The Changing AV Landscape

May 1, 2019

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Charlotte Ashley meets Pip Evans, the man at the helm of NV Integration, a custom installer enjoying success in both the UK and further afield, to discuss the ever-evolving AV landscape and working with high net worth clientele.

When HiddenWires calls Pip Evans, owner and director of London-based installer, NV Integration, he’s ironically in the middle of having a smart metre fitting in his London home. Does the AV industry stalwart believe these type of IoT products can have a positive effect, if any, on the prosector?

“Yes, I think you can call it a trickle-up effect.” He adds: “It raises awareness for consumers and they might talk to their friends about it, and they might have someone that wants to do that at a higher or better level.” Evans details a client who offers the perfect example of this; “The son of one of our clients bought all this IoT-type stuff for his student flat because that’s his budget, but he’s actually encouraged his parents to invest in the pro-side because that's what he aspires to have. That's a classic example of the trickle-up effect,” explains Evans.

NV integration, renowned in the industry for installations like the multi-CEDIA Award-winning ‘Siam Smart House project in Thailand (a follow-up to a London project for the same client), has enjoyed huge growth for a company of 10 over the past 10 years with Evans at the helm. For the director, his life-long love for technology becoming his every day was the perfect transition; “I was always very hands-on with computers, as much as they were around when I was young,” he states. “It was always a case of ‘oh, the printer isn’t working, go and get Pip because he’ll know what to do.’ I generally occupied that role so I found it quite an easy learning curve.”

A sound engineer by training, AV provided the perfect in to fulfil his desire to do something he loved but still be part of creating a special experience. “I never thought that when I was working for smaller AV firms doing Sonos music systems in people's houses in the home counties, that this was something that would take me around the world, but starting NV has given me that, and I was wrong (thankfully).”

With luxury residential projects at the heart of what NV do, alongside a small number of high-level commercial installs in London, NV has a full roster of upcoming projects, with more small ‘bespoke MDU’ projects possibly on the horizon. “It’s an interesting market for us and one we’re pushing a bit harder to get into because they can be quite exciting projects, but also quite challenging at the same time as you’ve got so many factors to integrate,” he explains.

The company’s growing reputation Evans attributes partially to putting time into building good relationships on all sides of the industry. Hosting CPDs are an integral part of the process for the company – something Evans likes to run in the most honest way possible; “I open by saying ‘Hi. I’m Pip and I set up NV Integration because I was fed up of being the AV guy that nobody likes’ and everyone usually laughs.”

"Our clients are high net worth individuals just want a system that works and offers the functionality that they want."

He adds: “When I worked for other AV companies, we’d have a brief of products that we sell to the client and then we’d be thrust upon the design team and just told to get on with it. A lot of these products were plastic and ugly back in the day anyway, but regardless, I found this really alienated everyone we met along the way delivering the project, that I was trying to build relationships with, because interior designers and architects like really clean, minimalist contemporary lines and then we’ve just trashed that with some AV gear.”

The integrator’s 3,500ft² Belgravia-based showroom is a testament to its design-led approach, themed by distinct rooms to allow prospective clients to envision what their future home could look like and offer to make their life easier, with no particular brands pushed to them. “Our clients are high net worth individuals just want a system that works and offers the functionality that they want – they don’t care if it’s X, Y or Z’s product, they just want it to work,” he says. Rather than introducing x touch panel or speaker, NV simply prioritises demonstrating the functionality to the client rather than the look and feel of what they may currently have in their showroom facilities (an ever-changing offering) – created in partnership with interior designer Staffan Tollgard.

“We say come to the showroom- it isn't necessarily what you're going to have for your project, but this is the type of concepts of what you might want to have,” says Evans. “And guess what? You don’t have to see it on like a white plastic kiosk as you might in a retail shop or similar – it's installed and it's going to look exactly how it we show you. I can pull the TV out, show you how all the cables are dressed, show you our AV cabinets and lighting control panels. You can touch and see how much space is required and you can plan. This really, really helps get the message to people what it is we can do and they leave saying, “Oh wow, this is so much more useful than looking at a PDF - I'm so glad I came down.’”

Working with high net worth individuals

Dealing with the high net worth individuals of the world has given Evans a sense of perspective about how best to build relationships with NV’s target clientele; “ With these really, really high net worth individuals of the world, there's one common denominator between them: they generally may not immediately trust you as they have so much wealth,” states Evans.

“It’s essential to build that trust with them and can show that you're there to do a good job and you care about the project and the success of it (and will make some money along the way, but won’t rip them off).” He continues: “These type of people are so rarely sought after to these high net worth individuals that you'll probably make a friend for life to be honest. I think that's one of the most important parts of my job.”

Looking to the future

Looking ahead, Evans is sure the giant marketing budgets of the Apples, Googles, and Amazons of the industry will grow their presence in the smart home sector, but they’ll still be a place for the CIs of the world. “These IoT products aren’t going away, but I don’t think that these companies are going to wipe out our market by any stretch.”

He adds that in the local market, the industry faces a significant challenge in adapting to the current post-Brexit vote climate. “This has led to a guarantee of uncertainty and us to consider how different London might look in ten years’ time. Foreign money is still going to be important to live and work in London in 10 years’ time,” he says. “A vast majority of our projects have come for money from the city of London and it possibly may not exist in the same shape it does now ever again,” he concludes.