By Alan C. Brawn CTS, DSCE, DSDE, DSNE, DCME, DSSP, ISF-C
Suffice it to say we all seek opportunities… especially in sales and in the case of the DSF the opportunity for digital signage outreach, expansion, community and yes of course, sales. In this search, most would look at the channels we are accustomed to. We all know about sales direct to end users, through commercial AV, IT, traditional sign shops, and of course the dedicated digital signage design and integration channel. The point here is to add another opportunity (read that as “sales channel”) to our list of considerations. I am referring to the custom installer (or CI) channel. This is not some obscure niche, but rather one worthy of note… and adding to our list of digital signage opportunities. Let’s work from the top down as I introduce this concept for your consideration.
The CI sales channel encompasses multiple types of installation contractors, from those centered around audio-video only, to those that include electrical, security, full homebuilding, and even retailers with installation services. Research shows that there are over 11,000 companies under the broadest definition of custom installer. However, if we just count AV-centric integration companies (excluding security dealers, electricians, and others), what might be defined as the narrower CI channel, the total number of companies is over 5,000. The overall CI channel was valued at USD $8.8 Billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD $24.4 Billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 13.5% from 2021 to 2028. This exceeds the forecasted CAGR of 8% to 10% in commercial AV overall. Some might be in the dark (pun intended), yet others will recognize this as the “home theater” business and immediately ask what this has to do with digital signage. Ask and ye shall receive… so stay tuned.
The “home” for the CI channel is the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association, better known as CEDIA. It is both an international trade association representing the professional home automation/smart home technology industry and an annual trade event with over 12,000 attendees. Now for the breaking news (okay… so several months old), and the headline reads “For the first time, CEDIA will include a Commercial Integrator Expo (put on by Commercial Integrator Magazine) as part of the expanded event”. Drum roll please… the DSF will participate and teach at the event. Again, think about digital signage outreach, expansion, community and yes, sales. Hmm… but it sounds a lot like InfoComm, and a variation on pro AV… so what’s the big deal? The differentiation (aka. the big deal) resides is a “newish” term called resimercial. At the 30,000-foot level, this is a blending of residential and commercial, but the story has deeper roots.
Over the years, the CI crowd focused on home theater, and the general impression was that it was distinct from commercial AV… and for years the twain would never meet. The facts is that many times, as a home theater project was completed for a client, it was logical for them to ask their trusted CI to provide a quote for their business as well. Research shows that well over 60% of the CI channel do some amount of commercial AV work. This leads us to the emergence, growth, and nuance of resimercial, and ultimately how it might impact and expand our digital signage opportunity universe.
Resimercial design became a “thing” around 2018, prior to the COVID pandemic. What the pandemic created was not only isolation of the population from one another, but in the process of isolation, created for many a requirement for remotely working from home. Fast forward to post-pandemic and there was the realization that the comforts of home could not be ignored and needed (at some level) to be included in the office environment. Now, as we begin to shift back to in-person work environments, adaptation is key to supporting the transition back to the office. Employees want and expect comfort rather than a stark, cold atmosphere, and they crave diversity and choice in where and how they work. Resimercial is a technological marriage of commercial durability with a residential feel, a style that celebrates residential-inspired features over the standardized feel of traditional corporate designs and furnishings. One subject matter expert wrote, “Home-like environments replicated in the office can lead to more comfortable, happier workers. And according to current theories happy workers work harder.”
When merging residential and commercial elements, it’s critical that the office still functions primarily as a workplace. Residential aspects of design to be added to the in-person office must be flexible enough to be comfortable but should satisfy ergonomic and human factors needs as well as the seamless integration of technology. Resimercial embraces, addresses, and encompasses the workspace environment and can directly impact the company culture. Examples are the introduction of comfortable seating, a variety of lighting options, flexible spaces, and accessories into the workplace to help find the right balance between comfort and productivity. Comfort also means privacy. When we work at home, we have the privacy to host a confidential conversation with a colleague, a quiet space to focus, and the ability to take a personal call. Workplaces need to offer these same comforts by providing huddle rooms with soft furnishings to meet with a colleague, quiet spaces to focus and phone rooms for private personal conversations.
The logic behind resimercial design is that comfortable employees are happier and significantly more productive and creative. Resimercial design goes beyond just physical attributes. Creating what some call an “authentic space” is the true core of residential-inspired design for the workplace. We need to create experiences that help the workforce readjust to the office and in the near and long term promote mental well-being. As we learn to navigate a sense of a ‘new normal’, concerns about the transition back to an office setting are valid, and resimercial design could be the answer to many of those questions.
To tie this all together for those of us in the digital signage community, it boils down to the introduction and consideration of a new, and perhaps unexpected opportunity in the CI channel. As we know retail is the largest segment of our industry, and we don’t want to take our eye off the ball… but consider that corporate is number two and growing at a rapid rate. The CI channel (new thinking for most of us) incorporates a new approach to corporate utilizing a resimercial design approach. It is literally grabbing the brass ring of creating a memorable and long-lasting experience in an office environment. This is the heart of resimercial and what is driving the growth and acceptance of that approach.
Putting our DSF community creative thinking caps on we need to ask ourselves where digital signage can add to the resimercial experience. This is an expansion of location-based communications with targeted information anywhere, at any time, and on any device in whatever space we desire. The proverbial proof of the pudding will be seen at CEDIA and the Commercial Integrator Expo and hopefully we in the DSF community will see and reap the benefits of this new channel and new opportunity and expand our digital signage outreach, community and yes, sales.