How Retailers Can Enter the Mass Market of Connected Home

As the connected home and the internet of things become more sophisticated, one major barrier is customer adoption. It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem, the sort of problem regularly faced by revolutionary new technologies, from electric cars (which continue to suffer from a paucity of recharging stations) to TVs (which, to become useful, needed TV channels to be broadcast). In many cases, widespread consumer adoption needed to take place before the required support networks would appear.

So, purveyors of connected home devices have a challenge: how to push consumer adoption. And there are a lot of stakeholders here, with companies as diverse as energy utilities to reaching for a piece of the connected pie. In this article we will explore the ways that retailers can enter the market of connected home devices.

Sales of smart home devices will probably come from retailers anyway

Even if most of the early moves have come from telecommunications companies, utilities, and cable companies, these companies usually sell predetermined packages of devices, wherein consumers uninterested in part of the package are forced to buy it anyway. Retailers, by their very nature, avoid this problem, able to offer customized packages suited to exactly the devices that the consumer wants.

Likewise, many of the devices peripheral to the smart home systems—wifi routers, for example—will also be purchasable from big box stores, further increasing the convenience to consumers.

Retailers are well-positioned to educate consumers

Part of consumer resistance to smart home devices up to now can be explained extremely simply—they don’t know what they’re missing. Though consumers are becoming more informed about these devices, they are largely ignorant of the multitude of possibilities that exist. So the question becomes: how to educate consumers about the benefits of smart home devices?

If you were a utility, you could try sending your customers educational material—advertising, basically—describing the benefits. This is likely to be ignored. If you were a large company like Google or Amazon, you could insert ads into their email, web searches, or newsletters—again, not a great option.

But what about in-store displays? What about informed salespeople making in person pitches the next time a consumer comes into the store to buy more Nespresso pods? Displays, interactive media, demonstrations, and more by employees can educate consumers about the possibilities of smart home devices in a way that is fun, interesting, and best of all: unlikely to be ignored.

Revenue opportunity through services as well as sales

It’s not just about selling the devices. No matter how much the consumer learns in-store, these devices are still complex, and in some cases (for example with a smart water heater), need expert installation. Retailers can offer these value-added services through a third party, like Mila, where qualified local experts perform complex installation tasks for consumers through a crowd marketplace.

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