How do your customers define smart housing? Are the products that you are specifying in that definition? Are you aligning with their perception of smart home technology or will you be left behind like this article suggests is the risk for many retailers.

I was recently at a conference where a speaker asked the audience: put your hand up if you have a “smart home”.

Very slowly three out of five hundred hands went up. The speaker expected this response, obviously, this was his routine. Apparently, nobody thinks they have a smart home. So, why is there so much hype? Why is Amazon pushing the Echo so hard? Why is Google pushing the Google Home so hard? Why is Samsung pushing Bixby? Why does McKinsey have a Connected Home practice?

Then the speaker asked: “hands up if you have an Amazon Echo… or a Google Home… or a Nest Cam… or a Sonos speaker, or an August Smart Lock, or a Philips Hue light bulb?” In 30 seconds four hundred of the five hundred hands in the audience were in the air.

Largely people don’t identify as buying abstract things they don’t understand.

People aren’t buying smart homes, but they are buying specific technology-driven solutions or experiences. Unless they are early adopters, people don’t buy technology for the sake of technology, they buy it to solve a problem or to have an experience. The smart products people are buying are the thin end of the wedge. But what’s at the other end of that wedge?

It helps to imagine a future state to see who has the most to lose.

Imagine a world where you’re in your kitchen making Sunday dinner and you run out of aluminum foil. You say “Housebot, order more aluminum foil”, and magically the voice-activated box in the corner of your kitchen orders whatever foil you ordered last time.

If this happens for foil, paper towels, olive oil, milk, butter, eggs and the hundreds of household products that are replacement purchases then a very large shift in power will have occurred. Retailers will have lost, Google will have lost, Amazon will have lost, and whoever controls the voice-activated search box will have won.

The search bar will have become the voice-activated bot in the corner of your room, the “buy button” will be your voice, and the shopping aisle for all replenishment items will be your kitchen. This is scary for retailers and the dominant player in search today — Google.

The race is on to do everything possible to win the battle of the voice-activated bots. The race is on to get you to put a Google Home or an Amazon Echo in your home.

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