Manufacturers must help retailers to adapt

From the Retra conference in London

Manufacturers will need to work harder and smarter to help independent retailers sell the connected home.

Speaking as part of a manufacturer panel at this year’s Retra conference on October 11, Gareth Rayworth, Panasonic’s head of service for north-west Europe (pictured far right) said: “There’s more we could do. Our resources are finite, but what we can do is to be smarter in terms of how we get collateral out to the market. With the Internet of Things and those types of products, I think we could be much smarter in the social [networking] space and facilitate conversations among users to help people solve their own problems. It’s a cost-effective way of providing the sort of support the market needs without us having to spend oodles of money.”

Commenting on providing training and product knowledge, Mr Rayworth said: “There’s always a place for that and we strive to do absolutely as much as we can. I think the reality is that with a new range of products, it’s extremely difficult to cover all the ground that we would like to. We have to be creative with the resources that we have. There are other ways to come to market and help from a training perspective.”

Talking as part of the same panel session, Mark Billinge (centre) who is responsible for Sony’s European product and user experience quality, said there was also a need for independent retailers to have a basic knowledge of wi-fi in order to set up and sell the smart home.

But, he told delegates: “It’s not easy and it does require learning, but the difficulty for any manufacturer is to put money on the line to train retailers generically on wi-fi connectivity, particularly when there are a ton of technical courses out there that people could choose to go on if they wish. In the same way that we don’t provide driving lessons for van drivers, we don’t provide generic wi-fi training. Maybe we should, but is this something for Retra to look at and say, ‘independents genuinely need better knowledge and understanding of wi-fi environments and, therefore, we’re going to go out and find vendors to provide that service’.

Added Paul Hide, techUK’s director of operations (pictured left): “Cedia do some generic training on the connected home, but it’s maybe a bit more specialised at the moment. I think that one of the roles for a trade association is that if their members are saying to them that there’s a need for certain training, then one of their reasons for being is to look at that in more detail, identify what that training might be and how it might be delivered.”