A Better Way to Sell Specialty Audio Gear to a Young Generation

gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
The audiophila business done right might not be that luxury oriented despite the hobby’s alternate name of high-end audio. Does the luxuriousness of the store dictate the traffic and clientele?
The latest article from Jerry Del Colliano brings up some interesting points about how specialty AV isn't like expensive, exclusive luxury items. Perhaps selling it in such an environment isn't the way to appeal to a younger audience as he sites examples of how these type of store fronts have failed in the past. Imagine instead going to a cool location downtown that serves good, inexpensive beer on tap, has an area for gaming (darts, pool tables, video arcade) and a demo area featuring the latest audio equipment. Do you think something like this could work?

mcintosh.jpg


Read: How Build It And They Will Come Doesn’t Work In AV Retail
 
XEagleDriver

XEagleDriver

Audioholic Chief
Unlike the expensive handbag, suit, or Ferrari, you do not take hi-end audio out into the world with you. Therefore, audio's "status" appeal is vastly different from many luxury products.
Hi-end AV is less an extrovert pursuit and more an introverted personal activity. It is more about relaxing to music/movie with an adult beverage.

When an audioholic entertains non-audiogeeks at their home, the presence and activity of the guests inherently detracts from providing superb audio quality.
I doubt I am the only one who has attempted to demo my HT during a party, only to realize the crowd, activity and noise of the event prevented any real demonstration of the hobby I enjoy.

The author's point about home ownership being the potential "in" with the next generation is spot on in my book.

A more relevant retail comparison may be art, where the value is more personnal and the product stays in the home. However, providing an art demo has way fewer combinations and variables than an AV demo.

IMHO, the likely future retail experience which may bridge the generation gap is online biaural experiences fused with follow-on in-person demo at a low key and budget appropriate setting. Maybe even in the consumer's own home; think of a mobile, portable wireless demonstration setup.
Food for thought.
XEagleDriver

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
Some of us at the stereo store where I worked in the '80s wanted to do something like this, although not a higher-end store. We had decent equipment, but at that time, the high end was very exclusive, more limited and I doubt the manufacturers would have wanted to be associated with a bar that sold their brands. Another reason our Big Toe (Sgt Hulka, from the movie 'Stripes') didn't want to do this- it was the beginning of people suing employers for crashing their car after getting hammered at work or company-sponsored events and he didn't want the liability. I guess people could sign a waver, but I think they would stick about as well as an NDA after leaving a company.

This is intended for people who are more upscale, right? I think a wine/spirits bar could work, maybe with a cigar room and WRT alcohol, limit the customers to one or two drinks. Nobody wants to deal with people who had a few before showing up and the last two become the tipping point- I have dealt with people who came in when drunk, whether it was obvious, or not. It's also possible that someone who has a low threshold could decide they want to return the equipment, saying they weren't able to make a good decision because of the drinks.

Another question- what if they come and don't buy? At some point, it could become just a bar with a really nice stereo and those already exist.

It's a cool idea, but has anyone asked people in this age group if they would be interested?

Another possible issue/problem- what happens when high end audio customers have their opinions on which accessories are better but the dealer sells other brands and neither is willing to budge? How high is this high end?

Retail is a fickle business- regardless of someone's reasons for carrying the brands they have selected, someone will always come in wanting something else, armed with reviews from some nimrod who has an audience, but no clue. Also, and this comes from dealing with wealthy people who want AV systems- they don't all want to spend a huge amount, even though it wouldn't impact their bottom line. They want to perceive value, just like many others and if they find something for less, you can bet that they'll buy it, even if they have a fairly long relationship with someone. OTOH, if they like someone who has worked with/for them, they WILL refer others to those dealers/companies and I have benefited directly from this; I'm working on two houses, both referrals, one direct and the other is from a third party. As it turns out, almost all of the people I have worked with since 2003 know each other, probably due to their association with where they work, the symphony, art museum, charity organizations, tennis clubs, personal interests and through mutual friends. That kind of network can yield great benefits and it's important to remember that if they're treated well, it can last a long time but if you piss one off, it can end overnight.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but having been in retail for almost 50 years, ideas for what would be an interesting model and the reality of the business don't always meet constructively- a local musician who has recorded and toured with hugely popular and successful acts for several decades opened a music store and they had a lot of great equipment, events and a more upscale-looking store. It didn't last long unfortunately, even though the manager had decades of experience running that kind of business, the sales people were very experienced musicians and they knew how to use the equipment very well.
 
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J

Jeremy P

Audiophyte
Younger generations do not want to go in stores to make purchases. I have personally never gone into a store to demo any audio equipment, but instead utilized both written articles and YouTube reviews. I know that I could have benefited from an in person demo because audio is very subjective, however I also know that the space you listen matters just as much too. The only true way to demo is in your own room.

