Are You Irritated By Amazon Selling Security Cameras?

Does anyone else find it irritating that online businesses are selling security cameras on Amazon, or is it just me? Hard to make a profit if the client can find the cameras and the pricing on Amazon. Not that I make a huge profit off security cameras to begin with but now I'm limited as to what I can charge.

I understand the need to sell more cameras but where is the loyalty to the installers who purchase from these online businesses? Sure most of these are for small "mom and pop" operations and we've used them for residential purposes due to affordability. But I think its going to make it much harder for me to sell it thanks to Amazon.

Any thoughts on this?

Most of the major manufacturers are totally against this but find it very difficult to stop. Some has resorted to not providing any warranty on products that are not purchased thru distribution. When your working the small business market it's very hard to sell the value of your services since the technology has been so simplified and the buyer is only looking for price and quantity not quality or long jevity

This is why some integrators are extremely loyal to 'dealer only' lines like Avigilon that aggresively police the sales channel. Essentially zero internet resellers to compete with.

Undisclosed A,

If your customers are putting you up against an online price it is difficult. Have you tried to price yourself closer to the online price and increase your labor? That way you are still covering your cost to operate and selling for a price that is closer to your competitor (amazon).

Honestly, it kinda the principle of the matter. I don't want to compete against Amazon pricing from the online business that I've done business with.

It's not so different from the other distributors that sell to end users. Amazon just happens to have a more effective platform for reaching smaller end-users. Link

There are some brands that support the manufacturer-integrator relationship. For example, in AV -- Extron and Crestron aggressively search for and shut down accounts of companies that sell product on eBay, Amazon, etc. It's right in the contract.

Some companies also use Minimum Advertised Price requirements. There are loopholes though.

We had this problem with Newegg selling Sony gear way below the Minimum Advertisted Pricing and brought the concerns to Sony. To my knowledge they were able to stop the undercutting by Newegg. Some manufacturers are able to better control MAP on their products, some aren't.

Some manufacturers are able to better willing to control MAP on their products, some aren't.

Fixed it for you.

That's more like it :)

Be careful with those type of actions, newegg would have a case for price fixing if a dealer colludes with a vendor to get another party to raise pricing. Very touchy grey area and you can risk heavy fines if not careful.

Full disclosure, we sell security cameras online though not on Amazon. We have done so successfully for the past six years, primarily Mobotix. Consumers are savvy, many find distributors and try to buy direct. MAP pricing is illegal in several states and honestly I find it disingenuous to customers to try to get full price for products. You have to let the market set prices and every time i see a dealer only company trying to limit sales and keep prices artificially high for dealer profit, i know they wont last long term.

That said we are not the lowest price, are certified in the products, and provide remote support and configuration services. A very large portion of our business is to installers who utilize our product and design experience.

Two tier distribution is going the way of the dodo bird. Installers are buying on amazon and distribution is selling to end users already, quite a bit actually. Many amazon and no name shops arw basically 90% managed and fulfilled by distribution now, with resellers taking their content, their inventory, and logistics and making 1-2% for marketing it on Amazon.

Many cctv systems dont need complex training to install and use as are basically network equipment. We have school districts, enterprises, factories, and government projects where the end users staff are doing all the installation. Not just small stuff either, $60,000 plus projects where all they want is hardware and some support. Yes margins are much much lower then installation companies are used to, but that is the reality of the market today.

I use this number all the time now, it takes $700,000 in sales of cctv and tech products to support one staff members costs. This is the market today and will only get worse as the technology becomes easier to use, and software goes more mobile.

Amazon is a powerhouse compared to other online businesses. You can't really compare it because most consumers do not go to the online businesses like they do Amazon. And that's where the difference is. And considering you can get the same stuff from Alibaba (sp.), why bother with the small-time online businesses anyway? Why not just go the route of the "alibaba's" online businesses?

This statement really bothers me...

Many cctv systems dont need complex training to install and use as are basically network equipment.

Judging from that statement, you think its just plug and play with no consideration to what "security" really is. The failure in that statement is in not taking into consideration why the security cameras are needed to begin with. That is what separates the way we think. I'm a security professional, not just an installation company. When I meet with a customer, we're talking real security, not just where a camera will be placed. The way you make it sound is as if you're putting a table lamp, aka a security camera, where you "THINK" there should be light.

