Kagan: The retailer role in smart home growth

| by Jeff KAGAN
Kagan: The retailer role in smart home growth


Smart home growth is really picking up steam. However, users who read about smart home technology don't have many places to turn to for advice, or to see it before they buy. That presents an opportunity for retailers, if they handle it correctly and position themselves right. Let me explain.

We are in a battlefield of ideas. New technology like AI, IoT and smart homes are just some of the many new terms being thrown around, but the truth is they will all play a growing role in our lives and in retailer growth. That means every retailer needs to quickly get up to speed: they need to be the experts to help their customers and the sales staff needs to be trained so they can answer questions asked by customers.

This is a huge opportunity that most retailers will miss. It's like the automotive industry. Walk into any showroom today and ask questions about the navigation or electronics systems and the vast majority of salespeople don't have a clue. They are in the fog of confusion just like the customer. This is the big mistake the auto industry is making today and its not making for a great customer experience.

Retail can be a lighthouse in AI, IoT, smart home fog of confusion

It's the same thing in the areas of AI and smart homes. Users are very interested and very confused at the same time. They are looking for a lighthouse to guide them. Retailer can serve as that lighthouse. But retail needs to think differently. It must learn and train their workers. And those workers or salespeople must learn and be able to answer questions of users.

An untrained workforce will fail to satisfy the customer. This is the choice every retailer faces. Either lead, follow or get out of the way. There will be many successes and failures as we move from yesterday to tomorrow. So, which category is your company in?

I recommend that they become the guide for the user through this exciting, transformative and confusing time. Users are confused and need honest and unbiased advice and information. If you can be that missing link, your retail stores can win long-term as the marketplace continue to grow and change going forward.

Pull the camera back. Take a longer term historical perspective. If you can position your company as a trusted source of information and advice, you will win. But that takes work and ongoing commitment.

New retail opportunity with AI, IoT and smart homes

Retail will play several important roles as we move ahead and all become familiar with new technology. Homeowners will visit stores to see and touch new technology. They will do research online, but many will prefer to also visit a store and take a look. The reason is simple. This technology is all brand new and customers don't know what to expect. They have never seen it before.

It's similar to when the first Apple iPhone or Google Android was launched a decade ago. This was new technology, even though we all knew what a smartphone was. We all had a Blackberry or knew others who did. However, this time the change is also very different. It's all new with AI, IoT, the cloud, VR, smart homes and more. And no one even understands what these terms mean yet.

So, confused and excited customers are looking for a road map. They are looking for a friend in the changing industry. Advice from someone they can trust. That's why one of the best strategies today, in the early days of this next transition, is for a retailer to become the friendly and trusted place for the consumer to turn to.

New and changing retail experience

Retail is changing. Consider the Apple store. The Microsoft store. Consider what AT&T or Verizon are doing with their retail stores. Letting customers walk in and sit at a table and have a conversation with an associate. Learn about new technology. In many new retail stores, even paying takes on a new angle. No cash registers. It all happens on an iPad tablet, right at the table.

The retail environment is changing into a more relaxed and informal learning experience. The reason is simply because all these new technologies are pushing the customer outside their comfort zone. So, customers are looking for a calming place with trusted friends to sit and learn.

This creates a new growth opportunity for the retailers that lead the way. Are you a trusted friend to your customers? This is a great opportunity for you to lead going forward. You will either lead, follow or get out of the way.

The choice is clear and the choice is yours. Make the right strategic decision and grow like Apple, Google and Samsung. Don't let the growth wave pass you by like Motorola, Nokia and Blackberry.

Topics: Augmented Reality, Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Employee Training, Internet of Things, Shopper Marketing, Trends / Statistics

Jeff Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, speaker, author and consultant. Over 30 years he has followed the Customer Experience through technology like wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, AI, Mobile Pay, FinTech and more. Email him at www

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