I think the future of audio sales is entirely within the at home demo. Margins will need to be high enough to cover the cost of shipping, return shipping and then selling demo units at a reduced rate.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
Younger generations do not want to go in stores to make purchases. I have personally never gone into a store to demo any audio equipment, but instead utilized both written articles and YouTube reviews. I know that I could have benefited from an in person demo because audio is very subjective, however I also know that the space you listen matters just as much too. The only true way to demo is in your own room.

I think the future of audio sales is entirely within the at home demo. Margins will need to be high enough to cover the cost of shipping, return shipping and then selling demo units at a reduced rate.
And why might it be true that young people don't want to go into a store to purchase something like AV? Possibly, because the last 30 years of kids have buried their faces in computers, tablets and phones, engaged in fictitious games, social media and some kind of messaging that makes them think they're actually interacting with other people? They're not. The lack of in person contact has left them with no way to SEE the people's body language and that's a problem because so many suck at reading it anyway. Look at the millions of threads online where people don't see humor, sarcasm and other emotions in what they read, which often results in escalation of rhetoric, threats made and even carried out. What needs to be done before people understand this?

Another reason could be that many don't know enough about it to make an informed decision because they don't care enough to get the info they need before going. This used to be a hobby and people young & older would read about it from a few decent publications, seeing ads and reviews from people who were considered 'experts'. Now, every propeller-head with a computer and a YouTube account can post their thoughts, ideas, show their system and tell people what they think is important or true. Most of it is crap and even the audio magazines became tools for marketing, purely because they saw big ad revenue. Audio Magazine was really the best non-tweak audio mag for most people, but they would often write in language that was above the knowledge of many readers, who would go into stereo shops and think they were prepared to impress with their big brain. When someone comes in and asks "How many Amps does this put out?" when they had read about the equipment's power 100W output, it proves they're not ready for prime time and when hearing "About 3.5 Amps", they were confused. We used to explain why their question was wrong and direct them toward better information. If you have a decent audio store nearby, especially if they have a reputation for being honest, accurate and technically correct, I would suggest that you go there after finding out when they're not terribly busy, so they'll have some time to talk. The info from that kind of place, as long as they don't start to sound like an ad campaign or speak of transformative experiences, will be far better than reading about it or watching a video from someone who may not really understand the subject. If their comeback to you saying that you can't hear what they have described is something like "It's experiential", move on to the next place because you probably won't be talking to someone who actually understands why their claims are bogus. I know a manufacturer's rep who says that and he has no idea why all speakers can't be set in the same place in a room in order to have the best possible sound. He also told me that the record cleaner he was borrowing did such a good job that "it's like lifting a veil from the music". BS! It was a gimmicky piece of marketing crap with small paint rollers twirling around, supposedly to finish drying the LP. For $1300, they could have done much better.

YouTube videos that have some nimrod showing how wonderful the sound of their new equipment is are totally useless. Not only do they not understand that people don't hear the same as the recording device, the rooms are usually terrible WRT acoustics and the recording device doesn't provide an accurate representation of the sound. Then, when people listen with ear buds or computer speakers, there are so many variables in the signal path that it's like the kid's 'Telephone' game, where the first child is told something and it's repeated around the circle before the last kid has to say what they were told and it bears no resemblance to the original.

Specs are for basic comparison and they are important- hearing is all that really matters but DO NOT let someone tell you what you'll hear because most people will hear exactly that because they believe that the person wouldn't lie and they often don't want to hear "You didn't hear it?" with some level of condescension. Not only is human hearing different from person to person on an absolute level, the real difference in hearing good vs bad in audio equipment is in knowing what to listen for and how to listen for it. I'm not saying that someone's ears are better because they hear highs and lows better, I mean that some characteristics aren't easy to hear because some other sound can be masking them. It's like 'listening between the other sounds'.

The room where AV equipment is installed has everything to do with the results and that needs to be remembered. Decent speakers can work better than 'great' ones (meaning, 'highly regarded') in some rooms but also, the speakers need to be the correct size for the room. Dinky speakers will never sound good in a large room unless the listener is very close to them.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Samurai
And why might it be true that young people don't want to go into a store to purchase something like AV? Possibly, because the last 30 years of kids have buried their faces in computers, tablets and phones, engaged in fictitious games, social media and some kind of messaging that makes them think they're actually interacting with other people? They're not. The lack of in person contact has left them with no way to SEE the people's body language and that's a problem because so many suck at reading it anyway. Look at the millions of threads online where people don't see humor, sarcasm and other emotions in what they read, which often results in escalation of rhetoric, threats made and even carried out. What needs to be done before people understand this?

