Convenience and safety –
key drivers in the smart home space
The latest smart home gadgets are continually maintaining consumers’ interest, with connected products that can track a home’s consumption of gas, electricity and water becoming the latest products to take off within this sector. Amazon has recently jumped on board this growing trend by creating an energy dashboard that not only monitors a home’s use of energy but turns off devices to reduce on-going costs. However, it is the original smart home sectors that maintain a slow burn for hardware retailers.
While it is true that consumers love nothing more than checking out the latest smart home products in-store, the one category that has continually led to on-going sales and high interest amongst DIY and trade customers is home security. Builders are now installing much of a home’s security during the building process, as this not only ensures peace of mind for the new home buyer, but increases the value of a home by offering smart security that is user friendly and reliable.
IHG Category Manager, Ian Male agrees that home security is without a doubt the fastest growing sector in the smart home space due to consistent popularity of security cameras, camera door bells, integrated alarms and automatic lighting. Consumers continually seek out products that not only protect the home, but also offer convenience, he said.
“We are primarily seeing strong growth in smart digital door locks and garage door openers where consumers can unlock or open doors for family and friends, from anywhere, via their mobile phones. Smart home devices are now opening up an entirely new notion of convenience and safety for consumers,” he said.
Growth within the smart home products space is now about consumers finding peace of mind in their everyday lives, according to Mr Male, as well as simplifying day to day tasks.
“This simplification can be found through many products whether it be watering the garden remotely when home owners are away, or purchasing a security camera that indicates who is on the property or even turning the air conditioning on when coming home from work,” he said.
“We are already using smart devices and technology every day to connect us with family, friends and the world around us. These same devices can now be used to connect to our own home.”
“Smart home products are now growing particularly rapidly as suppliers like Google and Amazon actively promote their products. Consumers want the simplicity of connecting basic smart products to the home, as well as increasing convenience within the home,” Mr Male said.
While the connected home market is still quite new, innovative products are constantly being developed within this space including new lighting, appliance control and garden technology, according to Mr Male.
“Some of the popular products being embraced by consumers currently include light globes, smart switches, smart watering and security-related products such as cameras, doorbells and integrated alarms. This is because the home owner can begin their smart home journey starting at around $15 for a light globe. They can then add to their collection over time and gain all of the benefits of smart home by slowly evolving their space,” he said.
One major consumer trend that is beginning to gain momentum in the market, is a desire for easy control of most appliances in the home via one app.
“Consumers are demanding one app control across their smart home, rather than having to open various apps to control and monitor their home devices, along with the integration of non-smart devices and appliances into the smart home suite of products through remotes that are linked into the smart home ecosystem. This means they effectively are able to control everything through one central ecosystem.”
“In addition, consumers also want to reduce costs in the home’s energy use, as well as their environmental footprint and use smart speakers throughout the home for music streaming,” he said.
Some consumers are now moving towards ‘complete automation’ in their homes, according to Mr Male, which will include the use of infrared detectors for lighting, geo fencing to open or close garage doors or turn off/on security systems, as well as scheduling lighting, turning on watering systems, and closing blinds.
Due to on-going growth within the smart home space, IHG went onto launch its ‘Connected Home’ concept during the 2019 National Expo, which immediately gained exceptional interest from members. Since this time IHG has continued to refine the range and has achieved significant sales both in-store and online, Mr Male said.
“Our members have absolutely acknowledged that smart homes is the direction the market is heading, and that they must embrace the category or risk being left behind. They are looking to IHG for guidance, not only in regards to the range itself, but how to adequately display the range, point of sale, planograms and marketing strategies to begin their connected home offer,” he said.
“While there is more of a demand for smart products within metro areas, we have also had strong interest in the connected home concept across the entire IHG membership. Given the high scalability of our connected come range, we can adapt a store’s investment in-line with its requirements. Investment for the consumer is equally scalable. This can start with a globe or smart switch investment for just $15 to $25 and this technology can easily be expanded over time. Alternatively, consumers may also wish to set up a complete smart home experience and manage this through a single app.”
“Most importantly, we have a complete eCommerce offer for the connected home range which assists members to sell the products while not having to commit to heavy in-store stock investment. Members can easily facilitate special orders for consumers via the website and have the product delivered for ‘click & collect’ in-store. The website has also become a great source of information on new products, not only for our customers but for our staff as well,” Mr Male said.
When upselling the smart home sector to consumers, the IHG team believes marketing the category is all about bringing the consumers on the journey of smart homes, whether this is giving advice to a home renovator or demonstrating add-on opportunities for builders.
“Consumers predominantly start their smart home research online and so, our consumer websites are packed with information and advice to assist consumers on the ‘what, why and how’ of starting their connected home. We also have created a heavy promotional and content program to successfully market the connected home range via catalogues, social platforms and IHG’s loyalty program,” Mr Male said.
“IHG’s display concepts in-store now showcase the range in terms of the outcome consumers are looking to achieve – protect, automate and save – with LCD touch screens and information boards provided to assist consumers with solutions, rather than just place a product on a shelf. IHG’s new Sapphire stores are now looking to incorporate this connected home approach into their upgraded stores,” he said.
“We also recommend that our members have dual merchandise displays in-store whereby they have a smart home aisle, but also feature the products in parental locations in the store, such as lighting, garden, etc.”
“Finally, we have an extensive staff training program incorporating eLearning modules, online training and in-store training to ensure stores are fully equipped with ‘smart home’ specialists that can confidently talk to the features and benefits of any smart home range. Over 4,500 team members have enrolled in our eLearning program to date,” Mr Male said.
