Tag Archives: Smart Home

Smart Watches, Smart Choice

Daniel Todaro, Gekko’s managing director discusses the growing trend in smart watches, as we all look to monitor our health more closely and the wider acceptance these devices are gaining in the wake of COVID-19

Lockdown turned the attention of many to fitness and general wellbeing to make the most of the limited options available to exercise our bodies and minds. Therefore, what easier way to monitor this than through a Smartwatch, to give us that additional incentive or red flag to get up and be active within the constraints we all encountered. As a result, the market experienced a 20% surge in sales for Smartwatches during the H1 period that included lockdowns across much of the globe. The Wearables market is forecasted to grow in 2020 by 27%, with average selling prices dropping 4.5% but increasing to be a market worth over £18 billion.

It is fair to say that the popularity of smartwatches has been driven by advances in miniaturisation, through smaller and smarter sensors enabling ergonomic product design in devices. In fact, research and advisors, Gartner, are predicting that 10% of all wearables may be discreet and nearly invisible in the near future.

Beyond the hardware, is the trend in development of apps and services to complement wearables. Apple’s recent announcement of Fitness+, Amazon’s new Halo, and Fitbit’s Fitbit Premium, connect users with health and fitness content giving consumers guided workouts, coaching and diet advice, while incorporating data from their wearable device. For many this creates greater advocacy towards a brand’s ecosystem, making the software equal to the hardware when consumers make a choice on which wearable is right for them.

You will not have missed that Apple launched the 6th incarnation of its watch, which over its product lifecycle has contributed considerably to the smartwatch market. Indeed, Apple holds the largest share of a category that shipped a staggering 92.4 million units in 2019. Fast-forward to Q1 2020 and the increased popularity in the Apple Watch saw 4.5 million units shipped, holding a 26.8% share of the market. Whilst not to undermine this impressive lion share of the market that Apple holds, it’s important to note that there are other equally as good, if not better, wearable brands and devices available on the market. In total, all brands contributed to global sales across the category and in some instances shipping more than Apple when you include all Fitness wearables from Trackers, Body Sensors and Smart Wristbands.

The other significant market leaders in the smartwatch category are Fitbit, who shipped 2.5 million units in the q2 2020, as well as Samsung who held a 10.8% share in the first quarter of 2020. Other more sports focused brands, such as Garmin, extend the Smart watch category towards the pro athlete types that would never consider any mainstream or ‘lifestyle’ brand. Also, let’s not forget the many ‘challenger’ brands that are impacting on the market and chipping away at the category leaders share. These include the Chinese company Xiaomi, whose Mi Band fitness tracker has been witnessing great success creating a market share of 20.4% in Q2 2020. Put all these brands together and the category is forecasted to grow having already successfully shipped across all brands 33.7 million devices in Q2 2020.

The value of this market has developed 34% year-on-year as more consumers adopt smart devices for health and leisure reasons.

The integration of smartwatches into our lifestyles has become ‘normal’ to many across all generations who now couldn’t live without these devices. This growth in popularity and acceptance across all demographics and wider markets will see the category grow further and ship a forecasted 156 million units in 2021, an increase of 14.4%.

This increase will certainly see the smartwatch landscape potentially change with shifts in operating systems as Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit enables it to bolster its health and fitness offerings. As you can imagine, an aggressive acquisition strategy is likely to be on the cards adding more OEM manufacturers to its list of Google Wear OS providers. The competition will undoubtedly get fierce with Samsung’s Tizen also looking to gain share with its own fitness-focused Galaxy watches. Therefore, the need to innovate and compete against challenger brands becomes even greater and adoption will be greater if the integration and compatibility of your smartwatch fits in seamlessly with your other devices.

Fitbit, who you could argue created the category, has recently launched the Sense product that responds to the growing desire from consumers to better understand their lifestyle and increase wellbeing. Features include Stress Management, Compatible ECG App, Skin Temperature Sensor and Sleep Tools for Better ZZZs. All bundled up in a competitively priced and design-led product that is compatible with all iOS and Android devices and can be customised to mix and match with colours and accessories to broaden, not only compatibility, but also its appeal.

