On occasion at the CEDIA show, home technology professionals come to us to express genuine concern over growing trends in the connected home, or the Internet of Things (IoT)—or however the market and industry groups are referring to networking that particular week.
There are some who think that new and popular AV products represent a fad, even though sales and product offerings continue to grow every year. And, there are others who long for the time when whole-house entertainment and control installations meant an expensive and time-consuming project that required open walls with a commonly added bonus of irritable consumers.
We always suggest that custom pros who are concerned about how the IoT will affect their business should instead think about how it will support their business. Thanks to new technologies and capabilities, the connected home is now accessible to a much wider audience than traditional wired options.
This is fact, not opinion. A recent survey* sponsored by PlumChoice, a technical services provider, and the Z-Wave Alliance, revealed that 97 percent of consumers understand where smart devices fit into the home, and a whopping 79 percent own at least one smart device. And, lest you think we are talking about portables, the biggest growth between 2015 and 2016 occurred in smart appliances, up 250 percent and higher, depending upon the product. (*2016: The Year of the Smart Device)
As a company that caters to independent custom installation and CE specialists, especially those in secondary and tertiary markets, I was especially intrigued by the fact that the primary support item needed from manufacturers is installation.
Our predictions that networking’s importance in the home and small business would grow several-fold since the early 2000s was proven correct, as illustrated by the Z-Wave Alliance and PlumChoice survey. While some of the old guard see a threat to their way of doing business, forward-thinking pros see it as a new world in which installation, service, and customer education are as critical as the technologies that tie so many smart devices together.
Custom installation professionals are in a unique position to grow their business in lock step with the expanding role of networking, even as so-called DIY products become more relevant in the Connected Home. With all the devices now sitting on a home network, and the prospect of more joining the crowd every year, routers need to be upgraded, systems checked, and products installed so they all play well together.
Far from pushing the CI professional to the sidelines, the IoT represents a strong opportunity for businesspeople to position themselves as experts, and rightfully so. When trust is earned, consumers will always go back to the pros who did the job right the first time, not a big box or online retailer whose only mission is to sell boxes, not provide personal service.
Installers who plan to thrive in years ahead may have to readjust their thinking to current needs. Whether smart devices are labeled DIY is beside the point; consumers need assistance from the get-go for almost any connected home project. It may be in the form of installation, or simply quarterly maintenance as part of a service plan that is sold as part of the original purchase.
The best way to gain the advantage in a changing market is to demonstrate an unshakable knowledge of the subject at hand. Education is essential every step of the way, from training to manufacturer and dealer videos that discuss marketing and sales tips as much as they do the products. Get the word out to your community through social media and the ever-important word-of-mouth referrals that keep the best of the best in business year after year, product trend after product trend.