Audio Is Booming But Who Is The Customer?
One category that has boomed during COVID lockdowns is audio, whether it be the headphone end or the premium Hi Fi speaker end or those who can’t have a holiday and are now tipping dollars into new custom installed audio gear.
For active people, the big go is a new generation of buds and according to JBL, who are market leaders in the headphone market the demand for true wireless is “phenomenal”.
Another is price with premium brands such as Jabra Sony and Bose suddenly facing tough competition from brands such as JBL whose product is of equal quality but significantly cheaper.
Brands such as Jabra who are well known for coming into the market with a premium price for their consumer audio offering and months later when a product is struggling to sell dropping the price significantly.
The big question is who is buying all these audio products including new network speakers and a new generation of bookshelf speakers as well as the premium custom installed systems.
Some people love music, and some people just enjoy it and are prepared to invest in new audio offering.
Australians by nature gravitate to brands especially ones they trust to deliver value for money.
Audio is like the food industry, there are those who like food and indulge in an ice cream cone as a treat, and there are those who love food and save up all year for a multi-course tasting menu prepared by a Michelin-starred chef.
the premium audience who like the occasional premium meal experience are driving demand for products such as Bowers & Wilkin speakers, turntables from Rotel and Pro-Ject to Canton sound bars and Paradigm speakers.
Then there is the ice cream market who don’t mind listening to music on Bluetooth headphones despite the limited bandwidth, because wires are annoying.
They’re happy to listen to MP3s or other lossy compression formats, because the tiny file size translates to instant access to an unlimited library of songs stored on their phones or delivered via Wi Fi or mobile networks.
Music, for them, is a complement to other experiences: driving in a car, dancing, making dinner, or chatting with friends wrote Randy Blanchard at Dealerscope.
For those primarily interested in upgrading their movie or gaming experience, for instance, the new Polk soundbar range which includes the new Polk Command bar, this product delivers value and exceptional sound and is manufactured by Sound United who also own Bowers & Wilkins as well as Denon and Marantz is one excellent solution.
Some music lovers don’t want to multitask while listening; they prefer to savour every nuance of the musical experience.
This customer is likely to invest in a high bandwidth streaming with demand for high-res content now growing in Australia as Spotify, Apple and Amazon Music move to take on Tidal.
It’s been four years now since Tidal began offering MQA-encoded music files to its subscribers and it’s taken that long for other to catch on to the fact that consumers will pay for premium audio content.
For those with the right combination of playback software and/or hardware, these files promise to deliver a high-resolution audio experience that is superior to what you’d get from other formats.
Thousands of Australians now own a high-quality turntable and are enjoying the experience of what a high res 24bit record can deliver.
Paying for the high-fidelity tier of a music streaming service doesn’t automatically result in a great listening experience, though. That requires high-quality Hi Fi gear and this costs money which some consumers are prepared to pay for.
This is where experience enters the equation.
Many DIY systems promise a near-live-sound experience and seem to have the specs to back it up, but music appreciation is fundamentally emotional.
Designing a reference-quality sound system takes not just great engineering and design, but also an ear for subjective qualities.
The problem is that many music lovers literally don’t know what they’re missing.
They have never experienced what can be.
They may be dissatisfied, always seeking to upgrade, but without any basis for comparison, they will never be able to define the qualities they’re looking for claims Randy Blanchard.
Experience is where knowledge and passion meet. For the customer base that legitimately qualifies as music lovers, dealers need to curate demonstrations of what’s possible with installed sound.
This experience is as important for dealers which is why distributors in Australia such as Indi Imports and Audio Active are investing in custom theatres so that their retailers can being their customers in to get a real audio experience.
For those customers that do decide to take the leap into installed sound, connecting them not just to the proper components but also to the required expertise is essential. The knowledge and sensitivity to implement a high-quality installed system is the most valuable element of the purchase. Dealers must demonstrate that they have the expertise to discover not just the listening experience qualities that matter most to the customer, but also the additional use cases that should inform the design.
Just like a demo, the discovery process is an opportunity for education. Once a customer knows they need a high-end system to satisfy their passion, a host of new possibilities opens to them.
Randy Blanchford an experienced sound expert “It’s not enough for dealers to know their customers; they’ve got to help their customers better known themselves. Once a customer has assessed what they like and what they love, savvy dealers can, through demos and thoughtful questions, give them the knowledge to truly satisfy that passion. This is relationship selling. It requires patience and expertise. The reward, though, is gratitude, trust, and investment from the customer”.