Let’s face it, any dealer worth his or her weight in TVs and appliances knows that the connected home is coming, if it’s not already here. And just like the New York Lottery, you gotta be in it to win it.
Problem is, like any emerging technology it’s an untamed mess of incongruous standards and platforms, and placing your bets too soon could prove deleterious.
Enter the distributor, the champion of virtual inventory, just-in-time delivery and e-commerce fulfillment, who is ready and willing to sort things out. Just as they have done with new PC operating systems, A/V technologies and assorted protocols, these manufacturer intermediaries can help guide retailers through the IoT maze in order to avoid the pitfalls of a nascent category.
TWICE contacted a host of leading two-step lights to shed some illumination on the pathway. Here’s what they had to say.
Dennis Holzer, executive director, PowerHouse Alliance: Today, consumers are demanding products they can control with their smartphones or tablets, so almost every day new products enter the smart-home market.
It’s an ongoing priority for the PowerHouse Alliance to seek out new relevant products and add them, as we have recently done with Zigen, Hikvision and KEF. We continue to bring on new lines across the smart home and other categories, and as we bring them on, we equip dealers with the knowledge to sell and install those products.
Every once in a while a product innovation causes a ripple effect in determining the next generation of products across the industry. Voice control is the latest technology proving to be a game-changer for CI dealers. My advice to dealers is to embrace voice control and ensure you have the right product mix, knowledge and expertise to sell and install these control systems and compatible devices.
I also encourage dealers to offer networking products to build a strong and reliable network for customers that can handle the number of smart devices they have. Both of these categories will be critical to dealers’ success this year and in the future.
Seth Evenson, customer experience management director, AVAD: We’ve partnered with recognized smart-home brands, such as Nest, August, iDevices and Lutron, to give our dealers access to the most reliable, sought-after brands in the industry.
Beyond that, our knowledgeable staff is on hand to help dealers navigate the integration of smart home products, as well as help dealers stay in front of the industry trends. Our advice to dealers is the use these emerging trends, such as home automation components, as opportunities to return to previous customers with innovative, feature-rich solutions — it’s a great follow-up opportunity and potential new sale.
In addition, many DIY smart-home buyers are looking for professional resources, which present a new subset of customers for our custom installation dealers.
Tate Morgan, president, Petra Industries: The Petra merchandising team has worked to develop a comprehensive offering of products and accessories for both the DIY and custom installer markets. We offer a stable of products from brands like Dome, Geeni, GoControl, iLuv, Simplehome, SkyBell, Switchmate and TP-Link that integrate with a variety of platform standards and product ecosystems.
Sales teams are trained on standards, how each product operates and how each can fit into an integrated smart-home system so they are prepared to make recommendations appropriate for each dealer. Our sales and marketing teams stay abreast of technology and trends, regularly publishing content on our website as well as in our print publications.
Jack Halperin, senior VP, dealer channel sales, Almo: Dealers can take advantage of this growing trend by predominately calling out those web-enabled features that are already available today. Most major manufacturers offer several Wi-Fi-enabled appliances that let you pre-heat your oven while you are driving home or self-diagnose an error code to eliminate a service call, for example.
Controlling appliances from a smartphone is already here and will be of interest to millennials as they begin to reach home buying age.
Helge Fischer, executive director, Catalyst AV: Our group offers our integration specialists a vast variety of smart home products. These products have lower margins vs. traditional audio, so knowledge is key.
Furthermore, the integrators need to look at these products as add-on sales, which did not exist in the “old” economy, and have to take advantage of all of the training and educational opportunities our network of distributors offers them. This will give them the knowledge and power to overcome lack of margins and offer their customers real service.
Last but not least, the right product, the correct installation, and use training with the consumer all add up to a package that the integration specialist can really charge for.
Tim Billing, vendor management and purchasing VP, D&H Distributing: D&H is aggressively promoting and enabling its retailers, e-tailers and dealers to address the multitude of smart-home devices on the market by offering products that can be managed under a media hub platform such as Amazon’s Alexa.
In addition, mesh Wi-Fi computing products offer “pods” that can be distributed throughout the home to create a more seamless Internet experience, minimizing dead spots and buffering.
These new solutions utilized in combination will help deliver a more effective automated home experience. D&H has partnered with the industry’s leading technology vendors to bring the broadest assortment of products in the smart-home category to market.
Fred Towns, president, New Age Electronics: Our advice to retailers looking to take advantage of the smart-home category is to focus on moving beyond entry-level products and deliver products that work together to form a connected ecosystem.
To help customers with this transition, we’re advising them on selecting the right product mix as well as how to approach online marketing and in-store tactics. Education is still important, and retailers should create in-store environments where shoppers can learn about and try the technology before they buy. Taking all of the product information and making it readily available online is also important.
We’re also consulting with customers to help them stay relevant to the needs of various demographic groups including female shoppers, millennials, Gen X-er’s, baby boomers and the elderly. Each of these groups see different benefits within the smart-home category, and our goal is to help customers identify them.
Regardless of the demographic, we’re encouraging retailers to add products that are easy to install and are compatible with other smart-home products. Retailers who can deliver on these requirements will see long-term success in the category.
Curt Hayes, president/chief financial officer, Capitol Sales: For years we have been singing the praises of networking as the backbone of today’s most relevant and lucrative products, and our voices are only getting louder. It’s an ongoing process, since the technologies and product trends seem to evolve on a daily basis.
Every professional who is serious about competing in the smart-home category must get up to speed on current networking options. In fact, the category is growing so fast that it’s given us the connected/smart home, which relates to consumer electronics and household appliances that sit on the network.
The “Works With Nest” series of products is a good example of a lucrative trend in the connected/smart home.
“Smart home” is a more encompassing concept that refers to more traditional whole-house control and A/V systems that are installed on a much bigger scale.
The IoT is more than just jargon — networking is at the core of nearly everything we touch, and it is up to dealers and distributors alike to keep expanding our knowledge base if we are going to keep up with the opportunities this trend presents in the CI and CE channels.
Doug Allen, president, Climatic Home Products: The smart-home category has phenomenal growth opportunities. Many manufacturers are spending a lot of money generating demand around smart appliances like the Samsung Family Hub and connected-home products for the kitchen.
Starting this month we will have a series of Regional Pro Shows that feature our new product launches and Samsung smart appliances, like the Family Hub refrigerator, Wi-Fi enabled range, and laundry with Smart Care.
These Pro Shows are designed to train hundreds of retail sales associates across the country on new product launches. In these meetings, the sales associates will get a chance to have hands-on training so they can become advocates for the new products. The knowledge that each one of these sales associates takes back with them to their stores will help assist in the launch of these products.
Still, with new technology coming into the marketplace today the dealer will need to do their due diligence on the opportunity within their own marketplace and invest accordingly, understanding that new technology may change and as the offering becomes broader there could be price compression. Therefore, embrace opportunity and rely on just-in-time inventory in this category.