I went on to Facebook in 2008 to check up what people could see about my aspiring 17-year-old daughter who wanted to be a doctor. That was when the deluge started –the year after I joined, Facebook went from 100 million to 300 million members. That same daughter is now 26, and is part of the millennial generation, who surprisingly, at first sight, are dropping behind the younger Generation Z in driving technology adoption. Continue reading
Tag Archives: CONTEXT Smart Home Consumer Survey
The SH&BA – Smart Home and Builders’ Association – Retailer & Manufacturer Panel met this past week in London. The attendees were truly a reflection of the convergence of the devices and technology in our homes and lifestyle. Participants represented a variety of industries and sectors including: manufacturing, vendors, retailers, associations, government agencies as well as academia and industry experts. What does such a diverse group of attendees gather to discuss?
Smart Home – The hub of a digital lifestyle
IoT (internet of Things) devices have been in existence for a couple of decades. They enable connecting a variety of devices to the internet to send and receive data. That capability is not very exciting for most customers. But the ability to use IoT to monitor household utility connections to save money becomes a much more compelling reason for consumers to consider a “smart” home.
Many of the examples discussed in the SH&BA forum were about the increasing ease of use for consumers, and the value the smart devices play in making life convenient. Steve Moore from Dixons Carphone illustrated how their Honey Bee becomes a hub to connect many devices in the home. And even more importantly, it becomes the homeowners’ support centre where they can get answers to questions about devices they own. Steve Moore perhaps best summarised the key to Smart Home expansion by saying that we are at the stage where our “Goal is to take the friction out of life”.
Maybe we shouldn’t be calling it “Smart”
Rick Hartwig from the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) made the interesting point that we shouldn’t be using the term “Smart” home. Smart implies futuristic … a long way off. Mr. Hartwig argued that in many ways aspects of the digital “smart” home are already here. Most customers who are online already have at least one device beyond a PC connected to an internet. In the near future, energy and power consumption will be prime drivers for the home owner to adopt “smart” connected technology which adapts its settings to hours of the day in order to save energy.
The Power of Voice is rapidly accelerating adoption
One of the most exciting buzz factors in the smart home arena is the power of voice control. Initially propelled by Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple and Microsoft are all rushing ahead with voice control speakers which become more humanised “hubs” for a variety of smart devices throughout the home.
Keynote speaker Theunis Scheepers brought some cutting edge examples from the evolution of the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. The speaker is the “human portal”, but the real genius is the Alexa cloud platform. The Alexa cloud is essentially an API system that enables partners to connect their devices to Alexa for voice control. In reality the Echo device is an array microphone and speaker – the “smart” is in the cloud that enables the customer to interact in a very natural way of using their voice to direct their digital lifestyle.
The Future of Smart Home
Adam Simon, from CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA Association, updated the group on the latest CONTEXT Smart Home Survey. The trends are clear, and consistently upward. More consumers are aware of “smart home” and more plan to purchase a device for their home, but the patterns vary significantly by country.
From a consumer perspective, smart home adoption is still a “mid-term” play with purchases planned on 3 to 5 year horizon. The exception is in the builder market where whole house adoption is accelerating because it is “built in” as the backbone of the home and constitutes a relatively small part of the overall home market.
If there was one clear consensus and predictor for Smart Home it is that the power of voice will rapidly accelerate adoption. Amazon reported that Echo is now selling at 9X the holiday rate, and the Echo Dot is being bundled as a 6 pack so consumers can cover every room of their house. With the speaker hub and API cloud system we have now reached a stage similar to that of the smartphone with apps that make a connected life possible and convenient.
The next Retailer & Manufacturer Panel will be on 14th November, 2017.
