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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Consumers don't care about 'things' - they care about what those things do for them: Insights from PlumChoice

Steve Thompson, Vice President, IoT - Business Development at PlumChoice, answers the following industry questions prior to the 2016 CONNECTIONS Summit at CES, taking place January 6-7 at Tech West in the Venetian:

What is the most important next step to engage consumers in smart home solutions, connected entertainment services, and/or value-added services like tech support and connected health?

First, we must raise awareness about the value that these devices offer via personal, relevant use cases that make the experience real to them e.g. never come home to a dark house, know when the kids are home from school, welcome houseguests even when you’re stuck at work, etc. It’s not about smart lights, cameras and door locks – it’s about how they make life better, simpler and more convenient. And they can create their smart home one step – one use case – at a time.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is still in the early adopter phase and if certain devices, gadgets and solutions are going to catch on, and if brands are going to differentiate and monetize amongst a crowded landscape of ‘thing makers’ and ‘thing sellers,’ they need to offer support throughout the product lifecycle. In fact our data shows that two-thirds of consumers are unable to complete their desired tasks with current devices like smartphones and simpler connected home products. There’s an opportunity to hold a consumer’s hand through the purchase decision, into implementation, integration and the next purchase. We must adapt support programs to offer both continuous and intermittent interactions, through various channels like DIY (do it yourself), DIFM (do it for me) and DIWM (do it with me), to address a wide range of user needs and comfort levels.

What is the biggest challenge your company faces in 2016?

Shifting the historical support paradigm from one of ‘break/fix’ or warranty to comprehensive services that take care of the customer every step of the way – from buying advice to installation to integration to ongoing support and beyond. In addition, solution providers must move from device-focused support to services that take care of the whole customer’s environment, not just their smart devices. We must help brand decision makers understand how specialized support enables them to create unique value exchanges that positively impact adoption and brand loyalty.

What is the biggest driver for the connected consumer market?

The biggest driver right now in the IoT and connected consumer market is security and smart savings. The products on the market that are getting the most attention right now revolve around protecting and monitoring home and family, and finding new efficiencies that result in cost savings.

Brand owners must remember that consumers don’t care about their “things” – they care about what those things do for them. For example, a consumer isn’t enamored with a smart lightbulb – they fall in love with the idea of coming home to a lit house. They aren’t thinking about smart door locks, they’re thinking about cost-effective and controlled security. The connected consumer is more concerned with the service and the perceived value – not the actual physical device.

However, connected solutions up and running needs to match the cost savings. If it is too difficult for the consumer to get their smart lighting system installed and working properly, only to save a minimal amount on their electric bill, they will walk away. The struggle is not worth the end result.
To make security and energy management worthwhile, IoT brands need to ensure that the consumer can seamlessly and intelligently install, integrate, adopt, and most importantly, recognize immediate value. Otherwise, they will be faced with no fault found returns that cripple brand affinity and monetization.

What are the most important initiatives your company is taking in 2016? 

In 2016, we will continue to drive monetization for our partners and drive awareness for retailers, industry alliances, manufacturers and solution providers. We will also continue to develop the tools and technology, as well as our people, to make adoption and integration easy for the end-user. We are dedicated to impacting and increasing awareness so that brands are able to monetize their devices or solutions and most importantly, so that the consumer feels satisfied with their purchases and are achieving the convenience, simplicity and control that the IoT promises.
We are partnering with enablers, such as the Z-Wave Alliance, to help our partners go-to-market faster and more successfully. 

Describe your vision for the smart home and entertainment markets in 2020.

In 2020 there will be widespread adoption of IoT devices and solutions; we will reach a different level of “how things work.” “Smarts” will be inherent our homes, businesses, cars, appliances, etc. and more “things” will be embedded and seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, without us even knowing it.

Right now, we are in the midst of tremendous innovation and technological advancement and there is an explosion of new devices and solutions hitting the market each day. The sheer volume and diversity of smart devices will change the face of support services, adding a level of complexity unlike anything we’ve seen before because of the nearly unlimited ways to combine different devices and technologies. 

Convergence of standards and interoperability will help address some of the complexity, but even so consumers will need even more comprehensive services to help them make the right choices, set up and keep everything working.

To accomplish that, brands in all segments must awaken to the opportunity to support not just their own “thing,” but all IoT innovations inside the home or business. Holistic customer engagement will help the market move beyond the novelty stage and make it a reality for those looking to adopt and integrate.

Steve Thompson will be speaking on the CONNECTIONS Summit panel "Monetization Strategies for IoT and the Connected Home" on January 6 at 9:15am, alongside speakers from August, Belkin, EnergyHub, WeatherBug Home, and Zonoff. If you plan to attend CES this year, make sure to add this session to your schedule!

For more information on the speakers and sponsors participating in this year's CONNECTIONS Summit, visit www.connectionssummit.com.

Next: Carrier: The connected system of the future will be able to self-diagnose and self-optimize
Previous: Simplicity Drives the Connected Consumer Market: Insights from SmartThings


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