Smart Consumer Tech Gaining Traction with Shoppers  8/17/2017

If the buzz at ECRM’s recent Electronics Retail Summit EPPS was any indication, our homes will soon be smarter than we are. According to buyers and sellers of consumer electronics our team interviewed during the meetings, the new Internet-of-Things products are going beyond mere connected devices and are now truly adding in a layer of intelligence around how we monitor, clean, light, heat and secure our homes and property, and enable provide us not only with usage information, but also with recommendations on how and when they should be used.

These include products such as security and surveillance monitors, door locks, connected lighting, appliances, and baby/pet monitors – all of which can be controlled via touchscreens or mobile apps. 

According to Stephen Baker, VP of Industry Analysis for NPD Group, who presented at the EPPS, Smart Home Devices is the fastest growing large category in 2016 and likely to be the stellar segment for 2017. While the top one or two brands dominate their specific segments (for example, Nest in smart thermostats, Philips in lighting), price disruption will challenge the brand landscape across all smart home categories in 2017 and 2018. Millennials are driving interest but broader consumer interaction needed to make growth continue to accelerate. Retail, however, still struggles with displays and merchandising while consumers struggle about where and how to buy. (Click here to download the presentation slides).

Of course, what’s driving this is the ubiquitous usage of the connected device which virtually all of us carry – our smartphones (and in many cases, smart watches), and how we have incorporated it into our daily lives, to schedule our meetings, to track our steps, to order our food, and to take photos with silly filters. Because of how much we integrate these devices into our lives, connecting the home is not the far-off idea it was when Nest thermostats and Amazon Echo first came on the scene.

Indeed, according to a recent study from PWC, "Smart home, seamless life: Unlocking a Culture of Convenience," 81 percent of US internet users are aware of the concept of smart devices due to the use of smart TVs, wearables, and other smaller connected devices that have been gaining traction with consumers over time.

Some findings from the report were:
  • One in four US internet users currently own a smart home device.
  • Device adoption results from four main motivators: savings, safety, convenience, and control.
  • Price is currently the number one purchase barrier.
  • Security around one’s data is a concern but often overlooked when the value of a product is proven.
  • A payment plan for smart home devices would be a persuasive offering.
  • Smart devices focused on safety command the highest price.
  • Consumers are willing to spend on additional services and features after purchasing a smart home device—enhanced security features top the list.
  • The majority of consumers say they are excited about the future of smart technology in their home.
The Smart Home also intersects with another area of consumer electronics that is also growing in popularity – robotics. We’re all familiar with the Roomba, one of the first robotics devices that entered the home years ago, and according to a study from Juniper research, more than one in 10 American households will own a housekeeping robot by 2020. But now robotic devices are entering other areas of the home, such as security -- including wireless remote security systems and robots that can patrol your property, robotics for remote communications, and even robots that enable users to remotely activate “non-smart” devices such as light switches and other buttons on equipment around the house.

And robots are small and inexpensive enough (relatively) to be used for entertainment, such as the humanoid or pet robot toys for children. Additionally, they make for great STEM toys, and some are available as actual kits which educate kids on the principles of robotics as they assemble them on their own. As we reported in our coverage of the Toy EPPS, STEM products are among the hottest areas of the toy category, and DIT robot building kits are a growing part of it.

Audio, Gaming Tech & Tech Accessories
That’s not to say that the old standbys of consumer electronics are no longer popular. While some attendees, for example, say that audio products are saturated, Bluetooth speakers and headsets are still very popular, particularly among music and gaming connoisseurs. In fact, a Bluetooth speaker, TGI Technology’s UB+ EUPHO O1, was the finalist of the Buyers Choice Awards. The speaker’s unique spherical design of the speaker enclosure was developed to enhance sound.

Anything gaming-related is also in-demand, particularly as gamers seek better controls and headsets to enhance their playing experience and communication with their friends as they play against them live over the internet. (Believe it or not, one of the favorite YouTube channels of my friend’s kids is nothing but videos of another kid playing video games while chatting about what he’s doing via a Bluetooth headset).

Finally, digital accessories – whether for computers, mobile phones, speakers, you name it – are consistent sellers, according to attendees, and what’s more are great impulse items. Items for holding, storing, charging, and cleaning these devices are great for clip strips or shippers at the point of sale. Our buyers Choice Award winner was one such accessory. Called Shark Proof, the company develops liquid glass wipe-on protection for smart devices. And as more of these smart devices, robots, and audio tech permeate the home, the more accessories consumers will need to organize, carry, and clean them!


Melinda Young

SVP of General Merchandise

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