For more information about SH&BA or if you are interested to attend the SH&BA panel please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Guest blog by Chris Petersen, IMS
On Thursday 7th April 2016, John Lewis opened the largest Smart Home retail experience in the UK at the flagship Oxford Street store. I was invited to a preview to see the display before doors officially opened to the public later that morning. I’m thrilled to report that John Lewis have shown a very strong understanding of how to sell these products to a largely ill-informed public. The most recent consumer survey from the CONTEXT Smart Home Research Group shows that public interest has increased in Smart Home products over the past six months, and this growth of interest has been reflected in what we have seen being sold through the UK IT channel. John Lewis themselves today reported an 81% increase in Smart Home product sales over the last year; they, like CONTEXT, see a big market opportunity.
What excited me most about this new display is that it really is an experience. To understand the potential of the Smart Home it’s critical to get a feel of these products in a simulated environment. John Lewis divided the display into four sections: kitchen, entertainment, sleep, and home monitoring. Within each section is a variety of products connected to tablets for consumers to control and try, accompanied by custom-built displays to simulate night/day cycles, or a view from a window, placed around furniture and household appliances. Moreover, I was assured by the John Lewis team that there would always be a sales attendant on duty to show consumers how to interact with products and run them through use-cases. Once again, this reflects the results of CONTEXT’s consumer surveys which highlighted the importance of educating the consumer to bring down purchase barriers.
John Lewis’ proposition is similar to other excellent offerings I have seen in specialist ICT retail stores, particularly in France and Germany, but John Lewis is the first department-store chain in the UK to wake up to the unique requirements for selling Smart Home products successfully. Moreover, the John Lewis team has a clear understanding that consumers need to have a good experience on buying their first Smart Home product in order to secure return sales for more devices. They are also acutely aware of their position as a trusted UK brand, one which many consumers would be happy to allow into their homes for installation. The John Lewis team informed me that installation would be part of the offering, installation that often requires very specific training with accreditation from vendors. I am interested to see how this will operate, as finding a good source of installers is a headache for many Smart Home retailers in the UK.
Should you wish to see the new experience, it is on the 5th floor of the Oxford Street store and positioned adjacent to the TVs and other electronics. I would have liked to have seen the experience placed within the main home section on the 2nd floor where less typical consumers would have had visibility of these products as fewer shoppers will be visiting to buy a TV than cheaper home-wares. However, I am excited to see John Lewis’ move towards experiential Smart Home retailing. The Smart Home market in the UK can only benefit from more didactic efforts in retail.
Chances are that your child wanted a smartphone before you; they probably also pleaded for a Netflix subscription, a tablet, and had several social media accounts well before you had even heard of them. Frustratingly, they also knew how to use them without having to resort to any instructions. Our children know more than us about technology, we rely on them to hear about the latest tech, and their opinion is valued in our purchasing decisions. This is the stark reality of tech adoption nowadays and it’s something that retailers must consider when marketing the next concept tipped to revolutionise our lives: the smart home.
Our European research into consumers’ attitudes towards the smart home revealed that in the UK, Amazon is leading the way in terms of consumer trust: 80 percent of those surveyed would consider buying smart home products from the e-commerce giant. BT came in second with 76 percent opting for the telecoms provider as their would-be smart home retailer of choice. Specialist technology retailer Maplin scored third highest at 60 percent. Traditional retailers such as Currys PC World, John Lewis, and Argos lagged below, convincing only half of our respondents that they would make the most appropriate choice for buying connected home products.
So how can retailers persuade the public that they’re the natural place to shop for smart home products? They need to recognise that to sell the smart home, their approach needs to change. It’s not a matter of targeting one family member, but the whole family. And it’s not just pushing one device, it’s selling the smart lifestyle. French and German retailers such as Lick! and MediaMarkt, are examples of retailers who have adapted their approach and are reaping the benefits.
Imagine that you’re about to leave the office to head home. You know your children arrived back from school just after 5pm as your smart security camera recognised their faces, signalled to the smart door lock to let them into the house, and sent an alert to you and your partner. You left dinner in the oven this morning, and you can now remotely set the oven to slowly heat up the food. You’re also dying for a cup of tea, and set your kettle to turn on when it sees you’re within five minutes of the house. The children are happy as they don’t have to lift a finger. Once the evening is over and your eyelids are getting heavy, one of you wishing your smart home hub a ‘good night’ will mean your house is secured, all unnecessary lights and switches are turned off, and you’re ready to head to bed.
