The smart home has arrived, the Internet of Things is gradually making its way into everything from kitchen appliances to thermostats, and you’ll soon be able to control most things in your house from your phone.
The global market for smart-home appliances is expected to be worth $38.35 billion (£28.9bn) by 2020, and is only expected to grow further as our homes become more and more ‘connected’.
In the UK, sales of smart-home technology have increased by 81 per cent year on year, according to John Lewis. Although 66 per cent of UK consumers agree that the smart home is an appealing concept, many retailers are experiencing problems when trying to train their staff to sell this category, which presents some major challenges.
Despite technologically aware customers showing interest, there is still a lower level of demand for smart-home products over conventional ones, meaning that sales staff have limited opportunities to talk ‘smart home’. In some cases, this leads to apathy when it comes to investing time into training. This is not helped by the fact that many staff still believe that this type of technology is the future rather than the present.
It is critical that sales staff understand that they need to educate themselves and develop an interest in this emerging category.
As predicted, virtually all products will become connected over the coming years, so any purchase of a smart product is a safe bet for the future. With 3,427 smart products on the market (from 439 brands) – an increase of 61 per cent – the market is growing.
Another major challenge for retailers is that many consumers struggle to understand the concept of the smart home and its benefits. A quarter of UK consumers cite a ‘lack of knowledge’ as their main reason for not purchasing a smart-home product. Many customers, once given an explanation, understand how the smart home works, but still struggle to see how it will improve or enrich their lifestyle.
Staff need to be trained on how to sell the benefits of the smart home, giving shoppers some context as to how the technology may fit into their lives. A lack of hands-on experience with smart-home products means it is hard for store staff to explain the real-life uses for this technology. It’s no coincidence that higher sales come from those staff that own the product, as they are able to give practical examples of how the connected home has benefited them.
To overcome these barriers, it is perhaps helpful for retailers to move away from selling the ‘technology’ itself and instead outline for customers how the tech interacts with their lifestyle and delivers real, tangible benefits.
Sales personnel should ask more pertinent questions of the customer to establish their wants and needs in order to demonstrate the relevant connected-home product that will enhance and improve their life.
Currently, sales colleagues tend to focus too much on the broadband internet connection, app or other technology involved, which for many shoppers, while essential to know, is still a baffling science and serves to create unnecessary confusion.
A change in approach is vital for retailers to sell the smart home – focus on the benefits rather than the technology itself. Early adopters already understand the technology, but if these products are going to become truly mass-market, it is necessary to make the category simple and relevant to every consumer.
The smart-home landscape is changing as it becomes more sophisticated and reliable. More products will be smart-enabled, as demonstrated by SoftBank with its recent purchase of semiconductor IP company Arm Holdings.
IFA 2016 will without doubt exhibit significantly more innovation from more brands for the smart category. It’s the brave that will survive in this ever-changing market.