Ingram Micro: 'It's time to take digital signage technology seriously'

"The IT/AV shift is certainly happening," says Raj Pandya in exclusive interview with PCR
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Distributor Ingram Micro's digital signage business is outpacing the market - and says it's time resellers took the technology seriously.

PCR caught up with Ingram's head of pro AV, Raj Pandya, about the growing sector and why traditional IT resellers are embracing it.

PCR: What kind of demand are you seeing for pro AV/digital signage?

Raj Pandya: The demand is intense and it’s growing. If you look at how organisations are trying to communicate, whether internally or a venue like a retailer or leisure club, the demand and opportunities are always increasing. We’ve been non-stop working on projects and new opportunities where people are trying to create new things with their content.

We’re seeing a lot more demand specifically for retailers who want the same content running across different stores at the same time. For example, between 9am and 11am you might want some information that attracts mums, and then between 3pm and 5pm you might want something that targets kids. So it’s all remotely managed. That makes it more powerful for Ingram Micro, because we provide all the networking infrastructure which makes that happen.

Is this an untapped opportunity for resellers? What are the benefits of embracing pro AV/digital signage sales?

Without a doubt. If you look at the traditional IT resale market, we’re seeing constantly that the print and PC markets are in decline, and now everybody is moving into managed print services (MPS).

The AV market is the total opposite. If you look at the professional audio/visual market and you look at the data Futuresource and others provide, it’s all growing. Retail digital signage is growing and corporate digital signage is growing. 

Our message to our partners is it’s time to take that technology seriously, because it is going to be the future of how everybody communicates, regardless of the size of their business. 

And how is your digital signage business growing?

From a UK perspective, we launched our digital signage offering in October 2012. If you just look at digital signage as a separate entity to AV, year-on-year we’ve shown 146 per cent growth. That’s made up of screen sales, media player sales and software sales. The whole market in itself is growing, and we’re certainly outgrowing that market. It’s a combination of winning new business and also taking market share.

"It’s time to take AV/digital signage technology seriously, because it is going to be the future of how everybody communicates, regardless of the size of their business."

How hard is it for resellers who aren’t in this area to break into it?

That’s the key question. We’re trying to make it easy. Our attitude and strategy is to go after the Ingram Micro reseller base which is heavily into that network scenario. Our target is network infrastructures. Those guys are almost ‘owning’ the network of that end user, but what they’re not doing is actually asking what goes onto the network.

So we’re taking the opportunity to say: “Listen, we will be able to do everything that you don’t have the core skillset to do in that area. We can support you to enhance your revenue and profit into that particular end user by also making sure you’re doing the audio-visual needs, because most of it is on the network."

Are traditional IT resellers embracing AV/digital signage?

The IT/AV shift is certainly happening. We’re seeing a lot more IT integrators embrace it because they own so much of the relationship with a corporate customer in their infrastructure. We’re seeing more of them getting more involved in that AV rollout because the two are crossing very quickly now. A few years ago, the buzz was that AV/IT is going to incorporate but it never really happened. But we can see it now.

Vendors and manufacturers are seeing it now, where AV was traditionally done by a small group of AV resellers, who still are the power in the industry, but more and more IT integrators are certainly winning the projects because they’re obviously also doing the networking that goes with it.

Is there scope for smaller resellers to get involved with this, and get their local customers and businesses on board?

Absolutely. Digital signage is a concept rather than a fixed solution. So digital signage can be for smaller corporate customers who have a board room, a reception area and meeting rooms where they need to communicate.

We have solutions here where we can have video collaboration on the screens, plus the software to provide that. The term ‘digital signage’ doesn’t necessarily have to be the 500 retail store rollouts – it can be a one-unit solution.

"If you just look at digital signage as a separate entity to AV, year-on-year we’ve shown 146 per cent growth. The whole market in itself is growing, and we’re certainly outgrowing that market."

Do you think the increase in demand is due to the tablet generation where users expect information to be displayed on big displays and touch-screens rather than physical signs?

Yeah, and I think also now because of the world of smartphone technology – whether it’s a tablet or your phone – advertising and communication has changed. We’re seeing a lot more demand for people being able to interact with advertising, for example using Bluetooth technology and QR codes/scanners.

More retailers and businesses are upping the game in terms of demonstrating their own value and offering into a market that’s so commoditised. The whole communication via smart technology has certainly upped the game in terms of how they display their content.

Which brands do you work with in the digital signage sector?

We work two-fold in terms of the brand technology. We have our core digital signage brands – LG and Elo Touch – for screen technology. Then we also have Dynascan – high brightness technology aimed more at in-store shop windows or any market communicating where light is an issue. Then we wrap that around the media player technology we promote with AOpen, Advantech, LG and Intel. This is the PC that runs all the content.

Then to top it off we have Scala and Navori – our digital content providers. That manages the content over a network which allows customers to remotely distribute the content. For example, if Boots have 500 stores that all want to have the same content running at a certain period of time, that can all be remotely managed using that software. Then we wrap that around the Ingram Micro services of consultancy and installation, so we really do have an end-to-end solution.

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