Pre-empting this battle is perhaps the reason why Apple has launched the lower priced Watch SE that sits between its premium and entry-level legacy devices. This will enable the brand to benefit from the growth, to be stimulated through an aggressive land grab dominated by Google, Fitbit, Samsung and challenger brands such as Xiami and Huawei. It is widely recognised that the market for basic smartwatches and bands will benefit from the youth market whom these challenger brands offer a cost effective entry into the category and perhaps also those late adopters to the category.

With the gifting season upon us, against the backdrop of Covid-19 and people not being able or perhaps opting not to go to gyms, the options for smart health to increase its reach are obvious. Extending this to the older generation who perhaps value the peace of mind of understanding vital statistics without the need to book appointments and venture into surgeries may increase forecasted growth.

What we do know, it is the established users who remain an important sector, as they demand that their smartwatch does more and we are less coy about wearing these daily in place of a traditional timepiece. In fact, according to market research from Kantar, British consumers are not shy in admitting they use a fitness tracker, with 15% happy to claim publically to owning a smartwatch. Adopting them as a lifestyle choice to be used more widely across families and friends, thus increasing acceptance and contributing to the wearables success story.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Smart at the home heart

Gekko’s managing director, Daniel Todaro reports from IFA 2020 in Berlin on the latest in smart tech home appliances and the evolutionary trends in IoT

IFA 2020 is a much smaller, intimate socially distanced affair in Berlin. The event organisers have done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open all be it, not to the general public.

The Corona effect has impacted the industry at a global level and as we come out of having spent quite possibly the longest continued time than normal in our own homes, consumer’s desire for new technology to enhance their space has grown. The industry knows this and my business has seen this since retail reopened with an average conversion to sale of over +60% and ABV increase by +10%.

Drivers to purchase range from replacement to upgrade, desiring the latest in smart CE to complement the extra time we are now spending at home but also just in case we are forced to spend another lengthy lockdown in our cribs.

One of the long-term effects of lockdown has been that people are now spending more time at home, by choice, centred around the kitchen meaning that more of what we consume needs to be made or prepared using technology. This extends to how we wash, not only those pots, pans, crockery etc. but also how we clean our clothes and our homes, in addition to working from home and socialising. Brands within the category have jumped to the call of more innovation, more integration, and more space. The design of the home is evolving faster due to Coronavirus making consumers keen to enhance their quality of life at home through smart technology whilst not compromising on aesthetics.

Designing f or the new normal
A brand that seems to have designed to meet this challenge post lockdown is BSH, which has added not only smart technology to its range but also a third shelf in its dishwashing range. It’s also increased the size of its freezers with an extra 26cm of cubic space. Its neat invention, Connected Cookit, is a multifunction food processor with cooking functions that cooks up to 200 degrees. It’s a slow cooker, but not as you know it – it makes it, cooks it and connects to your voice assistants and your smart devices so you can control it remotely. This connectivity extends to BSH ovens, dishwashers etc. from your Fitbit whilst you venture out for a run meaning that you can still be in the kitchen, when you’re not.

Innovations include changing hues of ambient lights on hoods, dishwashers etc. to match your mood or interior and also programming your coffee machine to make the perfect cup of coffee just as you, your family and your guests like it, bringing the barista out in you.

Investment in R&D is the key shout out across all brands showcasing at IFA this year. Amongst the largest was $100bn from Huawei who are committing to developing technologies encapsulated in an initiative called ‘1+8+N seamless connected living’ on which Huawei is in the first chapter and that enable a connected future for all. In reaction to the US sanctions imposed on Huawei and those who worked with the brand, Huawei have risen to the challenge admirably engaging directly with almost 460m monthly active users, 33m in the EU alone. The App Gallery is the third largest app store globally, increasing 76% YOY naturally due to the loss of Google services meaning Huawei users have limited choice but to do so. Petal search, the new search engine from Huawei, now has over 100m users with 81,000 apps integrated. Relevant apps are on the platform meaning that whatever the USA government tried to do to dampen Huawei has backfired and served to make the brand stronger in the market.

The investment extends into retail, where others fear to tread, Huawei are leading the charge and opening eight flagship stores across major cities such as London, Paris, Milan which will be complemented by 42 experience zones that offer a user experience unrivalled so they claim.

