The June issue of Hardware Retailing takes a closer look at smart home technology as it relates to plumbing products. However, smart home technology can be found in several categories within the home improvement industry. As more consumers are adopting this technology, there is no better time to either learn about these products or introduce them in your business.
Although there are many new smart home products on the market, only “30 percent of U.S. households are aware of where to buy smart home products or services,” according to a 2016 article by Business Insider.
Currently there is not a specific retail destination to find every smart home device, however, a few big-box stores are establishing their place in this growing industry. In this article, learn how big-box retailers like Best Buy, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Kohl’s are all approaching the smart home niche. Plus, read about ways your business can establish itself as a local smart home destination.
The Big-Box Approach to Smart Home Technology
Although several businesses are selling smart home products, Best Buy is one of the leaders in the category. The store’s show floor display allows customers to see, touch and test out the various products they need.
Last spring, Best Buy forged a partnership with Vivint Smart Home, a smart home technology provider that simplifies the smart home by bringing everything together in one place. According to Best Buy, customers are able to walk into a store and through the display area to learn how to control various products in the home, from smart locks to security cameras.
In addition to selling the products, Best Buy offers customers a service plan they can add on to any smart home purchase, which provides 24/7 remote monitoring with emergency response, phone support, in-home service and more. Plus, professionals set the system up for the customer.
Since Amazon is a leader in this technology but doesn’t have actual brick-and-mortar stores, the e-commerce giant has partnered with several brick-and-mortar chains. One example is its partnership with Kohl’s. Select Kohl’s stores have a designated Amazon Home Services area available for customers to browse. Here they can find Amazon smart home devices, like the Fire TV Stick, the Echo Dot and the Echo Show, which all feature the smart assistant Alexa.
Among home improvement retailers, Lowe’s has been a leader in emerging technology, from improving the retail experience to bringing smart home products to the masses in a way that’s easy to understand and navigate.
In November 2017, Lowe’s collaborated with software-powered retailer b8ta to give consumers a ‘connected-home shopping experience’ that allows customers to discover, learn and test out the latest technology in one place.
“Smart home products simplify life—but the technology can sometimes be confusing or intimidating,” says Ruth Crowley, vice president of customer experience design at Lowe’s. “So, we developed Smart Home powered by b8ta to emulate a ‘lab-like’ atmosphere that empowers customers to make informed decisions.”
Each of these major retailers have created store-within-a-store destinations, giving a space for the consumer to walk through and explore the various smart home products. To help the shopping process, having an expert or someone with direct insight into the technology is crucial. This person should be able to answer any questions and help explain the reason why the different products are needed.
At Home Depot, customers can create Smart Home Bundles that bring compatible smart devices and products together.
Showcase Smart Home Technology in Your Business
If you decide to take on smart plumbing technology, consider creating an area where everything smart home can be discovered. Read the ideas below as you consider what to bring in, how to best display products and what you and your employees need to know to be able to assist customers.
- Utilize shelf talkers. Provide call outs to products next to items you carry like smart locks, lightbulbs and other products that have smart capabilities. This can pique a customers interest and help these products stand out.
- Provide setup assistance. Offer an installation service where an employee offers to deliver and set up the smart appliance or device in the customer’s home.
- Offer a hands-on experience. Show products in use in the store so customers can understand how they work. This would work well in a lumberyard or home center that might already display full rooms, like a kitchen or bathroom.
- Create a smart home display. Consider grouping all smart home products together in a single display, instead of spread out throughout the store. This will make a statement that you are in the business of selling smart home products.
- Educate your employees. Make sure you’ve invested in product knowledge for your employees. This is important no matter the category. However, if they don’t understand how a smart item works, they’ll really have a difficult time selling the smart home concept.