quality and safety, especially in homes with children and pets. Also contributing to quality are features that produce optimal performance, such as low profiles, cable management and post-installation adjustments. The other factor is aesthetics, which is more prominent in good-quality mounts through the use of extruded aluminium materials and die-cast manufacturing processes.
Furniture purchases can be encouraged in the same way. Safety factors such as tip stability and tempered glass are key. In addition, high-quality furniture pieces are designed at the proper viewing height with sturdy shelves that are deep enough to accommodate components. Quality furniture pieces typically have better designs and surface finishes, which often means better aesthetics and easier-to-clean surfaces. Furniture has the added benefit of being used as a statement piece, allowing buyers to create an emotional attachment with a piece and be less concerned with the dollar investment.
Drew Rogers, Premier Mounts Product Specialist, RGB
Whilst the perceived relative costs of televisions versus mounts may be decreasing, the demand on the bracket that is used to hold up our prized viewing possession is anything but. End users wish to position ever increasing size screens in harder-to-reach locations, often without fully understanding the complications or limitations involved with the installation. This is exactly where the premium-end mount manufacturers have been responding. A higher grade of raw materials and a thoughtful design engineering process offers a greater level of flexibility, meaning that more often you can have the television screen exactly where you want it. You can also be sure it will remain there for its full life expectancy. Added features such as built-in cable management and post-installation adjustments will often finish off a neat and tidy install - benefits that are so often not available with lower-end solutions. Most importantly, robust and often invasive testing standards mean that the installer can be confident that the product will deliver where it says it will.
Cheaper, poorly-engineered alternatives will often leave the screen unbalanced and liable to lose its positioning over time. In the long run, this could mean having to adjust the mount, or worse still, a costly re-installation. In a commercial environment such as a hotel, where large numbers of screens are installed, investing in the highest quality mounts can make a great deal of sense, especially when running maintenance costs are factored in, showing that 'cost effective' solution to be not such good value for money after all.
Ivo Klink, CEO, Klink & Osse
It's all about added value. A TV without a good programme or movie is as worthless as good AV equipment without the right furniture, just as a Ferrari can't go fast around the corners without good tyres. Bespoke solutions just add more value, and in that perspective, lower the price of the TV even more. A flatpanel is what it is, AV furniture always gives the customer the possibility to give it a personal touch, which is somewhat priceless. In this way, your complete home cinema installation becomes a personal project in which you can enhance the feeling of comfort and luxury at home. Of course this works the other way around as well. The furniture isn't finished until a good TV is installed!
James Attfield, General Manager UK, Vogels Products
There are three major factors driving the consumer's decision-making process, and price is not one of them. They are more concerned with strength and sturdiness; design and quality; and ease of fitting and installation. These three factors are equally important to the installer who also needs to feel confident that the mount will hold his/her customer's TV, regardless if it is flat to the wall, if it turns or if it tilts.
Design, easy movement and patented tilt solutions speak for themselves. As does the quality of materials used, and a lifetime guarantee. Finally, ensuring the product fits the TV and is easy to install gives confidence to the consumer and the installer, and encourages re-use by the installer.
While we don't have the full technical specification of a TV, it is important that the support is to an exacting standard and fills the user and installer with confidence. A bracket really helps to create a solution and enhance the viewing experience. But a few words of caution on the subject of price: buy cheap, and you buy twice!
Antony Haase, General Manager, Spectral Furniture
As the price of screens has come down this has given the opportunity for the consumer to have better quality, aesthetically more pleasing and more practical furniture for housing their stunning new toys! We rarely consider how much we spend on curtains when purchasing the carpets, and the same philosophy should be used when purchasing, what is after all, a piece of furniture, not a TV rack! There are now so many finishes, sizes and styles to choose from that the question to ask the consumer is, 'How high a priority do you put on your living room furniture?' The answer will guide the decision making from thereon in.
When discussing the importance of the furniture in someone's living room, we see their attitude to spending change. It took me a while to realise, but I now understand that making assumptions is the worst service you can offer a consumer. Make sure you understand what they want, and then guide them in a way that they feel they have had a superb service, not a sales patter!
Phillip Davenport, European General Manager, Premier Mounts
So TVs are now cheap? I suspect most people would agree with this statement. However does cheap mean good value? Of course it can, and we all like to find a bargain, but sometimes things can be too good to be true. If TVs are cheap then should their accessories also be cheap? It all comes down to what you are trying to offer. If you are an end-user looking to DIY an install, then cheap is towards the top of your criteria. However if you believe yourself to be a professional, then value should be more important than price, and at the very least you will want to make your company look competent in its chosen field.
Time really is money for the busy installer. If you purchase a cheap TV and a cheap mount you might win the price-sensitive deal, but nobody wants to be a busy fool chasing around on small margins. When considering your purchase of mounts or furniture (or anything really), ask yourself what is the product designed for and who is it designed for? If intended for the end-user, the price will be nearly as low as the features and benefits. However, if the product is designed for the professional it will cost more upfront, but can make your install much quicker and easier, saving cost overall.
Better-quality kit also usually has more functionality, allowing installers to satisfy customers' requests better and on time. Good-quality mounts can also overcome unforeseen troubles during the install. Post-installation levelling, wide mounting points to pick up multiple wall studs, and comprehensive hardware packs included are features that can make the difference between a good install and a mediocre one. At worst case, a poor mount may even prevent the install happening at all if not suitable, meaning a costly and embarrassing delay.
Good quality products correctly supplied will allow installers to pass value onto their customers. We all want to offer the best possible customer service, but we don't want this to be tested with call backs after a mount has slipped or sagged. If this happens, usually due to a poor-quality product rather than a poor-quality install, it will only undo any good work already accomplished and reduce the trust the customer has in you for supplying low-standard products.
So on your next install, before ordering your mount or stand, ask yourself 'What am I trying to achieve? Do I want it to go right first time? What impression am I trying to create for myself and for the company?' The best answer will undoubtedly be to buy products designed with the installer in mind. Professional products may not always be the cheapest, but usually they are the best.
Yasmin Hashmi is the Editor of HiddenWires magazine. Additional comments on this issue can be found at the HiddenWires LinkedIn Group where you can also participate in the discussion. If you would like to be included in future opinion pieces, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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