Another reason could be that many don't know enough about it to make an informed decision because they don't care enough to get the info they need before going. This used to be a hobby and people young & older would read about it from a few decent publications, seeing ads and reviews from people who were considered 'experts'. Now, every propeller-head with a computer and a YouTube account can post their thoughts, ideas, show their system and tell people what they think is important or true. Most of it is crap and even the audio magazines became tools for marketing, purely because they saw big ad revenue. Audio Magazine was really the best non-tweak audio mag for most people, but they would often write in language that was above the knowledge of many readers, who would go into stereo shops and think they were prepared to impress with their big brain. When someone comes in and asks "How many Amps does this put out?" when they had read about the equipment's power 100W output, it proves they're not ready for prime time and when hearing "About 3.5 Amps", they were confused. We used to explain why their question was wrong and direct them toward better information. If you have a decent audio store nearby, especially if they have a reputation for being honest, accurate and technically correct, I would suggest that you go there after finding out when they're not terribly busy, so they'll have some time to talk. The info from that kind of place, as long as they don't start to sound like an ad campaign or speak of transformative experiences, will be far better than reading about it or watching a video from someone who may not really understand the subject. If their comeback to you saying that you can't hear what they have described is something like "It's experiential", move on to the next place because you probably won't be talking to someone who actually understands why their claims are bogus. I know a manufacturer's rep who says that and he has no idea why all speakers can't be set in the same place in a room in order to have the best possible sound. He also told me that the record cleaner he was borrowing did such a good job that "it's like lifting a veil from the music". BS! It was a gimmicky piece of marketing crap with small paint rollers twirling around, supposedly to finish drying the LP. For $1300, they could have done much better.

YouTube videos that have some nimrod showing how wonderful the sound of their new equipment is are totally useless. Not only do they not understand that people don't hear the same as the recording device, the rooms are usually terrible WRT acoustics and the recording device doesn't provide an accurate representation of the sound. Then, when people listen with ear buds or computer speakers, there are so many variables in the signal path that it's like the kid's 'Telephone' game, where the first child is told something and it's repeated around the circle before the last kid has to say what they were told and it bears no resemblance to the original.

Specs are for basic comparison and they are important- hearing is all that really matters but DO NOT let someone tell you what you'll hear because most people will hear exactly that because they believe that the person wouldn't lie and they often don't want to hear "You didn't hear it?" with some level of condescension. Not only is human hearing different from person to person on an absolute level, the real difference in hearing good vs bad in audio equipment is in knowing what to listen for and how to listen for it. I'm not saying that someone's ears are better because they hear highs and lows better, I mean that some characteristics aren't easy to hear because some other sound can be masking them. It's like 'listening between the other sounds'.

The room where AV equipment is installed has everything to do with the results and that needs to be remembered. Decent speakers can work better than 'great' ones (meaning, 'highly regarded') in some rooms but also, the speakers need to be the correct size for the room. Dinky speakers will never sound good in a large room unless the listener is very close to them.
I agree that Audio magazine was a little more informative than Stereo Review or High Fidelty and not as Esoteric as Stereophile or the Absolute sound and was probably my favorite. I did subscribe to one or more back in the day. Chasing the holy grail. (sigh)
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
I agree that Audio magazine was a little more informative than Stereo Review or High Fidelty and not as Esoteric as Stereophile or the Absolute sound and was probably my favorite. I did subscribe to one or more back in the day. Chasing the holy grail. (sigh)
I stopped reading Audio after seeing the article about using a green magic marker on the edge of CDs, to tighten the bass and make the sound more open. That was it, for me. Done. About 25 years later, I had a salesman try to tell me that it prevented the error correction working too hard and I reminded him that we put wedge-shaped piece of electrical tape on a CD to find out how large it cold be before skipping occurred- this was when he was a customer of that store. IIRC, the outer end was close to 1" wide.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Hell, they haven't generally been able to entice me into a specialty audio shop in years, altho a nice beer could help ease the pain of sales people.
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Ninja
Hell, they haven't generally been able to entice me into a specialty audio shop in years, altho a nice beer could help ease the pain of sales people.
Bjorns down here is very very nice and the thing I like the most is there sales people. They are super chill relaxed never press you. They got some new gear in there I'm really impressed with
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Bjorns down here is very very nice and the thing I like the most is there sales people. They are super chill relaxed never press you. They got some new gear in there I'm really impressed with
I've heard nice things about that place from you and Pogre....but too long a drive for me. Most are.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Samurai
I stopped reading Audio after seeing the article about using a green magic marker on the edge of CDs, to tighten the bass and make the sound more open. That was it, for me. Done. About 25 years later, I had a salesman try to tell me that it prevented the error correction working too hard and I reminded him that we put wedge-shaped piece of electrical tape on a CD to find out how large it cold be before skipping occurred- this was when he was a customer of that store. IIRC, the outer end was close to 1" wide.
Wow I don't remember that particular article. Please tell me that they didn't also recommend the Tice clock. :)
 