Another Chinese brand making significant noise is Haier, which also owns Hoover, Candy and GE Appliances wants to be 100% connected throughout its portfolio of products. Currently they have 18 families of products that they are developing through app and voice connectivity, “democratic connectivity” according to its CEO, Zhang Ruimin. With a three-brand strategy of Candy delivering Value, Hoover as the core and Haier as premium. Candy, positioned in the market by its parent company as ‘affordable, smart, Italian’ claims to have 1.2 million paired products and 30% active users which in 2019 it recorded that 21% of Candy users were launching a washing cycle using its smart home facility, a multiple of 3 YOY and still growing.

Nova by Candy is a fully connected washing machine powered by your smartphone. The first of its type with one single button to control the MDA but also learning about your usage and making recommendations to enable consumers to wash smarter and ecologically

Impressively it is claimed by Hoover that they sell globally a stick vacuum every minute. The new range will also be connected. H-Wash will scan your label via your smartphone and your connected Hoover H-Wash 500 will select the best program for your laundry. Now that means anyone can do the laundry.

A breath of fresh air
H-Habitat air purifier, connected of course, will assess the quality of air in your home, the weather forecast, pollution stats, pollen count and adapt your purifier to react according to the need within your home. Gathering internal and external air data through the H-Scanner, which activates the robotic vacuum to clear dust and the air purifier to adapt the air quality in your home.

Positioning Haier as a premium brand and claimed to be the fastest growing premium brand (in this category) through creating innovations such as antibacterial laundry and five door cooling each with adjustable temperature zones. Did you know that Haier makes wine storage solutions? They are linking with the Vivino app to help you with how you should store any bottle of wine. By scanning the label, the app will automatically update the temperature of the storage to suit your choice of wine!

The trend at IFA 2020, it would seem, is that every brand is seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with your smart home. It’s fair to say that the big news came predominantly from the MDA sector amongst others.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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CES 2020 Review: The most interesting tech from this year’s show

Gekko Field Marketing MD Daniel Todaro rounds up his interesting tech finds from this year’s CES show

The New Year in tech wouldn’t be the same without CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas between 7th – 10th January attended by almost every established tech brand, start up brands, incubator and brand on the periphery of technology with something to showcase. The products on display range from the expected to the unusual, as in the case of sex tech, which for the first time seems to have found its place and acceptance at CES. As indeed has Ivanka Trump, who was controversially invited to headline as the keynote speaker when arguably there are far more qualified females, actually from the technology sector, rather than this particular privileged individual.

CES welcomed over 175,000 visitors to see over 4,500 exhibitors and 1,000+ speakers making it quite a big deal within the technology industry. It also means lots of product and innovation announcements, such as the smart shower head with Alexa built-in from Kohler, a smart frying pan that analyses your food whilst you cook it from SmartyPans, to autonomous vehicles from the now established brands in this sector and not so with Sony launching its autonomous vehicle prototype named Vision S. The vehicle is a prototype designed to show off the firm’s sensors and in-car entertainment technologies. The dashboard is flanked by an ultra-wide panoramic screen for driving information and entertainment. However, Sony did not indicate that it had any plans to sell the car to the public with Sony’s chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida only stating “We will accelerate our efforts to contribute to the future of mobility”.

Do you Uber? Well in future you may be doing so in the Uber Hyundai flying taxi. The S-A1 concept is an electric powered aircraft with four rotors for vertical lift off and landing and conceptually able to travel at a maximum speed of 180mph carrying four passengers. Flying autonomously at 2,000ft for a maximum of 60 miles, it may be zipping across a city skyline near you in the not too distant future.

Surveillance related technology seemed to be big this year with multiple brands showcasing security equipment such as cameras, doorbells and motion sensors, which is really rather boring and perhaps only serves to feed the paranoia of those who fear the worst. Loosely connected to this category is one of my favourite products to be announced, a smart mailbox developed by Canadian company Danby, which addresses the common problem of parcels thefts and re-deliveries. The device would assist in reducing the carbon footprint of our propensity to order online for delivery rather than buy in-store. The smart mailbox will apparently go on sale in the UK later this year offering a box which has an anti-theft drop-in slot for smaller packages opened with a code or smartphone app. The app will also be able to place phone calls between a parcel courier and a customer if they need to open the box remotely. I suspect this will get simplified should usage increase amongst users and online retailers.

