Tag Archives: Smart Home

VOICE CONTROL: THE SOUND OF 2018

Smart home sales will dominate 2018, driven by voice control, and wireless headphones still present a huge opportunity, claims Gekko managing director Daniel Todaro

What does 2018 have in store for consumer electronics? The trends all seem to be pointing in the same direction and I have been saying throughout 2017 that it’s no secret – the smart home is set to dominate 2018.

With a sharp increase in products available in mass distribution in 2017, increasing 14.5 per cent year on year and gaining popularity among consumers, including technophobes, the smart-home category is going to grow, with more choice and greater integration to establish AI interfaces as the norm for many.

The smart home is the connected home and includes smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, which is estimated to be a $13 billion business by 2024, fuelled by the increase in network connectivity and a rise in demand for connected-home devices, such as thermostats.

The home automation element of smart living is expected to grow – especially when you consider that it’s not just thermostats that you can manage from your smart speaker, but also lighting, security cameras and door bells to name a few. This creates an increased opportunity in a category that’s still growing and definitely not stagnating. In fact, it’s estimated that consumer spending on smart-home technology is expected to grow 29 per cent year on year.

Evolving

The market is, of course, evolving and 2018 will be the year that the marketplace starts to get a lot more crowded, as the category develops from Amazon and Google offering their own range of speakers in a variety of form factors.

Google and Alexa Assistants are also being integrated into products from other hardware brands, such as Sonos, which has already released the Sonos One – with Alexa. It also hopes to integrate Siri and Google Assistant soon.

Apple’s HomePod will hit homes in 2018 and will, of course, garner attention, but its Siri solution offers some weak competition. Audio brands such as Yamaha, Libratone and Ultimate Ears all announced Alexa-driven smart speakers at IFA this year, with Sony, Philips and LG adding Google Assistant integration to their smart products.

So how do you choose between one solution and another? Well, research conducted by Stone Temple indicated that when 5,000 of the same questions were asked to Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, Siri and Alexa, it was Google Assistant that came out on top with 68 per cent of questions answered, compared with 21 per cent for Amazon’s Alexa.

In selling the smart home, we know that in many instances it will require an assisted sale to do the category justice. This is important to consider, as retail value is expected to reach €5.11 billion (£4.5bn) worldwide this year.

More importantly, the opportunity in 2018 is that 44 per cent of shoppers don’t know whom to trust to install their smart-home devices.

So, consider what has been discussed in ERT as part of the Turning Point debate, and look to exploit the trends and develop the opportunity into profitability by starting to focus on smart home installation. Products that come with installation, like Hive by a British Gas engineer, could gain an edge over products like Nest, where the homeowner would normally have to source their own installer.

Consumers welcome a full-service solution, and with 35 per cent of smart-home sales in 2018 expected to be for energy management and with 19 per cent for home-security, there’s plenty of opportunity for the switched-on retailers. So why not create a solution that assists in the install and integrates every smart-home device as and when a consumer adds to their connected-home environment?

Another major trend is the growth in wireless headphones. Although currently only accounting for less than 20 per cent of all headphones sales in the UK, a seismic change is expected over the next 12 to 24 months. By 2021, they will become standard, with worldwide sales projected to reach 206 million units, up 96 per cent on this year’s anticipated figures.

Phenomenal

This phenomenal upsurge is driven by the increasingly rare 3.5mm jack in premium smartphones. This growth will be reflected across a wide spectrum of price points and brands, meeting the needs and expectations of younger generations who demand no ‘wires’.

Retailers will need to be able to match this trend in their ranging and also consider compatibility for iOS or Android devices, as not all headphone products may work on every device.

Trends in retail execution are also set to change further in 2018, as identified by Barclaycard, whose research found that shoppers want new and engaging high-street experiences, such as in-store events, and are spending more when they find them. Those UK retailers who are tapping into this demand have seen annual turnover increase by an average of 14 per cent, according to Barclaycard research.

Retailers who are already investing in such events are now planning to double this investment over the next two years, as more than a third (36 per cent) now host events in-store, from classes and courses to exclusive sales previews. The research also showed that decision-makers are planning to increase investment for in-store theatre by a further 113 per cent over the next 24 months, suggesting that some retailers, maybe your competition, now view this kind of marketing as key to driving footfall and boosting sales.

With a lack of innovation from some CE categories, keep on top of those ‘growth’ categories and retail trends in 2018 to be top dog.

