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Distributors Charting A Pathway Into The Connected Home

TWICE:Are your dealer customers embracing the connected-home category or are you finding it an uphill climb?

Kevin Kelly, Stampede: Customers are embracing the categories at different rates. As technology becomes increasingly easier to use, dealers will have to be more creative when it comes to the residential market in terms of the services they provide. In the future, installing hardware and running new wires may no longer be as important to their business as it once was.

Dennis Holzer, PowerHouse Alliance: Both our dealers and their customers are embracing the connected- home category. Many of our installers’ businesses have increased significantly, sometimes three and four times the amount in previous years due to demand for these connected products.

With the improvements in wireless security, video, audio, tablet usage and more, the connected-home category, while still in its infancy, is thriving, and we are thrilled to know that we have only scratched the tip of the iceberg in this sector.

Tate Morgan, Petra Industries: Excitement generated around connected-home and home-control at International CES has continued to build. Initial response at the dealer level has been strong but many items are relatively new to the market and sell through has not yet been established. We believe that consumers will be attracted to devices with smartphone control and simple DIY installation.

Fred Towns, New Age Electronics: We are finding that dealers are embracing this category more, especially around home security. LED lighting is another subset of this category that is gaining speed.

The key to home automation is simplifying the experience for the consumer, from installation to ongoing management of devices. This year, manufacturers will be tasked with pulling diverse products and standards into one application, which is what consumers want today. These types of devices will encourage retailers who are still wary of the category to make the leap to home automation.

John Griffin, DSI Systems: It’s a mixed bag. What I can tell you is that those who are winning are the ones that can accurately demonstrate the technology in their showroom. That, and simplifying the story. Customers don’t want an instruction manual with their tech.

As apps drive the control of so many different devices throughout the home, it’s a natural evolution to the millions of customers that already utilize their mobile devices for everything. If sales associates can break through the fear of complex technology with a quick three-bullet highlight of how a certain connected device will improve their scene at home, then it’s such an easy win.

Plus, with most connected devices, there are limitless opportunities for attachments. This drives profitability as well as repeat business. Show me increased foot traffic and I’ll show you a happy dealer.

Jeff Davis, D&H Distributing: The connectedhome category is piquing a lot of interest. We continue to see monthly sales increases in this space. Yet we’d like to see consumers become better educated about the technology that is available to them, in order to speed adoption. In addition, the more simple and streamlined a process it is to connect these solutions, the more swiftly consumers will embrace this category.

Steve Presti, Easy Access Distribution/Catalyst AV: We are finding that dealers are embracing the connected home and aligning themselves with distributors that can provide training, which our member companies are actively involved in.

Curt Hayes, Capitol: Everybody loves the idea, but I think some consumers are confused as to what it really means and what they can achieve. There is a misperception that connected-home products are wildly expensive and not fully reliable. Dealers need to educate themselves on how to communicate the benefits without it being intimidating, from both pricing and operation perspectives.

Warren Chaiken, Almo: A select group of our customers are embracing the connected home but this category still tends to be purchased by the luxury and early adopter consumer. Therefore this is more consistently sold by our custom integrators and installers who are creating whole-house systems networked with lighting, HVAC, and so forth.

As more mainstream connected products come to market, this category will see growth in the dealer channel.

Jim Annes, AVAD: There is a high level of interest in the changing home-automation space, but some dealers are finding it difficult to bridge their current work to now integrating everything from garage door openers to irrigation systems. Our goal is to help them understand and capitalize on the fact that this shift doesn’t erode their traditional control business, but creates a larger market with more opportunities to add value for their customers.

Rob Aarnes, ADI North America: There is a lot of opportunity around the connected home. More and more users are depending on their devices to manage applications, and dealers are seeing the value in installing connected-home and home-automation systems. Costs for these products have come down and products have become easier to install.

TWICE: How are you assorting and presenting such a diverse category?

Aarnes: We recently made Z-Wave an official product category at ADI, and created the first ever ZWave Solutions Guide that launched at CEDIA Expo last year. The guide highlights our product offering and serves as helpful tool for installing connectedhome systems.