Samsung Balie device
Samsung’s Ballie – a tennis ball-like robot that rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’

Another neat headline grabber announced at CES 2020 was the Samsung tennis ball-like robot called Ballie. It beeps and rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’. Ballie also acts as a fitness assistant, can help with household chores, and activates smart home devices such as robotic vacuums when it thinks something needs to be cleaned. However, in common with the Daleks, it will find stairs a challenge! No release date has been announced, however AI and 5G are the main focus for Samsung in 2020 and not Bixby, as had been much hyped last year. Another product launched by Samsung and to be available in the UK and US later this year is the Sero TV, a rotating TV which connects to your phone. Perfect for Generation Z or those who spend equal time watching on a small device as they do TV. It can be rotated from landscape to portrait and is only available in a 47” 4k screen and estimated to land at £1,200.

Another twist on the laptop came from Dynabook. Majority owned by Sharp and formally Toshiba, the brand that launched the world’s first laptop computer in 1985, Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. Weighing in at an impressive 0.9kg and sporting a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor the Portege X30L-G is built using a magnesium-alloy chassis and includes a full-size HDMI. With Gigabit Ethernet, up to 24GB memory and Wi-Fi 6 the device also includes a TPM 2.0 IR camera and fingerprint reader.

Not to be outdone was Lenovo with its ThinkPad X1. A dual/ folding screened laptop with an Intel processor that runs Windows on a 13” screen when unfolded. It is slated to arrive mid 2020 in the US at a price of $2,499 with no word yet on UK pricing.

In fact, there were a rash of foldable screens on display this year and it certainly seems to be a trend not looking to abate soon, making 2020 potentially the start of a flexible decade. Foldable screens were launched on devices from turkish brand TCL and its prototype Foldable Phone (no name as of yet) and Dell with two concepts, the Duet – Foldable Notebook and Ori – a Foldable Device, unfortunately no plans to release these have been indicated. The much publicised Motorola Razr foldable phone was on display which has been available for pre order since December but was set for released during January 2020.

As you can imagine, smart speakers and assistant-enabled products were everywhere at CES 2020. With over 46 third-party Google Assistant-endabled products and 40 Amazon Alexa ones, it made the presence of both brands more notable throughout the show, with Google creating theatre to engage, as they do best.

Google revealed, for the first time, user numbers for the services is at 500 million people in a month and also a whole range of new features enabling users to schedule certain tasks with other connected devices. The features will allow users to, for example, schedule the washing machine to start its cycle at 6pm and also upload contacts from your phone to your Google Nest Hub.

Users will also be able to leave Sticky Notes on the screen for others in the house to see and have the ability to control 20 different types of devices through Google Assistant, which is needed with the increasing third party product partnerships.

Dynabook Portege X30L-G laptop
Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. The Portege X30L-G weighs in at an impressive 0.9kg and sports a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor

Now we are all busy people and many time saving devices were on show but two stood out to me. The first will make sure we never need to drink a warm tinny again. The Matrix Juno supercooler is a kitchen countertop device priced at £300 which uses a thermoelectric cooling engine to absorbs heat using electricity known as the Peltier effect. It can cool a can of beer from room temperature to 4oc in two minutes or a bottle of wine to its desired 9oc in five minutes.

The other is the Y-brush toothbrush from FasTeesH designed to clean your teeth in 10 seconds. It’s a mouthguard type contraption packed with bristles that vibrate to clean all your teeth at the same time, arriving in March at around £100. I can’t help but think that making time by speeding up the process of cleaning your teeth has never been a priority for many, the cleaning is what counts.

Not wanting to ignore the most progressive news at CES this year, I think it important to highlight and applaud the CES organisers decision to now formally allow sex tech brands to exhibit at CES in 2020 after many years of exclusion. What this means is that sex tech companies are on the same playing field as all but in particular the established tech giants. However, there are exclusions with those companies exhibiting sexual wellness products having to agree in addition to the CES’s standard contract and rules also a separate sex toy addendum.

Why is this a progressive move? It’s predicted to be a $50 billion industry by 2025 and as taboos tumble and generations embrace a pragmatic approach to sexuality and sex, it’s an industry sector the ‘big players’ may wish to enter and penetrate as a lucrative growth market.