Read the article at ERT Online

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WHAT YOU SHOULD BE STOCKING THIS CHRISTMAS

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Christmas comes but once a year, so target customers with what they want and capture your share of that lucrative seasonal peak in sales, advises Gekko managing director Daniel Todaro

It’s Christmas and there’s nothing that gets people more excited than the gift of technology.

We Brits rack up a staggering £11 billion on credit cards to fund the ‘perfect’ Christmas and we start early. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of shoppers begin their gift shopping in the three months before the big day and 48 per cent just one month before. So it’s time to start your Christmas ranging.

In this world of plenty, deciding what to stock can be a difficult decision for a retailer, so keep it relevant to what your consumers either need or desire. To do this, it’s essential to be in tune with your customer base and the latest trends. What was selling five years ago may not be relevant today.

A good place to start is a category that’s most definitely relevant – the smart home. Listen to your peers and follow the advice of the ERT Turning Point summit participants: “All it takes is a small bit of space to introduce the smart home to your store – even just a metre square is enough to bring a whole new category to your customers”.

The smart home is a great opportunity for retailers looking to widen their customer base. With the smart-home market expected to be worth £53.4 billion by 2022 – an annual increase of 14.5 per cent – it has been assisted hugely by sales of ‘smart’ speakers from brands such as Google and Amazon.

Google has integrated its Google Assistant into products from other brands, such as Sony, Panasonic and JBL, increasing reach and popularity. Amazon Echo and Alexa is also being integrated into speakers and soundbars from Yamaha and other smart-home devices, such as thermostats from Hive.

Further proof as to why you don’t want to miss out on the action is the fact that 42 per cent of these smart speaker ‘early adopters’ have gone on to buy a second device. The message is clear. The smart home is here to be expanded in your range plans and with smart speaker products available from £49, ranging needn’t be an expensive investment.

Justified

The decision to range smart speakers can be justified by the fact that demographics indicate some users have never bought actual physical music. When you consider that 52 per cent of all music streamed is by the 16 to 24 age group, it’s clear to see why the wireless speaker market is set to increase 21 per cent in 2017 – equating to 55 million units shipped globally.

A study from Nielsen affirms that connected technology is the highest use of media devices among 18 to 24-year-olds, and this age group uses connected tech five times more than those aged 50+ age. That will not only grow, but also change to include older age groups very rapidly, as the smart home becomes a mainstay for all.

Music on the go is another growth sector opportunity, with headphones set to increase four per cent to 368m global unit sales this year. Premium audio brands are increasingly moving towards wireless technology, meeting the needs and expectations of younger generations. As consumers favour the wireless approach to music and media on the go, retailers need to be able to match this trend and also consider compatibility for iOS or Android devices – not all headphone products will work on every device.

The smart TV category continues to grow and is, of course, relevant to retailers in the run-up to Christmas. In the EU, smart TVs account for 57 per cent of all TVs sold, which surprised me.

It does, however, demonstrate that there is a continuing market for smart TVs and, more importantly, an opportunity to upgrade customers.

With UK shoppers spending in the region of £474 (£305 EU average) on around eight people this Christmas, the need to meet the magic £59 price point in your ranging is essential to capture the 73 per cent of sales achieved in retail for at least one gift.

Giving shoppers this experience on the shopfloor is what can set independent retailers apart from multiple and online retailers.

Off course, an omni-channel approach should not be ignored and where you can’t physically display products because of space restrictions, implement a system that enables online ordering and 24-hour click and collect from your store.

And remember, the smart home is not just for Christmas – so embrace it all the time

Read the article at ERT: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/jingle-bell-stock/

 

 

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Connect with your customer

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.

Excitement

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.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/connect-with-your-customer/

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All I have to do is stream…

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Once again, the annual CES trade show in Las Vegas has shown us the future of consumer tech, from TVs to smart fridges, electric cars and even a wi-fi-connected hairbrush.

Some new products may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, such as LG’s PJ9 floating speaker, which hovers above its base station and offers 360-degree omnidirectional sound. However, most were much more down-to-earth, with many brands, including Sony, JVC, Kenwood and Audio-Technica, revealing new products pushing the boundaries of HD audio quality.

For audio giant Sonos, music streaming integration was a major theme. It announced a partnership with Spotify to allow seamless integration between the music streaming service and Sonos’s own app, which will mean users can manage their music without having to switch between apps.

