The custom install industry is always growing and changing. Integrators are quick to seek new revenue streams through trends, devices, and experiences, like those who are offering voice control, outdoor systems, and strong networks, for example.
It’s a never-ending cycle: A hot new product drives interest and business, and once a new one emerges, it’s onto the next. On this kind of rotation, it can be challenging for integrators to fully delve into the potential of a new product or category. But digging in can have its advantages and drive long-term success as well as slow, sustainable growth. Smart shading is relatively new, and in this beginning stage it can become a real asset to integration businesses when paired with the right design options, technology platform, and tools.
Window treatments entered the custom installation space during the past few years. The category hasn’t quite taken off. Because of product limitations and design constraints, most smart shades are an add-on in specific cases, like home theaters and hard-to-reach windows. Our industry is very custom when it comes to technology experiences, where each system has a unique product mix and programming to suit the client’s home, lifestyle, and budget, but when it comes to design aesthetic, smart home offerings can fall flat.
Shades differ from technology and smart home purchases because they are necessities, and often come from the overall “home” budget. Tapping into the renovation and design side can unlock this category and bring massive growth opportunity for integrators. Early smart window treatments have been limited to roller shades in black or ‘greige,’ hindering the revenue opportunity of the category. If you’re only offering smart roller shades, you’re missing 75 percent of the smart shade opportunity. More styles equal more in your tool bag, expanding the types of jobs and applications that smart shades can be integrated in.
Smart shades should be more than a roller, and there are many ways to take on the category. It can start with a simple honeycomb shade and slowly add other styles, shutters, and go wildly custom. A vast scope of light filtering and room darkening options, or even both combined, expand the ways smart window treatments can complement a smart home. The classic example is room darkening in a living room or home theater, with shades programmed to raise with lighting scenes during the day and lower when a movie starts. Other styles can suit benefits in-line with smart home features, like shades with vanes that open and close to filter the sunlight or provide privacy at night. Or, when motorized, Top-Down/Bottom-Up shades give more control of light and privacy with the ability to adjust placement through an app or on a schedule. Shutters are popular in certain regions, with the option to automate the louvers to the exact same angle, letting in different amounts of light throughout the day.
A roller shade isn’t right for every room, and access to more shade style options expands opportunities to grow project profits. Design aesthetic is another factor in the decision process. Families are more apt to choose a motorized option when they aren’t compromising on colors or fabrics that coordinate with their décor. Rather than specs, learning about window treatments involves styles, colors, and fabrics. Integrators can upsell shades in both new construction and retrofit projects that are seeking smart home systems, integrated into the system as an enhancement to features such as smart lighting, security, convenience, and energy savings. With multiple styles and fabrics available, the motorized option becomes more attractive for homeowners, and they’re likely to see them as a valuable add-on to their technology experience.
Related: Selling Shades in the Smart Home
The motorization and smart home integration are simple for dealers to take on, and the design side can become more manageable with the right tools and support. Starting with one shade style and set of fabrics can be the starting point, and integrators can add on new experiences as they get more comfortable. Hunter Douglas offers thousands of customizable motorized shades and launched its Custom Integrator Program to guide dealers through adding the category to their smart home business. There are also guaranteed measuring and installation services available, to eliminate the risk of placing a wrongly sized, very expensive shade order.
When design and technology unite, homeowners are happy and dealers can grow their business. Smart shades are a high-margin growth opportunity, and the variety of styles contributes to the potential for dealers. Even in early deployments, dealers who work with Hunter Douglas have increased profits per project, and doubled their revenue in the smart shade category. With a strong technology foundation and design chops, smart shades can become the next growth opportunity for the custom installation industry.
Scott Stephenson, director of product management, motorization, Hunter Douglas, is a veteran of the home automation and smart home space, bringing over 13 years of experience in product design to bring solutions that delight both end-users and professionals. Joining Hunter Douglas in 2016, Stephenson manages the product and integration strategy for all automated shading solutions. Prior to joining the Hunter Douglas team, Scott spent seven years at leading global smart home provider Control4 as a senior product manager for their lighting and comfort products, where he managed both their lighting control solutions as well as all shade integration.