The above lesson is that which most of the retailers are missing. Retailers haven’t yet acknowledged that getting the whole family excited about the concept will be a much more powerful accomplishment than convincing any one family member. Instead of trying to target a lone gadget-lover, they should instead be educating consumers that the smart home can make everyone in the family’s lives easier. The ancient ‘boys and their toys’ stereotype also needs to be forgotten; in fact, our research showed that 65 percent of the UK consumers prepared to spend over £5,000 on the smart home are women. You also need the children to be on board. After all, as the home’s resident tech experts, it will most likely fall to them to find out how best to use the devices. Add to that an explanation of how having a smart home can improve your property’s value, and soon you should have everyone convinced that a connected house is an enticing concept.
Our advice to retailers is clear: create stores or spaces within your stores where shoppers can play with the devices and see the concept come alive will pay many more dividends than the products just sitting on a shelf. Similarly, get your staff excited about the smart home. If retailers boost their teams’ technical knowledge, not only will the concept become more easily sold to consumers, but there’ll be more commercial opportunities in technical support, installation, and insurance. Finally, know the power of the family. Remember that it’s not just going to be one person living in the smart home, so everyone needs to be excited about, and buy into, the concept.
Last week in Madrid, we launched the latest findings of our Smart Home Survey for the Spanish market. The results highlighted the need for education and new retail strategies to support any growth in this sector.
While there are a number of requirements smart home products can address, consumers are not yet aware of these. For example while 65% of respondents said that they worried about their home when they are away from them, only 10% had actually heard about IP Cameras. When consumers were asked where they would purchase smart home products in Spain, Rakuten, Amazon, Carrefour, Telefónica and Iberdrola came top of the list ahead of Media Markt, Worten o El Corte Inglés.
Spanish consumers listed Rakuten (84%) and Amazon (77%) as the most likely places they would buy smart home products in the coming 12 months. Telefónica, which does not yet offer a full smart home product range, scored high with 77% of respondents choosing them as a place to buy smart home products.
Findings also show that DIY firms are challenging specialist ICT retailers with 62% of consumers planning to buy from Leroy Merlin and 54% from Bauhaus. Utilities such as Iberdrola also scored high (62%) and consumers believe that these kind of companies could do a good job installing smart home products in their homes.
From our point of view, we see that traditional retailers must focus on expanding their offerings in the field of the Smart Home, have expert consultants to guide consumers, and help facilitate the installation of these products. As far as installation services are concerned, telecom operators such as Telefónica and utilities companies such as Iberdrola are a step ahead when it comes to accessing a customer base and the to actually deliver services.
Despite current lack of education amongst Spanish consumers, almost 40% believed they would live in a smart home in the next 3-5 years.
2016 promises to be a year of steady progress as consumers come to understand the benefits of the smart home. More people are interested in learning about the smart home, but there are still hurdles to overcome in terms of how retailers explain the concept to consumers, and how the wider industry markets this category successfully.
Last week we held an event in Paris to present the results of our latest survey on the Smart Home. Journalists, key retailers and vendors were present to hear about the current outlook of the Smart Home market, which featured speakers such as Stéphane Bohbot, President of Innov8 and founder of Lick stores, Benoît Van Den Bulcke, Administrator of the Fédération Française de Domotique – the French Smart Home association, Vincent Gufflet, Director of Services at Darty and Adam Simon, Global Managing Director of Retail Development at CONTEXT. Each shared their vision of the market and key concerns the industry should be addressing to ensure the market takes off.
According to our latest survey, 11% of respondents expressed their intention to buy smart home. When trying to assess what the main barriers to the development of the Smart Home market in France were, “a lack of understanding” by consumers (50%) was highlighted as a key factor.