This issue can be larger than price alone. In some cases, consumers may have little way of knowing when they are comparing apples to oranges.

I purchased the Hikvision DS-2CD2332-I 3MP EXIR Turret Network Camera from Boston Technologies via Amazon.

This camera provided very good video, but it had a wide array of user interface issues that made it practically unusable. I took this to be the not-uncommon experience in which offshore products still seem to be in beta test.

As an example, although many drop-down menu settings are accessible, it will not save many of those setting, including image adjustment settings andexposure settings. Although seemingly offering the option, it cannot even change the frequency reference from 50 Hz to 60 Hz. Similarly, face detection and motion detection are non-functional.

I struggled with these issues over an extended period, but eventually gave up and shelved the unit. However, over time I noted that IPVM's Hikvision experience seemed to be much better, so I decided to touch base with the manufacturer. Hikvision USA indicated that this unit may be a Chinese version which is typically running hacked firmware, and is not supported by Hikvision. The serial number is consistent with this suggestion.

Boston Technologies has not replied to three requests for assistance.

Amazon provides no recourse because I bought the product in October. I took too long moving from the initial understanding (e.g. typical offshore beta product) to recognizing the actual situation (unauthorized product with unsupported revised firmware). It was my opinion that the former understanding was a risk I assumed in purchasing offshore products, while the latter was a case of a misrepresentation on Amazon, which should provide recourse.

While this consumer is being trained to avoid both Amazon and Hikvision security products, that doesn't help installers who must quote authorized and supported products but may face unreasonable pricing pressure from products such as this.

A couple of other observations:

While Amazon has changed suppliers from Boston Technologies to Exmax, this product is still listed and is even less expensive than the one I purchased six months ago. There is no indication that this is anything other than a fully supported and authorized Hikvision product.

Hikvision USA's unauthorized distributor page says contact Hikvision USA prior to purchasing. Of course, prospective customers who are unaware of such information before a purchase cannot benefit from this approach.

Was Hikvision at least willing to provide you with the original Chinese language firmware file for your model?

If they did not, while at the same time realizing that you were an unaware end user, is unfortunate. Hardball channel protection. Integrators cheer! :(

No, per Hikvision USA, buyer issues are referred back to the original seller. This is not unusual. When we had issues in 2012 with $4K worth of Arecont Vision product, Arecont indicated, "you would have to work with your seller/distributor..."

In IT, users can purchase a broad range of product and professional support without issue. Product received generally match their characterization in the advertisements. IT services are not generally related to the value of the equipment they are performed upon. When vendors conduct installations as a part of their service, the equipment is generally not more than 50% above the discounted online price, which seems a very reasonable compensation for the real effort involved in procuring and getting reliable equipment to the job site. Buyers can rely upon both seller and manufacturer warranties. Product support is generally a given. Product lines and capabilities are relatively open and customers are paying for skills and selective advantages that are comprehensible: the value proposition is relatively unambiguous.

Why haven't surveillance systems followed suit? If an integrator’s compensation depends upon suppressing price competition among commodity hardware rather than communicating and selling whatever real selective advantage they might offer, can that be a recipe for long term success?

In IT, it is very common for hobbyists and novices to procure their own equipment and set up a home lab in order to grow and acquire experience supporting positions of greater responsibility.

I believe it is in every surveillance professional’s interest to have surveillance capabilities that are accessible to everyone. Some fraction of those users will want to grow into installations that require professional support. If professionals only receive a few percent of the resultant business, that’s likely a lot more than they receive today.

It seems that, often, the surveillance community favors barriers that deliberately exclude new technically literate entrants, hobbyists, and do-it-yourselfers. How can this in any way support an active and thriving community?

In contrast, IPVM has been an excellent resource, providing extensive information and reviews that are accessible to everyone for less than the cost of a technical journal subscription.

"It seems that, often, the surveillance community favors barriers that deliberately exclude new technically literate entrants, hobbyists, and do-it-yourselfers. How can this in any way support an active and thriving community?"

You have unfortunately answered your own question...

