Wednesday, January 13, 2010
GRE @ CES 2010 - Part 3 of 3
The Radio Reference community in general should not be discouraged here by these latest models. GRE indicates they indeed respond and listen to the RR community and users, but they also need to design for the global scanner market. Some of us here are from a much more advanced user base than the general scanner market, and the overall scanner market is not all that large to begin with. GRE will continue to market and develop and sell to the entire base (which is a very small percentage of general consumers). But with growth in the overall scanner industry, we can all see benefits from an increased user base.
We talked in general about the challenges of a niche market. I'll sum my thoughts up with a few points here in relation to CES and consumer electronics. These two new scanner model announcements were just two new models out of the 20,000 some new models reported as being announced across the entire Consumer Electronics Show this past week. Consider the market for TVs or mobile phones where there are billions of consumers and units in the market, with hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of new models. If we all can help expand the base, more options will be available across the entire scanner market. Some of what we all are doing here on RR with the Live Audio feeds we provide and information and discussion forums we offer can help expand that market. These preprogrammed and 'easy to use' product offerings from GRE will be beneficial to folks here and will also help attract new consumers and expand the scanner market.
Here are some of my general comments regarding the analog versus digital trend. Once digital activity is more prevalent, and digital starts to outsell analog, I would suspect we'll then see more models with digital, and at some point all models may have digital. We may even get to the point of televisions and mobile phones, when eventually some models in the future will only need to support digital. GRE had asked if I had purchased an iScan yet, and I advised I have not, since in my particular case, all of my county is digital. Once a majority of the activity and demand moves to digital, the manufacturers and market will need to respond to that trend.
We also talked a little about their business distribution model. GRE not only sells directly now and through dealers, along with their OEM/ODM relationships for distribution via Radio Shack and now also MFJ. GRE also indicated that Radio Shack now only purchases from GRE, and that is primarily because of the 'easy to use' factor of the Radio Shack/GRE line. In fact more and more people now refer to the combined "RS/GRE" brand. From what I can see, a larger purchaser like Radio Shack that may be buying thousands of units at a time indeed earns their right to preferential model release time lines and other brand distinctions.
GRE mentioned that in 2005 the Radio Shack brand accounted for about 60% of the scanner market share. This was primarily from their ability to introduce and demonstrate scanners at their thousands of store locations. Today the RS/GRE brand is growing online as well, and while it may not have as large of magazine presence, the physical distribution at RS stores is still key. Target customers and markets include not only general hobbyists and racing enthusiasts but also a growing commercial/public safety market. And despite the general economic conditions of the past year, GRE stated they have performed significantly well last year and are looking very good for 2010.
We talked further on marketing methods and scanner design as related to a direct interaction with the hobbyist community. I eluded to the role that UPMan and Uniden has established here on Radio Reference. GRE said they focus on responding to the community by offering the right products and that they don't want to be in a position to argue back and forth on an open forum. In regards to scanner design and manufacturing, GRE talked about how the Radio Shack PRO-95 was one of the first models designed based on feedback from the online community (then primarily Strong Signals).
Today GRE continues to conduct regular reviews and prioritizing of projects as well as responding to marketplace changes. They do not create new models just for the sake of new models, so we won't see new offerings in all categories every year. In fact they reminded me that the Radio Shack PRO-96 was the lead digital trunking model for six years, and that unit continued to generate new sales until the latest digital releases. GRE if anything said they have too many projects, and too many things they'd like to do. It is all a balance of technology/advancement, satisfying the customer, and responding to sales that drives new models in the industry.
Ok, some final random items. In regards to beta testing, that is a pretty small and intimate group. But I would have to say that good customers that provide good feedback and have a good relationship with GRE would have the best opportunity to help participate. GRE also had a a formal Press Release announcement in the works regarding the CES announcements, so stay tuned for that information. Also this has only been the 2nd year at CES for GRE, and they indeed plan on being back at the show in year three. And for general information, the CES is a consumer electronics trade show primarily for announcing and demonstrating new models, and not a ham-fest/computer-fest type show where one can purchase items.
Any other thoughts, comments, questions, please feel free to post. I may have more answers in my notes or in my head if I was not able to answer any other particular questions that I did not cover.
See also Radio Reference for more discussion: Link
[Part 3 of 3]