The connected home, moving beyond the early adopter stage, is now trickling into the mainstream. Research we recently undertook highlighted that 17% of Brits would like and have no concerns about installing smart devices into their home. While on the other side of the pond a study by Accenture illustrates that 69% of consumers are planning to buy a connected home device in the next five years.
The entrance of the world’s biggest tech companies into the smart home market is likely to reassure consumers and accelerate adoption. Google’s £1.9 billion acquisition of Nest at the beginning of the year demonstrated its desire to be at the forefront of smart technology while Apple recently unveiled its HomeKit – a suite of tools for controlling home appliances.
However despite the growing appetite amongst consumers for ownership of smart devices, a great number remain unconvinced or cautious, with our research also revealing that an education job is needed on their use and set-up. Backing this up, just over a third of respondents also cited third party endorsements – whether through word of mouth or in-store advice – as the most important factor when researching a purchase. The stat highlighting the emphasis brands need to place on their in-store education experience. Furthermore, education is crucial for putting consumers’ minds at rest. Certainly an important thing to consider when 23 per cent of those interviewed were concerned with the complexity of setting up smart devices and a further 39 per cent were concerned that smart devices would be too intrusive or were worried that their data would be collected and used inappropriately.
What stood out for us from the research, is that human interaction and face-to-face communication is still hugely important in the purchasing journey. Brands therefore need to capitalise on this by developing their in-store strategies with specially trained in-store brand ambassadors. Yet they must also ensure their digital and in-store offerings are unified providing a seamless customer experience.
An example of major brands doing this effectively are Currys and PC World. They are rolling out ‘smart technology areas’ across their stores to help educate consumers and enable them to interact with connected appliances. Moreover they are investing in training their employees on smart technology and launching online microsites for customers which are dedicated to smart technologies.
Another industry where connected home devices are making a huge impact is the energy sector. With the soaring costs of utility bills securing significant recent media coverage, it is perhaps no surprise that smart thermostats to control a home’s heating are the most popular devices followed closely by lighting control systems. In a tight economy, where there is consumer desire to cut back on energy bills and with winter fast approaching, utility brands must start devoting more resources to marketing smart meters.
However as with all new technology it takes time for consumers to get on board and brands must support this journey by educating people on the products available and how they enhance your life by fitting in seamlessly or by accident. In my opinion, the ultimate winners of the connected home will come down to those who can provide a balance of security and privacy, whilst being reasonably priced with useful and intuitive functionality.