We also offer connected-home training seminars at all of our ADI Expos across the country. The class is hosted by Honeywell, Kwikset and Leviton and is very popular among attendees. In addition, we hold a number of training opportunities on connected-home technology at our local branches across the country.

And we are extremely proud to kick off our first connected- home model at an ADI branch located on Long Island, N.Y. The store-within-a-store concept showcases ADI’s connected-home solutions from leading manufacturers, and gives dealers an opportunity to see and test products through interactive displays.

The connected-home model has been well-received by our dealers and we have plans to bring this prototype to more branches across country.

Annes: Since AVAD has been in this space for years, it is about creating that bridge [between dealers’ traditional control business and home automation]. We do this through creating interactive displays, training courses, making it easy to identify which products work well with others, and making sure our associates have the right information to help our dealers.

Chaiken: At Almo, we consistently highlight and educate on new technologies and make that information readily available through our dealer portal. In addition, we feature these products at our Expo’s and E4 Conferences where the products are explained and demonstrated.

Presti: The distributor must provide top-tier technical support, which we at Catalyst AV have put significant energies into. The support is not just an option, but rather an essential ingredient for the dealer’s success in this category.

Success or failure is predicated on how well we understand the technologies. The Catalyst AV group does the testing, the analysis, choosing what we feel is best for our dealers and then developing an approach for them to present to their clientele.

Davis: Thus far different protocols are used to communicate among the various components of a connected- home solution. Users need a base of knowledge of these new apps and platforms, in order to learn how the central hub of the system facilitates that communication.

To help guide dealers, D&H has set up a separate category listing for connected-home products on, with sub-categories for the different types of devices, in an attempt to reduce the complexity of building a turn-key, connected-home solution.

If retailers and dealers better understand the way these products work together, they can effectively communicate this message and capture the sale.

Griffin: A few years back DSI went around the country with simple solutions to prepare your showroom for connected demonstrations. Today, we continue to carry that torch. Whether through our own product demonstrations to our dealers or by providing co-op assistance to help a showroom get there, we know the key is to be “on display and working.” Nothing sells cool new tech better than that touch-and-feel experience.

Towns: The simple, plug-and-play products are where the focus should be in this category. Our goal at New Age is to help retailers present simple home-automation solutions that encompass multiple aspects, such as lighting, HVAC control and security cameras, in one application.

There is still a need for consumers to become more educated on this product category. Retailers have to provide an educational experience in stores and online. In stores, they have to get their sales people to teach consumers how to use and get the most out of the product. Interactive and informative in-store displays are critical for retailers to be successful in this category because they let consumers envision how the product will enhance their lifestyle.

Morgan: Petra is focused on individual classes of products such as smart-plugs, LED smart-bulbs, motions sensors and IP/Wi-Fi cams. Industry data suggest that individual elements of the connectedhome category will be stronger than complete home control systems.

We will also present and promote connectedhome products on our websites, in catalogs and fliers, and we will prominently display them in our tradeshow exhibits.

Holzer: The smart-home industry is extremely diverse and each product or service requires a significant amount of training to understand both how they work, and how they interact with other products in the space.

To achieve this, Power- House continues to send members of our team to both vendor-driven and CEDIA training sessions so they can earn certification in the product categories we offer.

Then, we turn around and offer this knowledge and training to our dealers on a per-location basis, so they are up to speed on the product offerings so they can inform customers and effectively complete the installation process.

Kelly: Adding new services and creating reoccurring revenue streams is key to surviving the technological revolution that the connected home is undergoing.

The bottom line is that the more the available solutions become wireless in design, the faster Stampede’s dealers and their customers will make the promise of the connected home a reality in their lives.

Hayes: Capitol is in a unique position to create bundles and guide our customers to the best selection and products for their clientele. Our technical support team is comprised of former dealers and installers who understand the market, and are in a position to give our customers expert advice.

Also, our education program, Capitol Learning Institute (CLI) offers in-depth presentations on the most relevant products and how best to market them.

See Also:

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Distributors Adding New Categories, Building Out Emerging Ones