The smart home is an area where indies can excel with their knowledge and service. Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko, suggests how to move into this growing sector
Last year ERT’s Turning Point survey identified that 38 per cent of independent electrical retailers didn’t think the smart home was right for their customers. Can you honestly say that reflects consumer demand in 2018 and is a commercially sound position to take?
The positive news is that techUK has identified that 39 per cent of people agree that connected technologies offer an attractive proposition, up 10 per cent year on year. With the appetite for smart products on the increase, energy supplier E.ON UK has reported that 73 per cent of households have already invested in some form of smart technology.
This is a huge indicator that the ‘connected home’ is a category with opportunity for all – and if you’re still in doubt, take advice from management consultancy Accenture. Its research shows that the connected home offers energy suppliers a potential £2 billion in revenue by 2020, driven mostly by adjacent smart markets, from connected kitchenware to smart sensors, and clearly defines the smart home to be a lucrative market.
It was also no surprise that the smart home really dominated CES, in particular smart speakers and voice control, which at present are gaining ground in the UK, where the market is expected to grow threefold from its recorded three per cent penetration. This UK growth will contribute to an industry with an estimated global worth of £225bn by 2020. That’s only two years into the very imminent future and to gain from this multibillion-pound category, ranging for any CE retailer should be a serious consideration.The breadth of current and potential future smart appliances that retailers will all be ranging, and the scale of business opportunity to package services from third parties around them, suggests smart homes will need to be a significant category in any independent’s range planning.
Following some extensive web ‘scraping’ by the Gekko team, the appeal of smart home is obvious, with retailers such as John Lewis, Currys and even Very.com ranging more connected-home products across all category segments. This includes home monitoring, home heating and smart speakers – all increasing average prices 47 per cent year on year.
So how do you tap into this market?
It’s up to retailers to bridge this gap between desire and knowledge, offering consumers a choice complemented by a personalised service. This is an area where independent retailers can excel.
For those that are still sceptical, why not start small, ranging products that require limited investment, but can have a huge lifestyle impact for consumers. Smart plugs, such as those from Hive and TP-Link, allow users to control their appliances from any smart device. From turning on a lamp to making sure your hair straighteners are turned off, smart plugs are an inexpensive and easy to install smart home solution, and a great way to introduce customers to the category.
Likewise, ranging at around £70, smart light bulbs such as Philips Hue, Hive or LIFX are a great smart-home product, allowing consumers to switch on their lights or change the colour depending on their mood, occasion or décor. In addition, these products link to a device such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
If you want to impress shoppers, this functionality can easily be set up in your store to provide a live demo and experience to your customers, but make sure you have a strong wi-fi connection to avoid disappointment. Awareness of connected home innovations is in the top three of current technology trends as published by techUK, which established that 77 per cent of those surveyed had some knowledge, but only one in 10 ‘know a lot’ about it.
Once you’ve established the category, move on to other areas, such as thermostats from the likes of Hive and Nest, which have seen ownership increase to eight per cent since 2016 and are set to grow with a recorded 32 per cent who say that they are interested in buying in the near future.
Consider the opportunity for independents to fill this gap in the category by offering customers solutions, such as professional installation or even additional training in-store from a staff member. Become a solution provider and make your store the destination for smart-home shoppers.Smart security products, such as the Ring Video Doorbell, Nest Cam and Hive View are also on the increase, up four per cent, and with the range of these devices from many brands at appealing price points, it’s becoming affordable. These products are the next step for those delving deeper into the connected home, with an average basket value of £173. However, the lifestyle benefits of these smart-home solutions will appeal to consumers, who are estimated to be activating an average of 8.7 connected home devices in any one household.
With all smart products, a general description of how they work may not suffice for customers. Before buying, many need to see it working just as it would in their own home, and experience the potential benefits to their lifestyle.
Aim to have a demo-ready model of each product to demonstrate their functionality to shoppers. Equip staff with a wi-fi-connected tablet. Even turning a lamp on and off remotely, will bring the product to life.
Don’t confuse shoppers with technical jargon. Make sure your staff are communicating what the smart home offers each individual, be it peace of mind when leaving their home for a long period, the money-saving benefits of a smart thermostat, or even the convenience of a smart assistant.
Equally, make sure that, when demoing a smart home product, your staff have been thoroughly trained how to do so effectively and are able to answer any questions posed.
This is where your staff training is really key. Give your customers that experience of the smart home and inspire them to upgrade all their appliances to create a smart home for themselves.
And with the prospect for additional or repeat purchases, if you get your range right and your staff trained to create a connected-home experience, the smart-home category can become a cornerstone of a CE retailer’s business.