How Has End-User "Buying Behavior" Changed In The Last 15 Years?

I almost asked "has buying behavior changed...?" Obviously, it has. I'm curious what integration companies and manufacturers have experienced in the last 15 or so years? Our customers have immediate access to endless information - how has that affected their buying activity? Do they see sales people as often? Is your authority / knowledge challenged more frequently? How do you overcome these challenges?

I'm not a integrator or manufacturer, but here are a few changes I have seen from a consultant's perspective:

- Customer is much more knowledgeable about technology in general because of widespread use of consumer devices (smartphones, cameras) that use technology that is similar to security/surveillance systems.

- Customer is probably no longer buying his or her first security/surveillance system (may be on 2nd or 3rd system) and has better knowledge of what he or she wants in a replacement system.

- The customer's continued exposure to capabilities shown in movies and on television (image enhancement, facial recognition. etc.) has created unrealistic expectations about what surveillance systems are capable of doing. ("CSI effect").

- Customer has better understanding of just how quickly technology becomes obsolete. This results in less concern about a long system life and future expansion capability - when the system breaks or needs to be expanded, it will be time to buy a new better/cheaper one anyway...

- Inexpensive consumer grade security and surveillance systems are much more widely available. The perceived difference in quality between consumer grade equipment and professional grade equipment has become less obvious. It's getting harder and harder to explain to the customer why it costs $700 for a camera when they can get a complete 8 camera system from Costco for the same amount.

- The ability to operate/program/monitor the system from a smartphone or tablet is now considered to be mandatory - not just a nice option.

- Customer has more desire to be self-reliant rather than to depend on outside service providers. For example, most younger consumers that I work with see no value at all in using a central station to monitor their security systems and would rather have alarms report directly to their smartphones.

Thanks Michael. Your last statement about younger consumers monitoring on their own is very helpful.

We've found that buying cameras ourselves is much cheaper than going through our integrator, especially if I'm only installing one or two cameras. It just doesn't make sense to go through a middleman for 2 cameras at a time.

10-15 years ago, end users had no access to pricing information beyond what local dealers offered them. They also had no access to performance data beyond what dealers or maybe a local peer would tell them.

A completely different world and almost wild to think about it now. 100% markups were essentially the norm. A rival dealer could make crazy claims and there was no third party evidence at all to contradict. And people, including myself, made it a point to go to trade shows to figure out what was new.

Maybe recent stats exist on Markups. This one is a bit old. It would be interesting to see how far away we are from 100% today. Maybe a new thread/poll/future Integrator survey?

John - I wouldn't limit your comment to pricing. End-users have access to any information they need at that moment. They used to rely (for the most part) on their integrator for information on technology, industry news, etc.

Another element I've seen is that others within the end-users' organizations have access to more information today. The security or facilities managers used to be relied as the expert internally. Today, their bosses and peers check their recommendations in about 90 seconds with an online search.

BTW, there is a huge opportunity in this environment for knowledgeable sales professionals that are interested in finding and solving problems. It's only gloom and doom for those that have relied on their buddies for business but haven't been able to position themselves as the expert.