A ‘seamless customer experience’ appears to be the current obsession for retailers – mobile, desktop, in-app – a preoccupation with working out what customers want, even before they do and they’re getting pretty good at it. But Bricks and Mortar retailers have the added pressure of the in-store customer experience and this is where it’s all change.
I’ll continue to rant about the merits of brick and mortar retail (someone has to) but not because i’m old fashioned but because statistics say we should care. According to the ONS, while online sales continue to rise, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales in March 2018 was still only 17.4%.
I also read an interesting stat from Murphy Research in e-marketer that 69 percent of U.S. internet users make a retail brick and mortar purchase in an average month while only 22 percent make a retail purchase online in an average month (and 9 percent buy something online for in-store pickup). Our own research conducted last year ‘shopper influencers’ also supports this hypothesis.
The importance of brick and mortar retail to a local economy and a town’s dynamic cannot be underestimated. Fewer shops equals fewer jobs, which increases instability and deprivation. Fortunately, traditional retail isn’t dying it’s just changing and I personally don’t think retailers are keeping up with this pace of change and consumer demands for format, feel and functionality.
So, we had a look at smart home tech one of the fastest growing consumer categories – according to EY some 59% of UK households are expected to own a smart home device by 2022 – to see how or if retailers were capitalising on this surge in interest and the results were pretty insightful.
The study found that whilst 56 percent of adults have bought the latest must-have smart home tech including WIFI controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers most have little idea how to use what they’ve bought. To the extent that over 30% said they regretted buying at least one or more items of smart home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running and many said they couldn’t get all their devices to connect – which is the whole point of having a ‘smart home’.
Coupled with this, nearly a third said they never read instructions or manuals when they buy a new piece of kit and 21 percent admitted that although they have a love of tech, they are intimidated by the complexities of it.
Of the most popular smart home tech items forty five percent said the trickiest bit of kit to install was security equipment including app-controlled doorbells, motion sensors and CCTV, followed by smart lighting (28%) and smart heating system (35%).
And despite its current popularity, 30 per cent of adults that have purchased a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home don’t understand or use all its functionality.
Smart home tech is popular, but people don’t know how to fully utilise it to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning. Maybe the learning is lost for the majority of these customers because they chose to buy online but there’s clearly a customer need and experience that’s not being fulfilled by brick and mortar retailers.
We can talk endlessly about multi-channel integration, increased personalised experiences, fluid shopping between on and offline but ‘experience-centric’ shopping where consumers can ‘play’ and be served by a retail team that understand each product in detail and can match consumer need to product performance, is surely where brick and mortar retailers can always win?
We’ve seen huge strides in ‘experience’ shopping but there’s still a long way to go for brick and mortar retailers to make every customer visit worthwhile by fully utilising their USP – the fantastic team that meet and greet their customers every day.
Article by Daniel Todaro, Managing Director at Gekko
The results from a recent study this week by field marketing agency Gekko entitled ‘Smart Home Shopper’ reveals that more than half of Brits have purchased smart technology for their homes – but have no idea how to use it. The survey by was conducted among 1000 UK consumers between that ages of 18 and 55+.
The study which investigated smart home purchasing behaviour found that 56 percent of adults have bought the latest must-have smart home tech, including WIFI controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers – but have been left scratching their heads when they get them home. In fact, three in ten consumers regretted buying at least one or more items of smart home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running.
Nearly a third of adults say they never read instructions or manuals when they buy a new piece of kit, while 21 percent admit that although they have a love of tech, they are intimidated by the complexities of it. Thirteen percent of consumers who have invested in smart home technology said they couldn’t get all their devices to connect – which is the whole point of having a ‘smart home.’ More than one in ten have used a piece of smart home tech once and never again.
The trickiest bit of kit to install was security equipment (45%), including app-controlled doorbells, motion sensors and CCTV, however 28 percent couldn’t get their smart lighting to work and 35 per cent came unstuck when installing their smart heating system. Twelve percent claimed poor WIFI connection made installation difficult and 15 percent confessed to lacking any technical ability.
Surprisingly and despite its current popularity, 30 per cent of adults that have purchased a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home don’t understand all its functionality.
Those people that bought their smart home tech from a bricks and mortar shop did so to play, touch and feel the product (40%), get advice from sales staff (30%) and a demonstration (30%).
Dan Todaro, MD, Gekko comments: “It’s clear from our study that smart home tech is popular, but people don’t know how to fully utilise smart home tech to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning.
This is a great opportunity for retailers, especially bricks and mortar to improve the customer experience within the smart home tech category by having an environment where consumers can ‘play’ and a retail team that understand each product in detail and can match consumer need to product performance. By solution selling it’s a win win for the customer and the retailer – the retailer can enrich the sale by demonstrating the whole product portfolio and functionality and the customer gets a product that’s fit for purpose.
Traditional retailers have never been under so much financial pressure to adapt to today’s market conditions, so they must use what they’ve got to make every customer visit worthwhile.”
Other key statistics:
Key Stats – Pain:
50% of consumers invested in smart home tech purely because they like trying new gadgets and 30% to save money
54% of consumers think smart home tech is too expensive
17% of consumers get stressed out trying to operate their smart home tech
Key Stats – Passion:
Consumers tend to use their smart home speakers for playing music (56%), getting answers to questions (46%), getting news & weather updates (35%) and making notes (27%)
Key Stats – Purchasing:
Thirty Seven per cent of consumers went to bricks and mortar stores to by their smart home tech so that they could play, touch and feel the product (40%), get advice from sales staff (30%) and a demonstration (30%)
Once the stuff of science fiction, the connected home is now a reality, with smart technology now found in almost all categories across consumer electronics and domestic appliances.