As for "literate entrants, hobbyists and DIY'ers", isn't that what those OTHER cameras are for? You know the ones that people can buy from COSTCO and/or, order online like LOREX.

We sell alot to diy and they want mobotix, axis, and milestone. There is i believe an unfounded myth that cctv requires some magic dealer touch. Maybe 10-15 years ago, but today consumers are very savy and security is becoming more it then anything.

"We sell alot to diy and they want mobotix, axis, and milestone."

But presumably these are not your typical DIY users, right? Even if all your DIY customers use professional gear, what about the 10x or 100x number that buy kits at Costco?

A different type of DIY customer. (In my opinion)

The ones who buy it at Costco are not the "true" DIY customer. The customer at Costco is basically making a uniformed decision based on in-store product marketing (Limited Decision Making and/or Impulse Buying). Many times this customer brings home (office) and opens the package. Once opened, that is about it due to technical limitations or time so it collects dust in a closet. Others are able to install it but are probably not 100% happy with it but it does "just enough" to keep them from returning it.

A “true” DIY customer usually displays extensive decision making in their purchasing decisions. Most of the time it requires complex thinking.

Interesting topic. I bought a few Hikvision cameras (about 50) from Amazon and have had only 2 issues with those, one was fixed with updating the firmware the other just died on the field. Hikvision USA states clearly that Hikvision cameras bought from Amazon will not be supported however but they provided me with the support to fix the firmware issue.

This said, there are some issues that we must address.

The DIY community is not our customer base and we must steer away from those. They (DIY’ers) can however become our competitors. Here experience, know-how and marketing are our ally. We must embrace marketing in a new way. Find ways to make our customers understand the value of our services, of our knowledge and experience. It can help for example to pinpoint the risks of using a DIY approach to security. One of the issues they face is insurance when works was not performed by a licensed professional. I believe there is still room for growth… Just so that we understand their point of view… many of us started via DIY too ;).

We are now contemplating a race to the bottom. Prices of cameras are falling ... precipitously ... Thus we need to move away from hardware and place an emphasis on services...

Much to say about this. Amazon will not go away and I must say that their Prime membership has hardware at my office door in 2 days (even one day!) and so far without a miss... Difficult to beat ...

Amazon and online is helping get rid of the 2 tier distribution model. Most distributors are pushing products to amazon now, and are quickly trying to add more value add services in order to stay relevant.

Yes, all of our customers are using higher end gear, as are usually in commercial, industrial, and remote sites. We dont get into low quality brands, and service companies and DIY folks who want quality and are comfortable with self service install. We were told by vendors when we started that end users could never manage it without a pro installer, and we were crazy for selling to them. Several million dollars of cameras later, I think we have proven the opposite.

There have always been, and will always be, cheaper ways to buy products. If you can not provide enough value to compete against a cheaper offering, then you will lose. You do not deserve to sell products, you earn the sale.

Greetings, I should like to add something to this discussion. I was in the business years and years ago, but have come back to it. Online places like Amazon has indeed changed the way we sell and buy, for all of us, and while Amazon is around I believe it is going to get worse for those of us who sell product. Having said that, I learnt from a friend of mine that commercial or very high end residential is the way to go. They will always need professionals in their respective trades. Places like Costco, Best Buy, will always sell the low quality systems, and the people who purchase those systems are generally the uneducated public at large.

I get at least five to ten calls a month regarding these systems from residents, and no matter what I tell them, there is just no convincing them of the value of what we offer, or they think I am trying to pull the wool over their eyes. I wonder why they call me, I really do. So, I go and tell them to buy the system and if they have problems, to call me back, they often do. What I have done is market myself as someone who will install thier cheap retail systems, and when they start asking me, why it wont do this and that, then I educate them, after they have paid me to install their rubbish system, of course. Most of them, not all, will then ask me what I think, and are more apt to go with something that I can sell them and reinstall at a slight discount of course. They nearly always end up returning the cheap system.

Moral of the story is, you are not going to convince these people of any thing else, human nature being what it is, they will have to learn the hard way, so, like anything else in life, find a way to adapt and profit from it while still providing the install service.

That's how anything survives in this world, by adapting to the changing envionment.