MANY NEW-HOME BUYERS BUY the latest consumer electronics and home technology products for their new homes, but a clear majority still make their purchases from sources other than their builder.

This is one of several important findings from the American Digital Dream research project released by the Internet Home Alliance earlier this year. The research is based on focus groups conducted in Denver last June and a Web-based survey of 404 target consumers last September.

The 60-page study was done by Zanthus, a market research company based in Portland, Ore., with close cooperation from Arvida, CompUSA, and KB Home. The Internet Home Alliance hopes builders will use the study—and data from its other ongoing research projects—to more effectively market home technologies in their model homes.

Tim Woods, vice president of ecosystem development for the Internet Home Alliance, says contrary to the conventional notion that builders don't care or understand technology, selling technology is right in line with what builders have done for generations.

“Builders sell emotion,” says Woods. “They sell good schools, community parks, walking trails, green space, all features that have an emotional attachment,” he explains.

SELL LIFESTYLE: KB Home has totally revamped its home technology strategy by selling the benefits of consumer electronics and home automation to the home buyer—rather than focusing on the gear itself.
SELL LIFESTYLE: KB Home has totally revamped its home technology strategy by selling the benefits of consumer electronics and home automation to the home buyer—rather than focusing on the gear itself.

“Technology isn't that far off from what builders know and embrace. The trick is translating the marketing approach from being about the technology to what the technology can do [to improve] a home buyer's lifestyle,” he says.

One of the findings of the Internet Home Alliance's Mealtime Pilot, in which 20 families in the Boston area tested kitchen-based home technology, was that a broadband Internet connection in the kitchen actually brought many of the families together. With a broadband connection in the kitchen, Woods says the whole family worked online there. No longer did the daughter go to her room to instant message her friends, the son escape to play video games, and mom and dad seek refuge in their home office.

“Once you understand how families are really living their lives day-to-day, then you can sell to the mass market,” says Woods. “Builders need to start talking about families sharing the experience of being together and feeling connected, of planning activities and meals together.”

KB Home is taking all the latest research to heart. The large Los Angeles–based builder revamped its marketing approach based on the report's research and recommendations.

INDEPENDENT THINKERS: Sixty-nine percent of new-home buyers surveyed by the Internet Home Alliance considered making one or more technology purchases independent of their home builder. Here are the technologies that group considered.
INDEPENDENT THINKERS: Sixty-nine percent of new-home buyers surveyed by the Internet Home Alliance considered making one or more technology purchases independent of their home builder. Here are the technologies that group considered.

“We completely changed the way we are marketing our digital displays and products,” says Lisa Kalmbach, senior vice president of Studios for KB Home's design centers, who says KB revamped its digital displays at 30 design studios nationwide.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Denver, CO.