With so many new products announced at CES 2020, what does it mean for retailers? And how must they adapt to innovation across existing and new categories? Experience. Consumers are looking to experience innovation in order to make educated purchasing decisions. Whether that be by seeing a foldable screen in their hand to believe it, engaging with a personal robot to realise its value to them as a user or see that TV rotate 180 degrees, it’s all about the in-store experience a retailer can create where no online retailer can.

Innovation needs to be experienced live, not online and the retailers who can identify with this can cut through to make the tills ring by giving the customer an experience worth coming back for and spreading the word. People are never going to stop shopping on the high street. It’s just the way they shop and where they are do it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of high street retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel the brand.

To read the article on PCR online click here

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How 5G will boost the smart home market

PCR Blog

Over the last few years, smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s white paper, ‘Connected Home 2.0’, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. But despite this, a recent survey we carried out into the connected home highlighted consumer frustration with smart home technology, with consumers citing that they can’t get their smart home technology to connect to each device and talk to each other, they have no idea how it all works, they are worried about security and there’s little perceived benefit or value.

Whilst this may sound negative, this presents a huge opportunity for 5G to boost further device adoption and showcase the future possibilities in the home.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look round your home, count up the numerous devices that rely on a strong wireless connection to stream, to work, to secure, to survive – tablets, mobiles, TVs, voice assistants, PCs, thermostats, light-bulbs, alarms, cameras, and gaming right through to connected appliances. Without a good connection, they can all come to a grinding halt.

Stadia by Google is an example of where 5G and gaming complement each other. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future. Now with Stadia, the internet – accessed increasingly via 5G – will be your store, with the network and data centre as your platform.

The innovation that is 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, faster, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion, 5G will enhance the possibilities for entire communities and not only the smart home.

This will pave the way for 5G enabled fully integrated living spaces that adjust to the needs of each member of the family, changing the way people entertain, consume media, use their utilities, communicate and cook. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home are only the start and we’ve seen just a fraction of what personal assistants are capable of. Google announced at CES earlier this year that it wants to make its assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life; in the home, in the car and on mobile devices. 5G will be that enabler.

Layer on top of this the possibilities of 5G enabled in-home augmented and virtual reality for cooking. Imagine at the touch of a button, Delia or Jamie standing next to you showing you how to cook one of their recipes. Sit down with your friends and family to watch a tennis match and image real time sports data appearing over tennis players as they hit the ball. 5G will make smart homes even smarter by unshackling developers from the speed restrictions and other issues that exist with today’s solutions where devices rely on Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth connections.

For those who feel security could be an issue, the good news is that mobile operators are ensuring security is built into the fabric of their 5G networks and there’s no reason for 5G networks to be any less secure to use than 4G. When connecting a device to a 5G network the same protocols you’d apply to security software, passwords etc. should be applied as normal, however it is worth noting that all data sent over 5G is encrypted and 5G devices will offer increasingly advanced security options. Interestingly, according to research from Ericsson, 29% of people would like DNA authentication to be a biometric security option.

The reality is that 5G can provide a more consistent approach, making things easier to setup and thus encouraging product development through to subsequent consumer adoption and increased usage of the vastly developed Internet of Things. With inbuilt future proofing, one of the most interesting effects will be the societal impact 5G will have for our ageing population, assisting those who are fit but may be less able to manage themselves. This may blur the lines between hospital and home. For many, it’s more effective to manage the healthcare of patients who require the most resources from home rather than via our currently overloaded NHS. In addition, its adoption can reduce loneliness and speed of response in the event of an emergency.

We’ve already seen how sensor operated smart home tech can alert families to movement, so they know their elder relatives are up and about in the house and not lying there injured. There are also remote surgeries where doctors see patients by video call, however buffering is often an issue in remote locations, which makes the service more difficult for vulnerable people to use. The implementation of 5G will take this to a whole new level; real-time remote monitoring of medication usage; food intake levels and exercise; connecting the vulnerable to seamlessly operated telehealth services and tracking indicators from sleep to blood pressure and insulin levels.

It can help power personalised, preventative and smarter care capabilities and elevate connected medicine to an unprecedented level, helping elderly people live fulfilling and productive lives on their terms. This is exciting times for a growing societal issue here in the UK but let’s not underestimate the understanding we need of the health ecosystem and what it will take to implement the systems to connect to these technologies.

