So far, 2021 has been dominated by news of important vaccine progress, as well as reassuring signs of economic recovery. I have particularly been encouraged by recent research from PwC which forecasts that while the live music sector was down 64% in 2020, it will rebound through 2021 and return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022. While the industry recovers, I do believe there are important lessons we can take from 2020 that will spark innovation in our business practices going forward.
Digital connections are now more important than ever and 2020 has really opened our eyes to how much can be achieved online. Not every meeting needs to be in person, not every major event requires a transatlantic flight and not every project requires a team in the same room. For the AV industry, like a lot of others, we have had to find new ways to communicate and engage with our customers and users.
Without the usual social interactions at trade shows and industry meetings, we have built meaningful connections through streaming events, educational seminars and engaging social content. While these digital interactions can never truly replace the feeling of a human interaction, they can open new doors of opportunity and provide customers with meaningful brand engagement.
We have seen huge enthusiasm for online education over the last year, with many individuals taking advantage of online technical training webinars. We’re really pleased with the program and taking our training online has allowed us to reach ten times as many people as an in-person workshop could. The key in the future will be to ensure the right rich, engaging, valuable content is communicated the right way, whether that is through broadcast, virtual interactions, on-site or face to face training sessions.
In addition to the digital channels we have used and developed over the past 12 months, the next 12 months will no doubt be dominated by the emergence of new digital platforms that will forge new opportunities and even deeper customer engagement. Now that we understand what can be achieved at home no one wants to go all the way back to where we were. A new level of flexibility and practicality in business interactions is inevitable and we must think hard as to how we can use online platforms and tools to further enhance each stage of the customer journey.
Digital tools have altered the psyche of customers everywhere, and the customer of 2021 expects information to be at their fingertips. We have spent the last 12 months conducting all types of business remotely and from these experiences, customers will, going forward, place even greater value on accessibility.
In the past, the AV industry has sometimes been a little inaccessible. We’ve had feedback that accessing premium solutions for smaller projects was sometimes considered something of a ‘dark art’. Now is the time for the industry as a whole to break down any barriers in accessing exceptional sound, and deliver greater accessibility to the diverse global customer-base.
We cannot ignore the changes that have occurred in customer buying behaviour. The uncertainty of 2020 has left an impression on us all, one that we believe will be reflected in our buying habits. Now more than ever, customers are unable and unwilling to make large upfront capital investments but instead, they seek flexibility in their payment methods. The AV industry must learn from other sectors when it comes to this trend and introduce flexible payment schemes, such as secured finance deals and subscription-based models to meet our new customer half way and empower them to access premium AV systems and deliver awesome sound experiences.
Reasons to be cheerful
While the last 12 months included much suffering and uncertainty, there are many reasons to be positive about the year ahead and the new opportunities it brings us as an industry. We must remember that in amongst the pain and uncertainty of 2020 there are lessons to be learned and the best lessons are that we must be fast, we must be flexible and we must adapt to survive. I am excited for the next year in this remarkable industry and look forward to seeing how we take these lessons and put them to good use.