Trend-Monitor’s research director, Jane Blakeborough, looks at consumer attitudes to the connected home, what may be holding them back and how KBB retailers can make smart tech more relevant to their customers
Q: Is the connected home really the future or, as many in the KBB industry suggest, is it just a gimmick?
A: For entertainment, energy management and security, the connected home is now a key trend. These areas are leading the way because they offer a tangible benefit to the homeowner in terms of convenience, money-saving or greater piece of mind.
Until the KBB industry starts to understand how people live in their homes and the trends that affect how homes will be used, they will struggle to convince consumers of the benefits and smart appliances will continue to be regarded as gimmicky.
Although the technology is improving and pricing is stabilising, the main barrier remains the indifference to KBB ‘smart’ devices and appliances. Consumers simply don’t ask for them or understand the relevance to their own homes.
Trend-Monitor’s recent research into kitchen purchasing behaviour found that, although the inclusion of a smart appliance when purchasing a complete new kitchen had increased significantly over the three-year research time frame, this was from a very low base. And 35% of those homeowners who didn’t have any smart kitchen appliances said they didn’t think the technology was relevant for their own kitchen, with a further 23% unaware that the technology was available.
Q: How can retailers make the most of the connected-home market and best sell these products?
A: A growing trend within retailing is to create an ‘experience’ for the customer. Apple and Samsung are brands that do this particularly well. Instead of focusing on sales, they allow the customer to experience their products with the help of knowledgeable store assistants.
Reacting to an uplift in searches for smart-home products on its website, last year, John Lewis set aside 1,000sq ft of floorspace in its London Oxford Street store dedicated solely to smart-home technology, with plans to roll it out across their other stores. The area has four interactive zones, focusing on kitchen, entertainment, sleep and home monitoring, demonstrating to customers how technology can be used to control their homes through their smart device.
Creating this interactive real-home environment helps consumers to understand how smart technology can make their lives better by saving time and effort.
Q: Isn’t there a lot more to creating a true smart-home concept than just having smart appliances in your kitchen?
A: A true smart home is one that has a holistic and integrated approach, enabling the different devices to communicate with each other, interact instinctively with the homeowner and provide intelligence regarding expenditure and consumption.
Until now, one of the major barriers to creating a true smart home was the lack of a secure, standardised operating system for the home that brands could build on. Now, companies such as Gideon are entering the market with their ‘smart home in a single app’ concept, allowing all devices to be controlled via one tablet or smartphone.
Q: Is it aimed at all sectors or are we still waiting for it to filter down?
A: The smart home is still very much in its infancy and currently positioned at the luxury end of the market. While low ownership of these devices is unlikely to change in the next 12 months, interest in the automated home is growing. Growth is likely to come in stages, as different categories take off.
Suspicions surrounding privacy and the potential danger of a cyber-attack via your smart appliance have not yet been fully addressed. Research from Deloitte shows that 13% of people are holding back from buying connected devices because they are concerned about their device getting hacked, while 11% do not want their usage data accessed by companies.
Q: Doesn’t the future of the connected home rely on retailers getting on board?
A: Most new appliances entering the KBB market are smart-ready with connected features as standard. However, the longer replacement cycle of KBB products means that this market will take some time to catch up with categories, such as home entertainment.
Retailers can speed up this cycle by providing an ‘experiential’ space with targeted promotions.
Q: Where do you see the smart home evolving in the future?
A: For the smart-home to move into the mainstream market, brands must understand the key trends that will affect the way people will use their homes in the future. These include:
- The growth in single person households. How can smart technology ensure that everyone can come home to a warm, lit house, with tea in the oven?
- The ageing population. How can smart devices enable the ill or elderly to stay in their own homes or in assisted-living situations longer and provide peace of mind to relatives by enabling them to check in remotely?
- Multi-generational families. How can homes be zoned to consider the different requirements of each generation living under one roof – lighting and heating levels, shower settings, eating habits, etc?
- The rise of the celebrity chef. Could connecting TV shows with the contents of the fridge and online shopping lists tap into our national obsession with cookery programmes?
- For more information visit https://trend-monitor.co.uk