Bunnings expands its ‘Shy-Tech’ range
Spending more time at home has opened customers up to exploring the role smart home products can play in everyday life, according to Bunnings GM – Merchandise (Living in the Home), Tracey Lefebure, who recently told AHJ that while this space was once thought of as more for the tech savvy, it is now more user-friendly and mainstream.
“We have seen customers really embrace smart home products over the last year, with many now looking for options that complement their décor. Referred to as ‘Shy-Tech’, we expect to see customer’s appetite for more aesthetically pleasing smart home products that blend into their home design – continue to grow.”
“Bunnings is also continuing to expand its smart home range, particularly with security options such as light globes, keyless front door locks and battery operated security cameras (with a battery life of 12 months), now dominating the space. We are also seeing demand for products that enhance lifestyles and entertaining, for example Nanoleaf smart modular light panels that allow for complete design freedom and customisation,” Ms Lefebure said.
Now, more than ever, builders are also factoring in smart home options from the initial planning stages, with whole house solutions via GRID Connect offering a complete package from security cameras, lights, heating and cooling.
“GRID Connect also makes existing non-smart products compatible via Grid-enabled power outlets and switches, adaptors and rewireable plugs, each offering on/off and scheduling functions,” she said.
Grid Connect uses a single app to deliver seamless, multi-product home automation on a user’s smartphone or tablet, and was developed as a single, easy-to-use, affordable and secure package specifically designed to deliver ease of use to the consumer.
Another evolving trend is consumers choosing to use smart home products outside of the home, with many now using these products for their office, factory and on worksites, Ms Lefebure said.
Ongoing innovation will see more products introduced to satisfy out-of-home needs, with the continual introduction of products such as Bondic, a new smart glue combined with UV light that is designed to repair any broken wire, plumbing or fiddly repair on-site, and is said to be better than any super glue. Only time will tell if these products prove to be useful particularly when used on tough Australian work sites.
Whole-of-house smart home solutions the way the future
Thought leaders in the smart home automation industry, SmartHomeWorks, recently revealed some of the latest trends now driving the smart home industry.
Director of the master systems integrator, Guy Holden, has worked in the industry for over 35 years and says while there are a lot of semi-smart systems currently installed in Aussie homes, many intercoms, audio systems and security systems do not necessarily talk to each other. This is why professionally installed systems that are set up to efficiently integrate with new smart home products have become the new norm, he said.
“Smart home system sales are going through the roof. I have at least five houses come to me each week, where 30 years ago I was lucky to program one house per year. If the building industry has a lull of any sort, then we find that the smart home industry grows at around 30 per cent and this is what has been happening in the last year or two. Now, more than ever, people see integrated smart home systems as something they need within their homes,” Mr Holden said.
“People love the idea and the convenience of being able to open their garage door and let someone drop a parcel off. If they have a numeric keypad at their door and their kids have different pin numbers, parents love the convenience of being informed when their kids have come home while they are at work. It makes modern living very easy. It is the same with having the one remote in your house that can control the blinds as well as the TV as well as the air conditioner, and all from a phone. Smart homes and systems integration, or the integration of reasonably smart electronics, is the new trend,” he said.
People, and retailers, have also jumped on the IoT (Internet of Things) band wagon, which has then led them to becoming more attuned to having integrated systems installed throughout the home, according to Mr Holden.
“Current market trends are seeing consumers wanting everything integrated into one system. There have been do-it-yourself security systems in the market for 15 to 20 years, and I would say the new stuff is now all around the Internet of Things in the retail section,” he said.
“We have a lot of first home buyers or home builders come to us to install systems they want to work. I think this is something that is done much better during construction, and by a professional systems integrator. As long as it is part of an ecosystem and there is someone you can ring for ongoing support, then consumers will find it much easier to implement new products into the system,” Mr Holden said.
While Mr Holden believes products that are a little less complicated and purchased directly from a hardware store are quite easy to install into the home, as soon as consumers implement products such as lots of light controls throughout the house, this could be difficult for hardware retailers to “get their heads around”.
“I think companies like ours actually encourage sales within hardware stores. I go down to my local independent hardware, and he has a lot of smart products that go into a house, including new LED light bulbs that work on dimmers etc. but because of us, his turn over is growing. I do not think smart products are anywhere near as big as do-it-yourself kitchens, or do-it-yourself wardrobes, but because of us, along with market expectations, the sales of smart home products in a retail store will grow. If we do what we do properly, people will like smart homes and more people will then turn to it as their way of life.”
“Hardware retailers were probably not selling anything into this industry 10 years ago but now, I believe, it will continue to grow. In saying this I have seen customers go to a hardware store and come back with four boxes of lights because they do not know what they are buying. It is becoming complicated. Lights all have different fittings and they are LED or non-dimmable, it is not as easy as it was 10 years ago.”
For now, Mr Holden suggests popular ‘add-ons’ retailers can offer their customers include voice controlled smart devices, while products set to grow into the future include lighting, motorized blinds and/or awnings, smart air conditioning, pools, irrigation as well as intercom and remote access.
“While fifty per cent of architecturally designed homes now have whole-of-house integration, all Australian homes have smarts and all of these products will be integrated in the future. Retrofit solutions are very common now and will continue to grow,” he said.
For any independent retailer wishing to seek advice on the most popular or user-friendly smart home products to sell to their customers, Mr Holden has generously offered his time and advise to any independents, as well as his expert advice on how products should be implemented into a home.