Jerry Chapman founded Solid Signal in 2002 after experiencing his own frustrations locating specific technology products through retailers. As owner of Solid Signal, he not only oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, Chapman also works hands on with customers, providing them with personalized and comprehensive advice on product selection and troubleshooting. In 2007 and 2008 Solid Signal made the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. It is also a 2008 Internet Retailer: Top 500 Company. In addition to Solid Signal, Chapman is the owner of TriStar Consulting in Franklin, Michigan. TriStar provides assistance in the creation, maintenance and support of a technology and its applications. Before he founded TriStar in 1999, Chapman was Vice President at MNP Corporation in Utica, Michigan, one of the largest manufacturers of fasteners to the automotive industry.

Interview with Jerry Chapman of SolidSignal.com The State of Consumer Electronics from an Etailer Po

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Interview with Jerry Chapman of SolidSignal.com
The State of Consumer Electronics from an Etailer Point of View

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Jerry Chapman founded Solid Signal in 2002 after experiencing his own frustrations locating specific technology products through retailers. As owner of Solid Signal, he not only oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, Chapman also works hands on with customers, providing them with personalized and comprehensive advice on product selection and troubleshooting.

In 2007 and 2008 Solid Signal made the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. It is also a 2008 Internet Retailer: Top 500 Company.

In addition to Solid Signal, Chapman is the owner of TriStar Consulting in Franklin, Michigan. TriStar provides assistance in the creation, maintenance and support of a technology and its applications. Before he founded TriStar in 1999, Chapman was Vice President at MNP Corporation in Utica, Michigan, one of the largest manufacturers of fasteners to the automotive industry.

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Do online consumer electronic shoppers come to etailers like Solid Signal because of price, selection, support or all three? Has this changed over the past year?

All three. Solid Signal is the low price leader, we carry a large selection of many types of a particular product, and our purchase experience is better than if you went to a retail location because our support staff is very savvy about all of the products we sell. This hasn’t really changed in the past year. However, since more of our customers rely on us for tech support, we now cross-train our staff so they are truly “sales engineers” for all product lines – you can ask the same person about cell phones, antennas and TVs.

 

What is the biggest change in consumer electronics happening right now?

In one word, it’s “consolidation” -- one device, doing more things. This is something that’s been happening for a little while but today it’s more exciting than ever. Content is being delivered to us in new ways via all-in-one units. Cell phones are now also TVs and remote control devices.

 

What do you see as the biggest trend for the next year?

The continuation and expansion of the consolidation trend as the consumer grows more accustomed to getting content in different ways. The cell phone will be used for more applications. We’ll also think of TV a bit differently, as there will be more integration between the internet and TV. And, the social networking aspect of electronics will also continue to boom.

 

What's the biggest challenge Solid Signal faces today?

Fortunately, we’re doing well and face few challenges. However we are trying to determine how the digital TV transition will pan out, the impact it will really have, and how Solid Signal can respond to it. This change is pushing a lot of people toward the use of cable and satellite TV, and we’re wondering if these people will be satisfied now that they are paying for something they once got for free.

 

How has your focus changed (product mix) based on industry changes/trends?

Since Solid Signal is a niche retailer we focus on specific groups of electronics and do it better than anyone else. This focus will stay the same. We’ll continue to find products that our customers are searching for and give them the broadest selection – and not just by brand, but also different styles, types and features. We’ll also put more focus on personalizing products to suit our customers’ needs.

How much of your business is with professional installers as opposed to consumers?

30-40% based on revenue. Solid Signal carries many products that are very specific to the needs of installers, such as tool, and we can also offer them advanced tech support. Additionally, we carry large quantities of items that installers often require. We’ve built a nice base of loyal trade professionals who know that Solid Signal will service them appropriately.

 

Are you finding that your average customer needs more or less technical support than in previous years?

Our average customer is now requiring more tech support because consumer electronics have become more specialized with very specific uses. While the technology may be getting easier to use, the products have many more options.

Are consumer electronics products getting simpler to install and operate than in the past?

Yes, comparatively speaking. However there is still a level of difficulty in the installation and operation of some products because the feature sets are getting more complicated.

 

Some etailers allow customers to review and comment on the products they buy. Some would say this gives a voice to consumers and will thus improve product reliability in the long run. What are your thoughts on this?

Actually, we are currently evaluating the use and process for customer product reviews. We’ve determined that SolidSignal.com is definitely going to have reviews, but we’re still trying to figure out the best way to do this. Given our very broad product line, the first step will be to let people know which items are top sellers.

 

Where do you see consumer electronics in five years?

Continued consolidation of features into a single unit. I think we’ll also see more personalized and transportable products so consumers can get content and information the way they want to see it, hear it or experience it.


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