I continue to be fascinated with the concept of the smart home – or as some call it, the connected home – because I think that technology will have an increasingly dramatic impact on high-end home brands during the next few years.
I was reminded of this crazy new world the other evening when I received word that one of my clients in the Internet of Things (IoT) category had been named the Innovative Product of the Year at the Consumer Electronics Show, the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the market.
We are still evolving from technology that allows us to interact with our devices, to technology that allows our devices to interact with each other. Like any disruptive innovation, these early days are jam-packed with potential for smart companies who can connect what’s technologically possible with a real consumer need. But these days are not for the timid and faint of heart. I think it will require real leadership and vision for a smart home brand to embrace the smart home.
Here are a few interesting insights that have big implications for high-end home brands:
Consumers Can’t Tell You What They Want.
When Chrysler invented the minivan and Apple invented the iPod, they relied more on their own “spidey sense” than they did on focus groups. So you and your company are really going to have to show some leadership here if you want to be a player in this space.
According to a recent study from Affinnova,
“Consumers have great faith in the technology to come, but even early adopters have trouble articulating what they would want from smart products. While 57 percent of all consumers strongly agree that the Internet of Things will be ‘just as revolutionary as the smartphone’ for our culture, they don’t know how or why; 92 percent say it’s very difficult to pinpoint what they’d want from smart objects, but feel that they’ll know it when they see it. This means traditional consumer surveys are likely to provide very limited insight, leaving companies unsure about which features to include and how to communicate their value.”
Consumers Generally Agree that Smart Technology Will Be Ubiquitous.
The Affinnova study also showed that nearly six out of ten consumers expect “something big will inevitably come of the Internet of Things.” Although there is a lot of doubt, confusion, and lack of awareness today, “they’ll wonder how they ever lived without them in 20 years.”
Another consumer survey, this one from Acquity, projected the adoption rates for a variety of smart home devices. For example, while less than 10 percent of consumers expect to purchase a smart thermostat in the next year, the total expected adoption will ultimately approach 70 percent. Connected security systems and smart refrigerators are not far behind, with ultimate adoption rates projected to be in the low 60’s.
Consumers Prefer Safety and Saving Money.
At this early stage, consumers are most interested in utility over novelty. Products that help conserve energy, check on things remotely, and handle basic household tasks, outweigh the computer interface built into therefrigerator.
“For many people, being able to complete tasks remotely is a way to quell anxiety—by verifying that doors are locked, curling irons and ovens are off, the garage door is closed and so on, once away from home,” said the authors of the Affinnova studyThe Acuity study showed that consumers are “more likely to pay a premium on a smart home device that offers safety (e.g. a smart smoke alarm) over novelty (e.g. a smart fridge) (83 percent of consumers were willing to pay more for a smart alarm, compared to 59 percent who were willing to pay more for a smart refrigerator).”
I think about these findings like this: Sure, the technology is super-cool, but like the debut of the iPod, the technology isn’t the point so much as it is the simple consumer benefit that the product offers. In the case of the iPod, it was “your entire music library fits right in your pocket.”
How is it that you can solve a consumer need with smart home technology?
If you’d like to learn more about the reports mentioned here, you can download a copy of Acquity’s report here and Affinnova’s report here.