Smart home: Please don’t miss the boat

With a little help and training, retailers can add the smart home to their core offering, increasing turnover and differentiating themselves from their online rivals, says Stuart Tickle, managing director of AWE Europe


The general proliferation of technology has helped to focus consumer attention on the possibilities of specific smart-home products. Previously the preserve of the ultra-wealthy, connected devices are, in many cases, now enabling comparatively simple and inexpensive smart-home functionality.

A great example of this is the Amazon Alexa. With growing public awareness, voice control remains a hot topic, as it allows homeowners to interact with the building they live in without the need for a keyboard, remote control, or touch-screen.

Using voice control is not the best user interface for all smart-home operations, however, and can sometimes be frustrating – but it gives retailers another weapon in their arsenal to fight the fear of technology. For some, it might break the barrier and bring new users to the world of a connected home.

The smart home is a massive opportunity that cannot be ignored, but retailers need to understand the user benefits of the smart-home products they are selling as a connected system, and how these devices may or may not connect with one another.

A moderate level of networking knowledge is of paramount importance. Not all these consumer devices are without shortcomings and working within a customer’s home requires trust and professionalism to protect both reputation and profitability.

This is where training is important for retailers. AWE’s Smart Home Academy covers a range of courses, including Cedia training, foundation workshops, lighting control system design and programming, single and whole house control, and HDMI and 4K video distribution. These courses provide valuable insight for retail staff.

In-ceiling speakers are popular sellers
The key for retailers in the smart-home market is to add value through installation and knowledge, rather than selling another commodity product at the cheapest price

Consumers are looking at smart-home products and most surveys show a willingness to buy, but a lack of knowledge. The products are affordable and promoted in the mainstream media, but consumers are looking to people in the know for help. So, it’s important to be informed on all systems that consumers are requesting. These include multi-room audio, home cinema and home control, as well as retrofit automated window shading, door entry and surveillance. Just start where you are comfortable and go from there.

AWE provides access to leading products from a range of internationally renowned manu­facturers.

These include simple and advance home-control solutions from URC, projectors from Epson, projection screens from Draper, cables, installation speakers from Definitive Technology and Kinetik, QMotion automated blinds, recessed power sockets from Syncbox, and 4K HDMI distribution from HDanywhere.

Demo facility
Products need to be displayed in a real-life set-up for customers to fully understand how these systems can work in their home. Therefore, a demo facility is a must.

Everyone has the space to create a single-room environment within an existing display area, but we at AWE provide the trade with a whole-home demo facility.

Our dedicated show apartment has two cinema rooms, a music listening room and product showroom and showcases the latest products and installation techniques. It is open to the trade and their customers by appointment.

There is a natural link between these two industries, so the move to incorporate smart-home areas and people into a retail store makes perfect sense – and with the right commitment, it is fairly easy to do.

The move will mean that the retailer can expand their business while building upon everything they already have in place, bringing in more custom and differentiating themselves from the internet and other competitors.

The key for retailers in the smart-home market is to be able to add value through installation and knowledge, rather than just selling another commodity product at the cheapest price.

Please don’t miss the boat…