Guest Column | April 7, 2014

IP Video: How To Keep Your Customer From Buying From A Big Box Store

BSM- Arecont Camera

By John Callahan, Distribution Field Sales Manager, Arecont Vision

What is the difference between a system purchased from a department store and from an integrator?

The first major difference is the quality of the equipment and the warranty behind it. When you buy a video surveillance solution from a systems integrator, you are generally purchasing professional-grade equipment that is designed to operate 24/7/365. The video systems sold in big box stores have a much shorter life expectancy because of lower-quality components. The chips, circuitry, hard drives, and other components within these products are not professional grade. Most often they carry a one-year warranty.

Video surveillance systems sold through big box stores are predominantly analog with poor image quality and limited functionality. Without detailed video, these systems do not provide the resolution needed to clearly identify individuals and to document incidents. These low quality systems are typically sold in a one-size-fits-all kit with global settings, limited lens options, and precut cables, which is another reason why they seem relatively inexpensive. In the real world, “cookie cutter” solutions can’t possibly meet users’ specific video surveillance performance and coverage needs.

In the professional NVR market, even entry-level units offer status monitoring (i.e., “Is my NVR recording?”) A dealer or systems integrator can set up automatic notification to alert an end user if the NVR stops working. Packaged kits from big box stores do not offer these functions. Even if a small business owner can install a store-bought system to save money, they will not know if it is recording, turned off or stolen once they leave the premises. Dealers and systems integrators can use remote status and notification functionality to help earn recurring revenues by offering system monitoring as part of a monthly service contract.

Remote viewing is another major consideration. In order to view a store-bought NVR over the Internet, end users need to have a working knowledge of routers. At minimum, they will need to answer a few basic questions: Can they open ports on their router? Will their service provider even allow ports to be opened? Does the NVR require a static IP address? If so, many small business and home owners lack the know-how to set up and operate a video surveillance system remotely.

Most end users want to be able to look in on their locations from mobile devices, which is a reasonable expectation. Because these retail systems are designed to be extremely price-sensitive, they aren’t able to compress video very well. For an end user on a limited data plan who wants to view video when he or she isn’t connected to a Wi-Fi network, this could mean huge data usage charges. However, this is merely a hypothetical situation since most store-bought DVRs only allow local access to internal features.

Do businesses have the expertise to install a system and have it provide benefits?

My experience has shown that most businesses do not have the expertise necessary to install a video surveillance system. Even if they do, the savings in installation will not compensate for the fact that these systems are very limited in both performance and features. There are also a number of very specialized settings to make when installing a video surveillance system that directly impact operation, and may be foreign to a technician that is not security systems certified.

Before purchasing a video surveillance kit from a big box store, end users should ask the following:

  • Are system settings retained in memory? 
  • Can it work on DDNS? 
  • Can the user open ports on their router? 
  • Do they have enough bandwidth to support remote viewing? 

These are just the most basic considerations. Choosing the right system with the cameras that best meet the user’s needs requires a different knowledge base.

How do you convince your customers they will ultimately get more value through you?

When selling against video surveillance kits sold at big box stores, it is important to make all the key points listed above. A good conversation starter might be to ask the end user this question: Do the big box stores selling these packaged video systems use them to protect their businesses and property? The answer is most probably “no.” They almost always use professional-grade products that aren’t available via retail stores.

With the high penetration of HD imaging in people’s homes and mobile devices, the importance of good image quality is probably the most important and easiest point to make with most end users. Megapixel video offers much better image quality than analog cameras, and the difference in image quality can mean the difference between apprehending a suspect or not, or determining if a slip-and-fall claim is valid or not. The simple truth is that if you want a high performance video surveillance system, you need to work with a professional dealer or systems integrator.

In today’s market, it is hard to think of a single reason why a dealer might quote an analog video surveillance system similar to those being sold by the big box stores. At minimum, dealers and systems integrators should educate their customers on the benefits of installing a professional video surveillance solution employing megapixel cameras. After seeing the superior image quality that megapixel cameras deliver, the benefits of a professional video surveillance system should be very clear to see.