Consumers are starting to take a real interest in the smart home. But it’s up to retailers to bridge the gap between desire and knowledge, offering consumers a personalised service. This is an area where independent retailers can excel over their multiple counterparts.
Although there is clearly demand among consumers for smart products, many retailers may still be sceptical that the smart home is the future. If you are a sceptic, take a look at your top-end TVs and MDAs – chances are they all include smart features that your customers aspire to have in their homes.
New smart MDA products, such as the LG InstaView fridge-freezer (pictured) and the Hoover Wizard smart oven, have additional features to complement your customers’ lifestyles. You can offer these smart MDA solutions as the top of your ranging. Soon all appliances and CE products will be smart. Customers who have bought that smart TV or washing machine are likely to come back in-store looking for the next appliance to complete their smart home.
If you are thinking about ranging smart-home products, but don’t know where to begin – start small. There are plenty of products that require only a small 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 and a great way to introduce customers to the category. Likewise, ranging at around £70, smart light bulbs, such as Philips Hue or Lifx, are a great smart-home product, allowing consumers to switch on their lights or change the colour, and can be linked to a device such as Google Home.
Then you can move on to other key smart-home areas, such as thermostats from Hive and Nest, and smart security products, such as the Ring video doorbell. These products are more of an investment with an average basket value of £123, but the lifestyle benefits will appeal to interested consumers. Similarly, smart speakers are an up-and-coming category creating a lot of excitement.
As recently published in ERT, a survey by German electronics retailer Reichelt found that 56 per cent of Brits were already using, or would consider using, a voice-controlled connected device in the home. However, 55 per cent did not know how to install them or would need to seek professional help.
There is definitely an opportunity for independent retailers to fill this gap, offering customers professional installation or even training in-store from a member of staff. With some multiple retailers lacking the wi-fi connection needed to fully set up a smart speaker or security system in-store, set your shop apart by offering a full demo-ready model of all your smart-home products for shoppers to try out. This could make your store an obvious destination.
But it’s important that you don’t confuse shoppers with technical jargon. Make sure your staff are communicating what the smart home offers each customer, 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 product, your staff have been thoroughly trained and are able to answer any questions. Shoppers will want to be reassured that the device is easy to install, unobtrusive and convenient for them.
This will help inspire customers to come to you to upgrade all their appliances to create a smart home for themselves. With the average basket value of a smart-home purchase trending at £105, the prospects are good.
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.
Recent research from McKinsey claims that the Internet of Things (IoT) offers a potential economic impact of $4 trillion to $11 trillion a year by 2025, equating to 11 per cent of the world’s economy. Now, that’s surely a reason to get involved?
Every technology brand is acutely aware of the need to create innovative connected products. Some are more aware than others, such as Hoover with Wizard, the UK’s first fully connected kitchen app that enables you to control and view the status of appliances on the go.
IoT devices, once thought of as the preserve of premium brands, are now becoming the norm in retail, with many shoppers expecting more connectivity in their appliances and devices. Hoover is not alone in giving consumers ultimate control at realistic prices. Look at the beautifully designed Hive Active Heating 2 with a range of new features and a family of complementary products.
The demand for connected products in the UK is growing. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identified that 59 per cent of people agreed or strongly agreed that it would be useful to control devices in the home when out and about. Consider the possibilities this offers your consumers and the connection sales IoT offers your store for those upgrading one or many devices. A massive 70 per cent would also value the safety and security features a smart home would offer, increasing the opportunity to range complementary products, offering a choice to consumers expecting more.
When selling connected devices, it’s easy to over-complicate the “how it works” element from a technical perspective. Too much focus on explaining the reliance on network connections and sharing data may confuse the customer and worry them unnecessarily. To sell smart-home solutions without over-complication, the focus should be kept on the practical benefits – namely being convenient, safe and fun.
The ways in which this technology should be introduced to customers is to focus on the lifestyle benefits offered by your new connected product.
All retailers must consider the 50 per cent of shoppers who would buy smart products for their home if cost weren’t an issue. Likewise, retailers need to consider that 39 per cent of shoppers are worried about the privacy issues associated with IoT. As a new category, shoppers need reassurance that the products they are considering will truly benefit their lifestyles and are worth the extra cost, and that they will not put their privacy at risk. This reassurance needs to be reinforced on the shopfloor by staff, making training on IoT products a priority when entering this new category. If your staff can talk with authority about connected products, you will see consumer knowledge, and ultimately sales, improve.
The IoT is about innovation. What better way to market your store’s expertise in IoT than through targeted digital campaigns to your customer base via smartphone and email. Continue the customer journey from online to in-store with working digital displays and staff on hand equipped with wi-fi-connected tablets to explain and demonstrate the benefits of IoT products. Consider also inviting consumers to try interacting with connected devices from their own smartphone, further enhancing the customer experience. It will also demonstrate the ease of use and spark their imagination to consider how they can immerse themselves and their home in the IoT.
Brands like Hoover and Hive demonstrate that innovation need not be at a premium when integrating IoT devices into your home. With a number of brands adding to the already growing category, ranging IoT products will put you ahead of the curve, perhaps enabling the IoT to become potentially more than 11 per cent (forecast) of your total revenue.
Importantly though, the IoT remains a new category that can overwhelm shoppers. Training staff to speak with authority and concentrate on the lifestyle benefits created by the products will transform an unknown category into a staple for your store.
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.