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Meet Your AV Integrator: Pioneer Group – they’re finger lickin’ good

Sales director Mark Childerhouse provides discusses current business trends and how to avoid costly errors in your AV decision making

Founded: 2011

Head office: Stockport

Target Market: Corporate AV, Stadia, Retail, QSR

Services offered: Specialists in digital infrastructure, digital signage

and integration.

Hi mark. Tell us about Pioneer Group.

Pioneer Group is an independent company, founded in 2011 to deliver a convergent service for AV, IT and infrastructure, which has stood us in brilliant stead to win complex projects with large QSR roll outs, stadium wide and corporate installations. We have a project management, operations and finance team based in Stockport and sales team based in Reading.

What is your geographic reach?

Our work is mainly in the UK but we are increasingly working with clients on projects in Europe to ensure consistency across multiple sites. We recently completed meeting room technology projects in Denmark and Germany and a variety of digital signage solutions for companies in Switzerland, Czech Republic, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

How is business?

Business is ever evolving. In the relatively short time we have been operating, there has been some incredible innovation in the industry, which has opened new opportunities and seen us grow rapidly, often together with long term clients.

Since partnering with Manchester City to install cutting edge mid tier and pitch side LED displays, we’ve had commissions from various stadium venues across the UK. The provision of digital signage solutions and meeting room technologies are core areas of the business which continue to thrive and we’ve had some fantastic opportunities to deliver state of the art AV installations for global brands. Our client base is growing quickly and includes blue chip companies such as Engie and infrastructure and networks. We’re working on MOD and MOJ projects nationwide, which we’re particularly proud of!

What trends are you seeing in the current market?

The pace of change is rapid with AI now coming to the fore and interactivity already being built into most projects. The way in which AV now sits on the network in corporate environments has made the rapid uptake even quicker. AV is now a board level investment and decision, which makes the investment cycles longer term and means we now have ongoing upgrade plans with our clients which is a much more effective way to work.

What’s hot in AV right now?

Programmes such as Admobilize and Quividi target age, gender and even mood to sell certain products. These give retailers highly beneficial insights, providing much more in depth knowledge into customer behaviours once in store.

Allsee’s PCAP touch screen mirror allows customers to view and interact with products. This was one of the most popular retail technologies on our stand at RDSE this year. Unusual shaped displays are also coming to the market, which are brilliant for bespoke installations like menu boards. LG’s Ultra Stretches are ideal for digital signage in unconventional spaces, especially for QSR and in retail environments, as the screens can be split into four, allowing for multiple content displays.

The key is that clients are installing products which allow feedback to improve content strategies and prove ROI on AV projects.

Any personal favourites when it comes to AV kit and equipment?

The OLED Range from LG and Epson’s LightScene EV-100 Series Projector are both brilliant products. The LightScene creates stunning experiential visuals and is fantastic in a bar setting, sensing when you put your glass down and serving up engaging and immersive content. OLED enables creative shapes and curves which are still so unusual that they really capture attention. We are also working with a nail brand at the moment to create an AI experience which combines screen with visualisation technology.

What are the biggest obstacles/frustrations you’re seeing in the industry?

From an industry perspective, it can be difficult to find trained and skilled staff, so there’s still plenty to be done in educating and making people aware of the opportunities available. Also, understanding the goals, limitations and capabilities in the merging of AV and IT technologies are obstacles we’re facing as an industry.

For the end user, some of the biggest frustrations arise from understanding the benefits of using new technology and its ROI. Knowing where to start can be a daunting task, as there’s a huge amount of companies to choose from. This often leads to the selected company being the cheapest and not necessarily the best for the job, so the project can’t evolve over time. This isn’t the best way to work as technology moves on at an ever growing pace.

Has the attitude towards professional and high quality AV changed for businesses in recent years?

More advanced technology is required to cope with increasing business demands. The office landscape is one which is constantly changing and evolving. We’ve noticed our clients are now looking for more unique, bespoke solutions as opposed to standard displays on walls and are spending much more, to provide a much better ROI in the long term.

The pressure to stay on top of trends is pushing more people to invest in digital signage, especially within QSR. The creation of menu boards has become ubiquitous, which brings new innovations in being able to change menus responsively to weather and time of day, as well as special events and being able to bring local flavour to each store.

Why should end users go through an integrator rather than simply buy and install themselves?

The years of experience and expertise integrators provide are a huge benefit to end users. Why attempt a technical install yourself without the relevant experience or skill set? We can help with interoperability, infrastructure issues and technology challenges, as well as future proofing the installation alongside taking the original brief.

Finally, how important is it for a business – of any kind – to have/use good quality AV?

It’s crucial as long as the AV solution suits the requirements of that particular business. Good quality AV should provide a solution which improves the experience for end users. We’ve seen firsthand how great AV can improve fan engagement places, such as, in stadiums and how retailers can use it to make the retail experience extend into digital engagement. More than ever before, AV should be part of a business strategy to ensure nimble communication and engagement across a number of stakeholders.