The opportunities 5G technology offers all generations extends beyond the home and to the streets through autonomous vehicles, traffic management and the smart monitoring of the environment around you, telling you in real-time, for example, where best to avoid pollution on your daily run. Moreover, everything you would currently expect to be able to access or control in the home will be available to you wherever you are, without any comprises imposed on you by being away from regular Wi-Fi based connectivity.

Ericsson forecasts that by 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9bn, and that coverage could blanket up to 65% of the world’s population.

The UK’s largest network operator, EE, was the first to launch 5G in the UK on 30th May, 2019, beaten by the Swiss who launched in April. Service started in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester, with several other cities joining before 2020. Vodafone also launched on 3rd July 2019 in seven cities with 12 other cities to be included before 2020. Three will join the 5G race in August in London. A total of 25 other locations will get 5G in the UK via Three before 2020. Lastly O2, with no published launch date, announced its plans to roll out its 5G network in 2019 in Cardiff, London, Belfast, and Edinburgh to start, with more areas getting 5G in 2020.

Whilst the UK is already partially 5G enabled, devices are limited and we’re not that far ahead of the vast majority of developed nations whom all plan to launch in 2019/2020 such as Germany, Italy and Norway all behind Vodafone Spain who are ahead of all EU nations having launched on 15th June in 15 cities.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Grab your piece of the action

ERT Blog

With Smart Home product sales set to boom over the coming years now is the time to get in on the action and here, Rupert Cook, Sales and Marketing Director at Gekko, looks at how this can be done.

Here at Gekko we’ve been talking about the Smart Home for over four years now. Back in 2014, we commissioned research into ‘the connected home’ and asked consumers what they thought of having digitally connected devices in their homes. The vibe coming back from the 2,000 respondents wasn’t exactly positive.  When asked about what kind of product they would consider, smart thermostats came top of the list with 44% expressing an interest. Over a quarter said they wouldn’t be interested in any form of smart device.   The principal concerns cited were expense and the technology being deemed as not necessary.

Thankfully for us all, things have moved on from then and the numbers speak for themselves. Analysis by PWC The global market for smart home is expected to be worth $50bn by 2022. Around 30% of people are planning to purchase a smart home device for the home in the next two years and looking at just one product category in the smart home arena, Smart Speakers, further illustrates the potential. In 2017 Amazon sold 33m Echo devices whilst Google dominated selling more than one Home device per second from its launch in October 2017 to mid-2018.

Consumers aren’t only purchasing smart home products; they’re also discussing the merits online. A study by Crimson Hexagon indicates that positive sentiment is growing from 60% to 80% in the last year, another sign that smart home technology sales are poised for blockbuster growth.

So what will 2019 bring for the smart home. Well CES, the annual consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas, is only just around the corner and a quick search for the subject on their website schedule brings up roughly 100 talks, seminars and events on the topic. Smart home is without a doubt going to be one of the lead stories for many journalists and the category will become more diverse, with new innovations and services coming to the mainstream. Looking beyond just the smart home, it’s worth noting that 5G technology is on it’s way in 2019 as it’s rolled out to certain cities in across the UK. With speeds 20 times faster than 4G, the advance is only going to hasten the Internet of Things and connectivity in general and will in future open up new possibilities for consumers. Everything from refrigerators and window shades to your family car will be linked, while housekeeping robots and next generation digital assistants facilitate day to day activities.

The potential is there for CE retailers to capitalise on the opportunities and as indicated by the ERT Turning Point survey back in October, 45% of respondents have been looking at the Smart Home as a new area for their businesses. There are however challenges that have meant slow consumer adoption. To be successful at selling smart home solutions, retailers need to acknowledge and overcome these barriers.

The perceived complexity of systems is one of the principal hurdles for consumers, so it’s essential that the sales approach simplifies the options available and doesn’t overwhelm the shopper. It’s easy to get carried away and attempt to impress by reeling off the endless possibilities of what can be done; ‘if you buy this, install these, connect it to that, then you’ll be able to get Alexa to run the household…’   The chances are that you’re going to elicit the response ‘Great but I’m never going to do that’.

Our Smart Shopper research from earlier in the year showed that 21% of people love the idea of the smart home tech but were intimidated by the complexities.  Look to address this and you can have these types of customer eating from the palm of your hand.

