Name: Manolo “Manny” Almagro
Position: Managing Partner
Company: Q Division
Like many of us, Manolo “Manny” Almagro fell into the world of AV by default. In the late 1990s, he was working with clients to create interactive retail experiences, which, at the time, meant a “CD-ROM running a touchscreen on a shelf.”
As rudimentary as that may sound today, it was cutting-edge technology at the time, and not much information was available. So, Almagro jumped into it headfirst with his trademark enthusiasm, working with teams that were installing television networks into retail, primarily by pulling cable—lots and lots of cable—it was the early days of AV and wireless wasn’t quite there yet.
“I got into it because I had to,” he reminisced. “I had to meet the challenges of putting technology into a retail space, or, even in general, putting in any kind of technology that’s going to be used by the public. That was the start.”
Fast forward 20 years, and Almagro is running Q Division, a global consultancy firm specializing in retail audiovisual. How did he get there? “I had to evolve because it’s not like technology stands still—every year, there’s something new. There are better technologies, the augment of wireless video, understanding how to sync audio with video, and the impact of sound in public spaces. All of that kind of came into play.”
Yet, with 20-plus years of AV experience, Almagro still said “I wouldn’t say I’m an AV expert, but I would say I can get pretty dangerous with it and I can talk the talk.” He can definitely do more than talk the talk—Almagro has become famous in his own right. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences like CES, DSE, and InfoComm; In June 2017, he was inducted into the inaugural class of AVIXA Emerging Trends Fellows—an honor bestowed upon industry experts with knowledge of a cross section of critical technology areas.
With experience in audiovisual integration, retail consulting, data management, and more, Manolo certainly is an interdisciplinary expert in innovations, including those we use every day. “As technology becomes part of our day-to-day lives, we start to expect it in everything else we do. It’s a natural progression for it to come into work, come into retail,” he said. “That poses a bunch of new challenges because people have a higher expectation for these retail experiences—how they work, how they collaborate, because of the cutting edge personal technology brings to them.”
And it’s how we manage those expectations that counts. Every day, he mused, there’s a new disruptor, whether it springs from e-commerce, new AV products, or even consumer behaviors. “Retail continues to bear the brunt of everybody’s expectations,” said Almagro. Those high expectations often come with a hefty price tag, but now, commerce is being pushed into these investments. “Retail has always been slow to respond [to technology trends]—it’s a natural thing because it’s an expensive proposition, technology itself, especially when it comes to the AV side. It can get pretty pricey when you look at scale.”
Today, he explained, retailers are focusing on consumer behaviors when implementing new AV experiences into their facilities. “The experiences that we get today are part of a ‘test-and-learn’ approach. They [retailers] will do one or two flagship locations and then figure out how to scale it up to the rest of the locations.”
Creating the AV experience is just the start of the process; from there, it’s about understanding customer behaviors, then returning to the beginning to retool the experience with the insight gained: a circle of perpetual improvement. “The one piece of creating these experiences that is really important is to understand the journey—and it’s not a linear journey,” Almagro said.
Almagro’s #AVSelfie during a CES Retail Innovation Lounge presentation.
Almagro believes it’s critical to take the time to aggregate the data and map it out, which is where AV-as-a-Service (AVaaS) comes into play. Integrators and installers need to sit down and figure out “where people are most susceptible to choosing to interact with you [the end user],” whether that’s on Facebook, live chat, in person, etc. Figuring it out is important because the results can be surprising. For example, you’d think the Millennial crowd would do a lot of their shopping online due to their affinity for smartphones—but that’s not necessarily true. In a 2017 article for Forbes, Richard Kestenbaum found that “a majority of Millennials make most of their purchases offline. About a third of Millennials make the majority of their purchases on a desktop computer. Only 16 percent of Millennials make the majority of their purchases on a mobile device.”
And digital is just one piece of the data; retail applications have years of in-store analytics and have been tracking what’s happening in the venue. Even a simple security camera, Almagro pointed out, can serve as a way to monitor data—when paired with software, cameras can be used to track traffic patterns, number of people in a specific area of the store, etc. He advises integrators to tie all the data together and use what’s happening on the mobile app to assist with in-store promotions as well.
With so much emphasis put on the UX, and the number of retailer designers and consultants finding a home within the AV industry will continue to grow. And Manalo will be there to start them on journeys of their own.
For more on data management, read the Big Data story.
Explore Emerging Tech with Manny at DSE 2018
Almagro will be leading a 45-minute Emerging Tech Talk at DSE 2018. His session, “The Role of AI, Machine Learning, and Robots in the Future of Connected Commerce,” will offer a provocative look at the fast-moving world of emerging technology as it relates to the use of AI and other cutting-edge technology in shaping tomorrow’s retail experiences. The session will also highlight a global view of what companies are doing in this space, how it’s being applied, measured, who’s been successful, and who’s learned from their mistakes.
The session will be held Wednesday, March 28 from 11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. in Booth 2576 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. To learn more, visit www.dse2018.com.