Likewise, Naim’s newest Uniti all-in-one systems featured compatibility with all major streaming services, accessible via the built-in touch-screen. Expect this sort of user-friendly brand integration to be a major theme throughout audio in 2017.

Figures for 2016 show that 11 per cent of the UK population have a Spotify account, (around 5.7 million people), and around 2.6 million UK people have an Apple or Google Music account. The UK streams over a billion audio tracks each week – up 68 per cent year on year and up 500 per cent compared with 2013. Moreover, 45 billion tracks were streamed in 2016 – that’s around 1,500 per household per year – and streaming revenues grew 65 per cent for the top providers.

Total music revenues were up 4.6 per cent despite falling physical music sales and with streaming continuing its meteoric rise, this is good news for retailers stocking premium audio. Further integration between speakers and streaming services is a clear selling point. Use these announcements to highlight this connectivity to customers.

With 52 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds regularly streaming music online, increasing your range to suit different demographics can help to broaden your store’s appeal.

Sony’s upcoming SRS-XB range of Bluetooth speakers are a perfect example. They will appeal to younger audiences, with the two top-end models delivering lighting effects with an LED perimeter line-light, a strobe flash and speaker light that creates multicoloured patterns, ranging from pure white to rainbow, so you can have the lighting synchronise with the music.

This is all controlled through Sony’s SongPal app on your phone or tablet to start music playback, turn the speaker lighting on and off, add a speaker, or link up to 10 speakers. Make sure to utilise the product’s features to create some theatre in-store and attract potential shoppers to the audio area.

 

Smart speakers

The emerging smart speaker category is taking the technology found in smartphones (Siri, Google Assistant, etc) to the next level by adding a personal assistant to your living room or kitchen. Combined with a high-quality, 360-degree speaker, these smart speakers are fast becoming a staple in the audio market. The main players in the category are Amazon with its Alexa assistant, and Google with its Google Home smart speaker. These two are joined by Microsoft, which announced its own speaker featuring its digital assistant Cortana, in partnership with audio brand Harman Kardon.

As personal assistant technology continues to develop, expect the popularity of smart speakers to increase. As brands continue to integrate their services with Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana, consumers will begin to take notice of the real-life benefits of owning a smart speaker.

All these new audio announcements at CES prioritised high-quality audio, giving users the best possible sound. When displaying premium audio products in your store, you may not be able to sell the content, but you can help people experience quality audio.

Set up an area dedicated to premium speakers and headphones. Invest in a Spotify or Google Play Music subscription, allowing your display speakers to stream high-quality audio at the touch of a button. Make sure each speaker has plenty of room around it so as to produce the highest quality sound. And make sure smart speakers are connected to the store wi-fi.

Add-on sales are also achievable in this category through the introduction of wi-fi boosters. The Sonos Boost is a rather clever, powerful signal booster designed to ensure reliability of a Sonos over a large area. Make sure shoppers are aware of these products and potential issues they may face if their wi-fi network isn’t up to scratch. Also think TVs and soundbar options – there are many ways to bring audio into the sales mix. Aim for at least a 25 per cent add-on target with every sale.

Create an immersive experience that allows the shopper to fully utilise the speaker as they would at home. This is the best way to create an emotional, real-life connection.

Ensuring that your staff are trained correctly is also vitally important. With an expert staff member on hand to assist with demonstrations, shoppers can be reassured that the product is right for them and their needs.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/all-i-have-to-do-is-stream/

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Smart staff for a smart sale

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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.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-staff-for-a-smart-sale/

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The ‘C’ word

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Now, your grandmother may not like it, but connected viewing and content are changing the way we watch entertainment, and changing the shape of traditional broadcasting as we know it.

We, as consumers, like to time-shift our TV viewing. No, not like the famous Quantum Leap, but watching what we want when it’s convenient for us to do so.

In May, 13.7 per cent of all TV was watched time-shifted via a catch-up service, up from 6.9 per cent in 2010. This percentage will most certainly continue to grow as more consumers make use of connected services.

With the increase of streaming options and greater bandwidth from our broadband providers, there are many options for consumers to watch their favourite shows that don’t involve a TV, not forgetting very smart services like Freeview Play and Sky Q.

We love streaming on the go and away from the traditional living room setting, with 32 per cent of total viewing time being done through streaming on a device other than a TV. That’s 11,221,204 hours a week in the UK.