The idea of complexity isn’t helped by the challenges of market fragmentation. On a typical shop floor, product groups tend to be disconnected – smart lighting, smart speakers, thermostats, security, home appliances etc. all displayed in separate areas. This makes it hard for consumer picture the totality of what’s actually possible within their home. All the shopper can see is competing brands, competing products and competing technologies. There is a general fear that if you buy into a particular brand then you’re on a committed pathway as there is no guarantee you’ll be able to integrate with other devices or solutions.

Retailers must plan, order and merchandise to overcome these inconsistencies and create a conducive sales experience. As an example, the Google Smart Tables in some multiple retailers bring together their devices with compatible third party products such a Philips Hue and in doing so bring the category to life.

Intrinsically linked to the above points is the need for the human touch. For all the great interactive displays that can be installed to bring the concept and possibilities alive in-store, there needs to and effective sales person on hand to guide and advise the customer. Otherwise, what will happen? The shopper will do their own research from the comfort of home before making an online purchase.

In creating effective sales people, the approach to training is obviously fundamental. For retailers, sales teams should be able to present an agnostic solution, understanding the bigger smart home picture rather than focusing on specific product types. Retailers should also tap into the product training on offer from suppliers and take up any offers of seeded or loaned kit, creating users and thus advocates of the products.

Consumer education is the key to expanding the use of smart technology into the modern home and retailers sit on the front lines of that effort. For all the pessimistic talk surrounding physical retailing it should be remembered that it still accounts for 80% of consumer sales in the UK. There’s an opportunity for bricks and mortar retailers to demystify the smart home and become the shop of choice for consumers looking to invest in the tech. And our recently published study shows how shoppers desire great retail experiences, with 81%  claiming the personal touch has disappeared from customer service in modern British retailing. Moreover, a third said that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, with a fifth saying it would make them spend more. By offering up a great experience, education, advice, opinions and added value services such as installation, the smart home is certainly a category where you can battle against online retailers.

To read the full article please visit ERT

For more information on our research please visit Gekko.

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KEEP CUSTOMERS IN-STORE FOR LONGER

The show must go on

Retailers need to give people a reason to come into their stores and an experience that will keep them there for longer, and learn from the stores that are doing it right, says Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko

 

In these challenging times, in-store theatre is possibly the retailer’s most powerful and effective way to attract more customers and convert more sales.

Some may argue that Maplin was a great loss to the high street, and I agree, as it served a niche exceptionally well. For the casual passer-by, however, it didn’t entice them in to browse and spend. It lacked theatre that appealed to a wider audience by not defining its ranging to demonstrate that it was a category expert – the place to go.

So what could Maplin have done better to attract a more diverse customer base and stand a chance of surviving? Perhaps translating the customer journey seamlessly through all of its marketing to entice a customer in to purchase through the power of in-store theatre?

When any kind of advertising is used, print, online or broadcast, the stock needs to be in place and the display easily understood, with the message clear to passers-by to remind them of what they saw in the advert. This should culminate in a working display that engages the consumer, backed by knowledgeable sales assistants to guide the customer through the brand experience and close the sale.

Up to 77 per cent of consumers say they research products before buying from a retailer in-store. For electronics, 52 per cent of those turn up in-store to see it, feel it and hear it with a view to then go and buy it online. This need not be so if the customer experience is exemplary and the interaction insightful. The shopper will more often than not be converted and buy on the day, because the item was in stock and the ‘considered’ sale was made easier with the help of knowledgeable sales staff and associated in-store theatre.

A recent above-the-line brand campaign we ran achieved 47 per cent of all sales within 21 per cent of a retailer’s estate by using retail theatre. Bringing the product to life in a real-world environment enabled consumers to understand the product and how they could use it in their connected home.

 

Beautiful

John Lewis recently invested £33 million in its new store at Westfield, London – and it is a beautiful store. It is laid out exceptionally well, but what makes it different from other stores is its theatre. They really get the concept of retail as theatre, as does the luxury sector, which cossets you in the brand.

While the luxury sector appeals to a narrow demographic, John Lewis appeals to a wider and, in some instances, very specific and aspirational audience.

In the CE category, this retailer appeals to the tech-savvy generation that are no longer having to take advice from the kids as they are wiser and more digitally active. Its approach is all-encompassing with an entrance that draws you in, with staff greeting you as you ascend through the store, and pointing you in the right direction should you find yourself getting lost.

