Consumers have high expectations of smart homes but education required on wider benefits, research shows

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Improved connectivity, new devices and automation have led to a wide range of new smart home products with nearly half (46%) of consumers in the UK, France and Germany expecting to be living in a smart home within the next three to five years. In Germany, nearly a quarter (22%) believes that smarter living will be a reality within a year according to new research announced by CONTEXT, the leading European IT market analysis company.

For many consumers it is the promise of greater convenience, cost savings and security that drives smart home aspirations. Having their home ready for when they return by turning on the heating and lights, and having their favourite TV programmes ready when they walk in the door, is the most desired aspect of a smart home.  This is followed by having a ‘good-night mode’ where the home automatically switches off lights and electronic devices, locks doors and activates security cameras with a single command. The French show their flair for entertainment rating smart home technology they can use at dinner parties highly. his includes using smart lighting and music to enhance the mood, an oven that pre-heats canapés and gives a ‘ready’ alert to the host, as well as a fridge that reminds the user what recipe ingredients they need.

The research with 1,500 consumers in the UK, France and Germany examines awareness, expectations and investment in smart home technology. It reveals that the three most popular products which households have already purchased are smart thermostats, smart televisions and smart sound systems, with smart lightbulbs likely to be purchased over the next six months.

Price remains an important factor for this developing category, with 36% feeling that smart home products are currently too expensive. However UK consumers are willing to spend more than their European counterparts, with 11% prepared to spend up to £1,000 and 7% willing to invest over £1,000 in new technology. Up to £150 appears to be the current ‘sweet-spot’ with just under a third (32%) opting for this amount when considering future purchases. Just over one in five (23%) are happy to commit to products that cost up to £250.

When asked which room they think will be ‘smartest first’, consumers expect the kitchen to take the lead, followed by their bedrooms and then the living room.

Adam Simon, global managing director, Retail at CONTEXT, said: “It is great to see early adopters already anticipating how these new technologies will fit into their daily lives. At the moment, we are seeing awareness of individual products such as smart TVs, smart meters and smart sound systems but less knowledge of the wider benefits of connecting multiple devices to create a holistic smart home environment. Nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) in the UK, France and Germany remain unaware of the term ‘smart home.’ Also over half of respondents feel they don’t understand enough about smart home products. This suggests the need for fresh thinking from the industry both at a manufacturer and retailer level to educate consumers and demonstrate the convenience, enjoyment and value of smarter homes.”

A number of retailers such as Lick in France have introduced new store concepts, which focus on demonstration and opportunities for shoppers to try technology for themselves; meanwhile Euronics in Germany has developed creative, emotive advertising which shows how these new products fit in consumers’ lives.

Despite these examples, much of the information consumers have heard about these systems has come from online sources rather than in retail stores, with informed buyers purchasing products direct from the manufacturers or from e-tailers such as Amazon. As new players enter the market, such as telecoms operators, utility companies and DIY outlets, different approaches are required from retailers in order to capitalise on the sector and accelerate the adoption of smart home systems.

“The smart home market is a dynamic one with exciting new products coming to market.  his also brings complexity with new categories of devices, new operating systems, new partnerships and new competitors,” concludes Simon.  “Picking, pricing and promoting the right product at the right time has a huge commercial impact on brands and our research will help retailers, technology vendors, resellers and service providers understand and adapt to consumer perceptions.”