Smart shopping for smart homes

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Retail Marketing Group category director Naomi Palmer discusses the smart home market and how to help greater numbers of UK consumer embrace smart products

Consumer technology lies at the core of the ideal contemporary home. Neither a utopian fantasy or an overly-ambitious vision; the Internet of Things (IoT) has already provided homeowners with the ability to have far greater control of electric appliances.

Despite these advancements however, many consumers are reluctant to embrace this transition into innovation. This can mainly be put down to a lack of understanding about the value of smart home technology.

Amidst this, consumer technology providers must find a way to overcome this sense of confusion and uncertainty to ensure that the smart home market is able to fulfil its exciting potential and not fall short of the mark.

What’s out there?

The smart home market has seen a rise in innovations such as smart speakers, smart lightbulbs and smart kitchen appliances. At the touch of a smartphone button, we can perform an array of tasks, from changing the heating and lighting of our living rooms, to using a voice-activated artificial intelligence (AI) to change the channel on our televisions.

We also cannot ignore the role that smart home technology plays in security. You no longer have to be rich and famous to enjoy 24/7 home monitoring, with smart products that offer motion sensors and cameras that send alerts and can be controlled by a smartphone.

Smart home technology has the intelligence to understand your patterns of behaviour and to provide a tailored experience. We cannot overlook the vast benefits of smart home technology in terms of control, convenience, security and accessibility.

Beginning your journey

Getting started however, can often be a challenge. Where do you even begin to explore what would work for you?  How do you know what really is useful without having to waste money in the process?

UK consumers have been relatively slow in embracing the idea of the IoT in their homes.  A recent PwC UK study of 2,000 consumers found that whilst ownership of smart devices has more than doubled in the last two years, the majority of consumers (52%) still have no plans to invest in connected home technology. The study highlighted the perceived complexity of smart home devices and the doubts over the financial benefits as the main reasons for this.

This scepticism has also been reflected in a study by Retail Marketing Group. With three quarters of shoppers questioned having no smart products at home, this is a market with a huge potential to generate more sales, especially considering that one in three are planning to purchase a smart home product within the next year.

Those same shoppers were asked about what would give them the confidence to buy. The majority of those questioned claimed that they were motivated by a good purchase price, understanding the benefits of the technology and long-term cost savings.

Resoundingly, there was a lack of understanding as to why they would benefit from the technology, with some feeling it was more of an excessive luxury, rather than a means to a better lifestyle. It is therefore up to smart home brands to make them see hidden value!

Winning the hearts of consumers

So, the race is on to engage these consumers and give them the confidence to buy products for the smart home. But how?

Easy, by finding a way to allow consumers to see first-hand how the technology works with a hub of information, that can be tailored to their specific requirements. A demonstration of voice-activated AI for example, is far more insightful than reading about its specifications, and providing an interactive experience that will be rewarded with sales. This is an area of customer experience where traditional brick and mortar retailers can far outperform their online competitors.

They can achieve this by investing in brand ambassadors who intimately understand the technology, so that they can guide shoppers on their purchase journey by building personal connections. This creates an emotional connection that leads to trust and long-term brand loyalty.

Eventually, it seems inevitable that more consumers will buy into the vision of smart home technology. The most successful smart home brands will be the ones that recognise the importance of building long-term relationships with evolving shoppers in the modern retail climate.

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