A 2018 study by Futuresource Consulting reveals that Epson has held the “number one market share position for projectors for 17 successive years, with total global sales of 23.7 million since 2006.” The company is also the global market share leader for projectors above 6,000 lumens, commanding a comprehensive 31% volume share. In South Africa – Epson owns 52% of the installation market above 5,000 lumens and is currently the top manufacturer for all business projectors in the country.

AV Integration was invited to Epson’s offices in Fourways, Johannesburg, to meet with vice president CISMEA and professional displays, Neil Colquhoun, and hear about the ethos of the company, its plans for future growth on the African continent and the various innovations that have underpinned these incredible sales numbers over the years.

STEPPING INTO PRO AV

Colquhoun explains that, while Epson has been the world’s leading projector brand since 2001, “up until about five years ago, we were known as a mid-range option. Although we did have some professional AV products, compared to some of our competition, ours tended to be seen as good, but perhaps not robust or durable enough for all the markets we wanted to access.”

He describes a process where company officials sat down and discussed what needed to happen if Epson wanted to extend into the field of pro AV, and identified a few key target markets.

When it comes to the higher education sector, Epson projectors have been successfully installed in classrooms, lecture theatres and auditoriums. “We have a lot of success in large university spaces, particularly up to 25,000 lumens – our prime product.” Colquhoun points out.

He goes on to note that museums are another big market for Epson, and this is “because we have some unique technology built around ultra-short-throw [UST] products, such as the X01 and X02.”

Colquhoun continues: “The corporate market was identified as a key target area, including boardrooms, large meeting rooms and the like. Epson owns this corporate space now. Although flat-panel technology is popular, for a large room the cost of a screen remains be prohibitive – if you could even find one large enough to serve the purpose.”

NOT FIRST BUT BEST TO MARKET

On the back of Epson’s strategic move into the pro AV market, Colquhoun reflects on the company’s latest financial figures and says that “Epson’s market share has climbed to 34%. However, if I look back at the figures for the 2015 financial year, it was about 14%. So, we have gained almost 20% of the market in two or three years.

Colquhoun then shares what, in his view, are the reasons behind Epson’s recent growth and enviable market outlook.

“Despite being a late entrant into the pro AV market,” he says, “for us, it’s relatively straightforward. We believe in being best to market, not first to market. We understand that excellence takes time, and we also understand that our customers are customers, not beta-testers.

According to Colquhoun, Epson prides itself on taking a client-centred approach to product development. “We work very closely with headquarters, especially for our EMEA business operations, and it’s all about narrowing the distance between product planning and the market,” Colquhoun explains. “This is because all too often decisions are taken in boardrooms that are both metaphorically and literally a long way from the reality of the market.” Colquhoun is proud of the fact that “customers believe that when you speak to Epson people, your voice gets heard – and this is true.”

FUTURE-READY PRODUCTS

On the topic of listening carefully to customer feedback, Colquhoun talks about some of the latest technological innovations that will be gracing the upcoming Epson product lines.

“We’ve been developing a series of software tools, Pro Tools, which means that you can set up the projector on a PC or tablet, using an app. This saves you from having to do three or four setups and is particularly useful for edge-blending. We also have calibration cameras that can look at colour balance and correct automatically for imbalance and asymmetry. As we work into future products, we are looking at enhancing that camera function to do more interesting things. Without giving too much away, the next generation of products will have even more innovative ideas about how to use the camera for auto-correction and as a time-saving tool.”

Colquhoun talks about other market considerations – such as connectivity, as well as the decision to preference more environmentally-friendly laser technology over lamp projection – and concludes by stating, “At Epson, we like to say: fit and forget. We believe projection should be low-intervention technology, and we’ve built our organisation around technical support. We recruit technically-knowledgeable salespeople who add real value to our customers’ lives. That’s all part of the successful ecosystem we’re trying to build.”