There seemed to be a clear message from consumers to retailers to improve their approach to this product segment and focus on educating, explaining and demonstrating the use of Smart Home products to help the public feel comfortable with this concept in order to increase adoption.
In addition to the ‘’evangelisation’’ of the public, the way products were currently being displayed in stores should be re-addressed, according to Stephane Bohbot, and this is something Lick stores had decided to do this year by paying special attention to active demonstration and presentation of the products.
The Smart Home Survey clearly showed that a number of products in this category met key requirements by consumers. Amongst these was ‘security while away from home’ (80%) and ‘security whilst at home’ (39%).
This is where retailers have a central role to play in educating consumers about the benefits of smart home product purchases.
It is important to remember that smart home product purchases are not necessarily one-off purchases, but consumers have the potential of becoming ongoing subscribers, with opportunities such as SHaaS – SmartHome as a Service. The Smart Home category is beyond product selling and an open door to selling services. 74% of French respondents already stated that they would be ready to pay 15 euros per month for specific subscriptions.
However, in order reap the potential of this market, there is still some way to go. As Yehia Oweiss, VP Sales & Marketing at Hauppauge Digital, said: American retailers have succeeded in making this market take off, there is no reason why Europe cannot do the same too. Retailers need to invest and trust in this market and consumers will follow – just as they did on the other side of the Atlantic.
The buzz on arrival at CES Unveiled, a pre-CES event aimed at journalists and analysts, was the new OLED Lenovo laptop, a first in the PC and displays industry. The screen resolution was so beautiful that I fear that people will spend their time looking at it rather than working. That was almost the only old tech company out of the 180 exhibitors.
The prize in the smart home and wearables arena goes to French Tech – maybe they negotiated a good block deal with CES or else there is something to be watched for in the buzz of activity in what the French call “The Hexagon”. Here they are:
- Withings, an established player, has launched a new temporal smart thermometer with 16 sensors.
- Mother, which caught the imagination in CES 2014 with its array of sensors for tracking activity in the home, has come of age with Silver Mother, essentially the same hardware, but with clever marketing targeting the care of elderly relatives.
- A new start-up called Hydrao has launched a smart showerhead and related app which allows you to track your usage of water in the shower – the colour on the showerhead changes at preset levels and an app gives you warning – teenagers beware!
- Ubiant, a start-up, has won a prize for its energy saving product “Luminion”
- Bee-Wi, with its Bluetooth range of products has launched a watering system which was sprinkling inquisitive people pressing the right buttons on the stand; and also a smart oil diffuser which smelt pleasant and contrasted nicely with the foodie smells of the free buffet being served opposite
- SevenHugs, named touchingly after the embrace the founders of the company give to their 7 children every night – the family is alive and well in France – have launched the first contextual remote control, designed to make objects in the home easily controllable from one device
- But the prize for innovation goes to Qarnot, a start-up, which has invented a computer serving as a heater, in an ecologically friendly way of using the heat which would have been generated and lost in a data centre. Its clients know that instead of having banks of computers in a data centre, they are sitting in people’s houses. The device can also be used to charge your smartphone and can be used as a hub for smart home products
There is a UK tech as well. A company called Smarter has developed a nice range of products, some already well-established in UK retail, that make your fridge smart, detect noises in the kitchen (eg the washing machine has come to the end of a cycle) and weigh products in the fridge to let you know if you have run out – all at an attractive price point of under £100.
I end day 1 with Lowe’s, the only retailer to be present at CES Unveiled. Lowe’s has led the way in the US in smart home with its Iris range, and announced today that it is moving into professional monitoring. With a partner it will operate a service of emergency response to alarms for fire, carbon monoxide, and intrusion in return for a monthly fee. This is the way that Dixons Carphone in the UK has said that they are going, and the latest CONTEXT Smart Home Survey (to be published on Thursday 7th January at our Retail CEO breakfast in CES) shows that there is an appetite in Europe for similar services.