The customer journey continues with a well laid-out and working display with a ‘partner’ on hand, should you need one, to guide you through the sale and down to the customer collection point. All strategically choreographed so you can carry on shopping or enjoy the catering on each level – all designed to keep you in-store for longer.

On the flip side, House of Fraser is considering closing 45 of its 59 stores, and Debenhams has reported an 85 per cent drop in profits and put part of the blame on the weather. That’s embarrassing.

Don’t just blame the weather, look at your stores. Where’s the theatre, where are the staff, where’s the customer journey that achieves a sale and entices the new shopper to come back again? Strip lighting, staff that daren’t make eye contact, clutter and constant ‘offers’ aren’t conducive to theatre and a positive customer experience.

There are independents that do theatre well, because they know the value of this investment in increasing footfall and converting sales. Take last year’s ERT Awards Turning Point panellists – Purewell, Moss of Bath and Avensys. They all evidently appreciate the value that theatre has added to their businesses to ease the shopper into a sale. Moss of Bath has seen custom installation grow beyond all recognition from what it was 10 years ago because it brought theatre into its showroom.

Owner Tim Moss has encouraged retailers to “make your showroom less about boxes and more about theatre – show customers something they haven’t experienced before”.

 

Future

Avensys head of retail Martin Jukes adds: “The smart home is the dream for a lot of our customers and that’s where we see our future. If you don’t do it now, you’re going to get left behind.”

Purewell operations manager Ed Griffiths says: “It’s very easy and churlish to think that your customers wouldn’t want the smart home – show it to them. Seeing is believing – people will want it.”

Some top brands also know the power of retail theatre – Apple, Dyson and rather interestingly the four UK mobile carriers EE, Vodafone, 3 and O2. They have become retailers and have decided to sell direct – and are successful at it. This dynamic industry spends proportionately more than others on refits to make sure it stays in vogue. The commodity is turned into a desire, because we always must have a device in our pocket, and the network we choose is not only driven by service and perceived value for money, but also a reflection of our personality. With more than 1,800 outlets across the UK, they are often anchor stores in a high street and offer retail theatre, so increasing footfall on the high street generally.

Coffee shops are a good cue to learn from, too, as their success depends on the way in which the space is used for social engagement, work or as an office. An office where your rent each day is the coffee you’ll order first, then the snack – and so it goes on, with no pressure to leave. Most chains continue to make a profit and are the one retail sector on the increase on our embattled high streets. It’s retail theatre disguised as leisure.

The merger of Carphone Warehouse and Dixons has developed theatre to great effect by borrowing from their respective expertise to blend something quite special. An engaging environment that evolves the proposition to appeal to those with the spending power in line with trends and the consumer zeitgeist. Pulling on all its brands as ‘partners’ to come along on the journey enables both the retailer, and the brands, to succeed together.

Investing in theatre that enhances the experience can bring brands closer to the right people, and the right people closer to the brand.

 

See the original article at ERT Online

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Retail evolution not extinction

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

 

Read the full article here

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New study by Gekko reveals that SMART HOME TECH IS LEAVING NOT SO SMART BRITS BAFFLED

The results from a recent study this week by field marketing agency Gekko entitledSmart 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%)

 

Read Gekko research here

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All the gear, no idea: 56% of consumers don’t know how to use their smart tech

Gekko - Google Retail blog image

The results from a recent study published today 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 little idea how to use it.  

The study which investigated smart home purchasing behaviour found that 56% 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 10 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% admit that although they have a love of tech, they are intimidated by the complexities of it. Thirteen per cent 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 10 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% couldn’t get their smart lighting to work and 35% came unstuck when installing their smart heating system. Twelve per cent claimed poor WIFI connection made installation difficult and 15% confessed to lacking any technical ability.

Surprisingly and despite its current popularity, 30% 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 brick and mortar retail store did so to play, touch and feel the product (40%), get advice from sales staff (30%) and a demonstration (30%).

Daniel 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 the devices to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning.    

This is a great opportunity for retailers, especially brick 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.” 

Read the article at retailtimes.co.uk

 

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SMART HOME: SEE THE LIGHT

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?

Relevant

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.

Read at ERTOnline

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