MR.MAGOO

MR.MAGOO

Audioholic Field Marshall
Hell, they haven't generally been able to entice me into a specialty audio shop in years, altho a nice beer could help ease the pain of sales people.
this is a bit off topic, but I remember an episode of Columbo where the murder suspect was in a clothing store with her boyfriend, she was trying on clothes and he was getting bored waiting, but the store had a pool table I guess for the guys to use while the gals were busy with clothes!
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Spartan
Bjorns down here is very very nice and the thing I like the most is there sales people. They are super chill relaxed never press you. They got some new gear in there I'm really impressed with
We should plan a meet up there at some point, and assuming they won't get pissy with us. Could be fun to meet some folks in person for once.

We'll probably have to plan it after the first of the year, and before winter snow apocalypse 2...
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Bjorns down here is very very nice and the thing I like the most is there sales people. They are super chill relaxed never press you. They got some new gear in there I'm really impressed with
They knowledgeable about what they sell and audio in general?
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
Wow I don't remember that particular article. Please tell me that they didn't also recommend the Tice clock. :)
Never heard of it. If someone had come into the store and tried to convince us about it, we would have told them to GTFO. One guy asked if I used Cramolin, which is the predecessor to Caig DeOxit5, AFAIK. Great contact cleaner and preservative, but apparently, something in it became prohibited for import. He told me that I should put it on the plugs on my power cords because it increases headroom and cleans up the bass. I said "Get out" and he said, "No, really". I then told him to get out of the store.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
Bjorns down here is very very nice and the thing I like the most is there sales people. They are super chill relaxed never press you. They got some new gear in there I'm really impressed with
I'm not sure I knew you're in Texas- I met Bjorn in the '80s, at the Consumer Electronics Show at the Jamo display. They were the first US dealer for Jamo and we were the second, so Jamo REALLY liked us (both companies) for selling the shyte out of their speakers. That was a very enjoyable time in the audio business.
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Ninja
They knowledgeable about what they sell and audio in general?
Yeah they they still do a Lil BS with the snake oil but I don't hold it against them they have to try and sell products. But once they pick up on the fact you know what your doing they stop that real quick.
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Ninja
I'm not sure I knew you're in Texas- I met Bjorn in the '80s, at the Consumer Electronics Show at the Jamo display. They were the first US dealer for Jamo and we were the second, so Jamo REALLY liked us (both companies) for selling the shyte out of their speakers. That was a very enjoyable time in the audio business.
I met Bjorns as well great guy! Met him in the store here as a matter of fact
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Spartan
Yeah they they still do a Lil BS with the snake oil but I don't hold it against them they have to try and sell products. But once they pick up on the fact you know what your doing they stop that real quick.
With them being a high end shop, they have no choice but to sell boutique cables and such. A LOT, if not most, of their customers will ask for them.

We won't, but we are the few.
 
J

JengaHit

Audioholic
Unlike the expensive handbag, suit, or Ferrari, you do not take hi-end audio out into the world with you. Therefore, audio's "status" appeal is vastly different from many luxury products.
Hi-end AV is less an extrovert pursuit and more an introverted personal activity. It is more about relaxing to music/movie with an adult beverage.
Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
Exactly. Luxury brands are about status and vanity, showing off your Ferrari or $10K suit in public. Audio is personal and about in-home experiences. If you're going to sell to this niche demographic of high-end, well-heeled customers, then in-home private consultation is the avenue. It's like interior design. An interior designer I knew said her customers never shopped retail furniture and finishings. They didn't go to Restoration Hardware or West Elm. They paid for their $20K sofas through her and her affiliated designer showrooms.

That said, as the author suggests, the growth potential in audio/HT isn't with this niche well-heeled demo, but with millennials, middle/upper-middle class, and entry-level customers--and their interests like gaming. Build-it-and-they-will-come luxury branding is a waste here. Del Colliano has himself written elsewhere on this site that HT audio is missing a huge opportunity with gaming.


The few retailers that exist ought to be cross branding and bundling gaming hardware and software with HT products. They ought to be stitching their gaming depts with HT. They also ought to focus on the inevitable march of online shopping with, as others in this thread suggest, easy return-shipping policies like Crutchfield's. They ought to be aggressively reaching out to potential customers where they are, online via youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever, as experts who, in a non-snooty manner, give practical and educational advice on how to shop for equipment and how to set up your systems. Partner with gaming sites and youtube channels. They need to make themselves online destinations for HT education.
 
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