Turning Point Live! 2019 – Part 4

This year’s ERT Turning Point Live! conference, sponsored by Electrical Safety First and hosted by ERT magazine Editor, Jack Cheeseman (pictured above, far right), was an invaluable source of information on how to meet the opportunities and challenges facing the electrical retail industry.

This is part four of our exclusive full review of the sessions from the day…

“Retailers should be leading, not following, the evolution of smart home”

GfK reported that the UK is the fastest-growing and second largest market for sales of smart devices for the home. Consumers already own so many gadgets – the job for electrical retailers is to keep them coming back and continually investing in new technology.

The second panel discussion at this year’s Turning Point Live! was all about retailers taking the next steps to make their businesses smarter. The panellists were: Ashley Shorey-Mills, General Manager, Hughes Smart, Adam Williams, Chief Revenue Officer, Lightwave and Director, Smart Homes & Buildings Association, Alaric Wood, Technical Director, Avensys, and Stuart Tickle, Managing Director, AWE Europe.


Q: What additional smart home services are consumers after now?

Adam Williams (pictured, right): More than 50 per cent of interactions that our customers have are voice controlled, so the idea of a smart speaker as a consumer gadget is definitely a major drive. People are gradually stopping using a light switch as an actual switch, and in nearly half of all cases consumers are asking the smart speaker to turn the lights on.

The great challenge that the industry faces is putting these things in every room of the home. If you’re selling smart speakers in your business today, there are some customers that will think it is a gimmick and the task is convincing them to make that leap.

Stuart Tickle (pictured second from left): Retailers should be aware that smart speakers are a gateway to the items they sell. A lot of products that are so-called ‘smart’ may or may not make you a lot of margin, so the question here is leveraging these gateways and adding value.

Q: What do you do in-store to display and demo smart products?

Alaric Wood: Many of our customers don’t know where to begin and they don’t want to buy the wrong products. It’s about showing things that are nice to have and turning it into something really useful and beneficial for the customer.

Although we started off in the world of AV, our larger smart home drivers are always in the area of safety and security. For example, a connected smoke alarm and a smart double socket will detect when the load is too great, and then the technology will turn off sockets in order to minimise potential risk and damage.

We look to understand what the use cases are and make them personal to the customer buying them. It’s really simple to add on extra services, such as installation of a TV, security camera and a smart speaker.

Ashley Shorey-Mills (left): We’ve also expanded into different markets where the concept is the same – it starts with the purchase of a TV but from there you can move into other rooms or expand into automation-based projects.

If customers show interest in a conversation about smart home, or even connected devices, us as retailers need to educate them.

Q: How did you go about merging SDA and MDA with smart tech?

ASM: The appliances side of the market is changing and smart appliances will come into their own when, for example, a product can tell you it is faulty and the reason why. The market has already moved in perception, a smart appliance or smart TV shouldn’t be seen as a different product to non-smart appliances, they’re the same thing now.

Q: How are manufacturers developing products in these areas?

A Williams: Lighting is the top smart sales area after smart speakers, we saw from GfK data. It’s the area that people understand the benefits of most, so we’ve got a compelling use case that we’re really focused on.

It is extremely important that tech works with other tech and we are compatible with all the major platforms. Not only that, but we are working with these platforms/gateways so that the customer will have the confidence to use these products.

We have to acknowledge there are thousands of devices with hundreds of apps through which the customer expects to control their products. Several platforms are all competing to own the customer’s home. This is the great challenge we all face, but success can be found in making that simple for the consumer.

Focus on two or three use cases where technology works all together; I passionately believe retailers should be leading, not following, the evolution of smart home.

Q: How can retailers ensure customers are satisfied and continue to return to store?

A Wood (pictured, left): Store staff need to ensure the customer knows everything they’re getting into, and customers need ongoing support and hand-holding for when things don’t work. Proper demonstrable products are also essential so you can show the customer how everything links together.

Smart control is so simple, the key is having it on your sales people’s phones so with a couple of clicks they can show the customer exactly how simple things are.

ASM: Smart home does evolve and will lead you towards many other opportunities. Most stores have already got the skillsets required as an AV installer – it doesn’t take too much more to install something like CCTV. Full home automation takes a bit more time but for most of your staff, a little bit of extra training can add so much value.