We will stream anything it would seem, with four episodes of EastEnders topping a recent catch-up list. What we seem to avoid watching on catch-up and make an effort with is appointment TV, for example live sporting events, which meant sport did not break the top 50 of time-shifted programming. Rather, sports topped the live streaming list, with consumers looking to watch the match with everyone else rather than catch up later.

On top of live streaming and catch-up services, some smart TVs and streaming devices also give easy access to TV and film streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Quality productions such as Orange is the New Black, which costs nearly $4 million an episode to produce, and House of Cards, costing slightly more at $4.5m, have meant that paying to stream is an acceptable proposition. Netflix will spend $5 billion on programming in 2016 – this is on a par with traditional broadcasters such as Fox Networks, and higher than CBS.

Quality, and the ability to be more risqué, is paying off for the non-traditional content producers. They are new, credible and serious players, mixing up the way we consume drama, and now also factual TV.

With Netflix boasting 81 million subscribers in its quarterly earnings report, it’s easy to understand how connected content and the ability to view via multiple devices is again changing the face of broadcasting and how we consume TV. With the BBC license coming in at an exceptionally good value, £145.50 a year, it’s a lot of high-quality media on many platforms to even consider it expensive. But, with Netflix averaging £89.88 and Amazon Prime £79 a year, it’s got tough competition from all angles, Government included.

Grandma might be happy with her old terrestrial channels, but many consumers will be looking to access all this amazing content by upgrading to a new smart TV or other connected device. For your store, connected services are the perfect USP to sell these new products – smart TVs are rapidly becoming the base level for the category, much like HD is now. What’s important is reassuring consumers that these services will enhance their viewing experience, not hinder it with difficult-to-use software or hidden charges.

Have a smart TV set up in your store with a live aerial feed and internet connection ready for your staff to demo. Let interested shoppers interact and play with the TV, letting them explore the features and benefits of streaming and catch-up services, demonstrating their ease of use and accessibility to free terrestrial catch up or paid for content. With GfK estimating that over five million 4K TVs will be sold in the UK by the end of 2017, smart TV is complementing UHD in equal measure.

With demand services making up four per cent of TV viewing for all ages, and more than doubling to 8.7 per cent among the same 16 to 24 age group, it’s understandable that Amazon can afford to spend $4m per episode on The Grand Tour, and Netflix’s market capitalisation is now $42.3 billion.

If you aren’t offering streaming devices and content cards like Google Play, you aren’t giving your customers, of all ages, what they want and are potentially missing out on an opportunity to increase your margin.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/the-c-word/

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Smart Move

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The connected home is now reality, not a fantasy. The global market for smart-home appliances is expected to be worth $38.35 billion by 2020, and will only grow as demand and consumer interest in smart appliances increases. Shoppers will be looking for smarter appliances, but these can be balanced with regular models depending on a consumer’s desire to have some or all of their devices connected.

Some categories are clearly just jumping on the bandwagon, such as a connected SDA, which is in most cases an expensive and underused version of a regular appliance.Yet when considering the connected home from a long-term financial and time-efficiency perspective, some are valid purchases, once you’ve weighed up the cost against its potential long-term worth. Many of these domestic appliance products are, however, costly and there’s a good chance that if you could afford a kitchen and utility room full of connected devices, you’re perhaps not going to be the one cleaning or cooking and directly using the connected devices.

For retailers, the margins on smart appliances are evident, however this must be weighed up against unit sales, which may mean a lower margin than your bread-and-butter range could achieve if it were occupying the same space in your store. While the investment in ranging smart appliances may not be attractive at the moment, remember that sales in John Lewis stores in the smart-home category increased by 81 per cent year on year from 2014 to 2015. This is a growing trend that will likely spread to independent retailers, as smart appliances become increasingly more mainstream.

Having a select range of smart appliances gives your store an aspirational product and proposition for shoppers to consider when looking for a new washing machine or fridge. It’s worth considering that many shoppers looking to purchase a new appliance are doing so as a ‘distress purchase’. These consumers will be looking for a reliable device, not necessarily one with smart features.

However, a demonstration from a knowledgeable staff member connected via a tablet or smartphone, to explain the benefits of the smart system, may persuade many shoppers to purchase for the long-term benefits. These include compatibility with future smart appliances they may add to their home.

My advice is to pepper your range with connected devices, but don’t forget the mass-market appeal of traditional appliances and offer choice at all price points and functionality.

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-move/

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