June 10, 2020

By Sergio Gaitán Serrano, CTS

Innovations: Your home office to your shopping experience

The AVIXA® Latin America Team has started a series of articles exploring the new realities the AV industry will face in our region because of COVID-19.

I have always been a person who sees the glass half full. That is why I see a future in which professionals in the integrated audiovisual experiences industry share their anecdotes about how their businesses resisted, and even grew, in the face of the global crisis caused by this pandemic. The most nearsighted will talk about the decisions they made at the time. A few will explain how they took advantage of a unique opportunity. I trust, though, that the majority will tell us about the disruptive strategies that allowed them to develop new services and products or generate business in unconventional markets.

Let’s think freely to spark some ideas and ignite the creative process that leads you to design and offer these new services and products as your company overcomes the current situation.

Carving Out a Space to Work

According to many experts, the new concept of remote work will be one of the inheritances that will leave us some version of working in isolation. Indeed, some companies will maintain this practice, and it is not difficult to think that, at first, many people will not feel safe to return to a busy office.

Beyond the challenges of personal organization or the urgent need for reliable Wi-Fi service, the first few weeks of "home office" have made more than one person want to have a quiet, well-lit environment and without distractions that allow us to perform our tasks or actively participate in a conference.

Undoubtedly, there will be opportunities for our industry to develop solutions to meet the need for isolated areas required for working at home. Those who have money and space availability, and for those who are looking for a temporary and accessible option at the same time, will take advantage of these services. For these clients, it is possible to develop small modular offices easily installed in patios, gardens, or garages, using light, resistant and prefabricated materials, with color customization options. Of course, this minioffice needs the necessary AV and electrical connections, good lighting, and adequate ventilation. Companies such as Pod-Space or Inwerk offer solutions under the concept of pod-office. Although they are aimed at a luxury market, they may serve as an example of the potential for AV services in this space.

For those who do not have enough space at home, even for those who have already had to purchase a small desk that now occupies a free place, imagine the design of a semi-fixed cubicle that easily adapts to different spaces within the home. Imagine a hybrid that combines the versatile separation of environments a screen offers with the privacy of the modern office phone booths we see in some offices. This home office booth could be made of light material with the possibility of some insulation, with acoustic absorption in a color that takes advantage of light conditions and favors the environment for videoconferences. Obviously, you need enough slots to make connecting equipment easy.

This type of product, in conjunction with accessory packages for collaboration, such as a second video monitor, webcam, headsets with microphone, LED lamp, among others, could be offered to those interested in acquiring it individually. However, how attractive is it to standardize collaboration-communication tools for a company that needs to maintain its operation? Who might need the tools? Who needs to continue projecting seriousness and consistency when communicating with their clients? Today they all offer collaboration platforms, but who have conversations with their clients where they talk about approving lighting, framing video calls, sound quality, which today more than ever are part of the "extended" corporate image of the business or of the "customer journey"? Some ideas: luxury services, doctors, tax or legal advisers, accounting firms, graduate or specialized schools, and many more.

Home TV Studios

During these weeks, we have seen the different ways that television broadcasters have had to adapt their productions to measures of social distancing. Fewer and fewer television hosts transmit from studios while the vast majority of anchors, correspondents, collaborators, and guests are in communication from their homes through videoconference services. Like the home office, these conditions are expected to be maintained indefinitely. While this is an excellent opportunity for the sale or rental of professional portable gear for broadcasters, I believe that there is a vast market to explore in the world of speakers, professional service providers, retailers, houses of worship, and all those used to having direct, face-to-face communication with their audience and consumers.

Expect hybrid events to become the norm in the coming months, with limited live audiences, but with the ability to reach larger audiences via remote connection. Those who give lectures as their way of life or use them as a communication tool to promote courses, books, or individual services (life coaches, business consultants, fitness gurus, among others) are also adapting their presentations to the digital world. I believe they should think about doing it with the best possible quality.

It is the same case as a psychologist or a nutritionist who offers group workshops and private consultations; situations very similar to that of a merchant or a chef who requires demonstrating and talking about their products to generate sales. In another area, but with identical communication challenges, religious organizations must celebrate their ceremonies under the scheme of hybrid events and find new ways to keep their local communities together.

To solve these needs, it is particularly important to define a business strategy with different service options. For remote conferences, packages might include the rental of video, audio and lighting equipment, operating personnel, connectivity services, and conference platforms; to the design and production of complementary audiovisual content. For hybrid events, add the essential services of a live seminar, but on a smaller scale and incorporating all the health care measures dictated by the authorities and experts in the field.

100% Individual Shopping Experiences

At some point, stores and malls will reopen, and people will return to search for products and services. However, in the first few months, there will likely be a considerable number of restrictions that limit the number of visitors or the interaction of brand promoters with the public. We can expect a temporary ban on food tasting, the use of fitting rooms, or demonstrations involving interpersonal contact or frequent use of the products themselves.

But despite these possible limitations, stores, distributors, and manufacturers will seek to recover the sales that were lost during confinement. So, they will be open to innovative solutions that allow them to capture the attention of the consumer, facilitate the shopping experience, demonstrate products in diverse ways, and generate a sales ticket. If you have some unconventional ideas or concepts out of the box, now is an excellent time to write them down, call partners and/or collaborators, design a presentation, and pitch clients in the retail sector.

What Solutions Might Be Explored?

Virtual fitting rooms or virtual mirrors for fashion stores

This technology has been in the market for several years. It combines the experience of buying in-store with digital signage applications and content distribution via social media.

Augmented reality for personal care applications

Like virtual mirror technology, the use of augmented reality for makeup or styling testing has already been implemented by software developers and hardware manufacturers.

Digital kiosks with contactless technology

When using a digital kiosk to buy a hamburger or movie tickets, the user's contact with the screen is minimal. When a customer pays with card or cash, the contact possibilities multiply (card and terminal, bills and coins, printed receipt) and require both hands to complete the transaction. Consider incorporating contactless payment technologies into your digital kiosk solutions.

I invite you to schedule some time – not for just now, but from now on – to use your imagination, brainstorm, explore, and keep the creative process of the company ongoing. In the inkwell, there are still many other ideas we will review in future articles. Finally, we finish this article with the phrase that we have used very frequently during the last year and a half: "As an industry, we can change the way people experience the world." And although the panorama is still cloudy, I do not see us letting the world settle for mediocre audiovisual experiences. See you soon!

To read this article in Spanish, click here.

About Sergio Gaitán Serrano, CTS

Sergio Gaitan Serrano is AVIXA’s Regional Manager for Mexico and Northern Central America. He has more than 18 years of experience in the AV industry. Before joining AVIXA®, he collaborated with different AV systems integration and distribution companies. He recently earned his CTS® professional certification. You can reach him at sgaitan@avixa.org.