How Retailers Can Overcome Negative Perceptions of the Smart Home

There are still too many barriers standing between consumers and the truly smart—and easy—home.
By Eduardo Pinheiro
Feb 26, 2016

The Internet of Things is flourishing, but more in industrial applications than in smart-home systems for consumers. According to a recent survey conducted by, 67 percent of potential connected device buyers said the cost to buy, set up and maintain a smart-home system is the number-one barrier to purchasing connected devices for the home. Consumers may not be seeing the full value in connected devices, causing them to forego their purchase or stop after just one device. With price and installation as driving factors behind purchasing decisions, it's important for retailers to recognize obstacles and make the complete value proposition of smart-home devices known before consumers leave the store or check out online.

A common perception amongst consumers is that the smart-home industry is falling short in terms of price and value. As it stands, the price difference between traditional devices and their connected device counterparts is too severe. Shoppers do not think the price reflects the value. Customers are considering prices and weighing product benefits, and are then deciding it's not worth the added cost when compared to the devices they currently own.

To go along with the pricing disconnect, 43 percent of possible smart-home device buyers responding to the survey also said they are concerned about the complexity of installing their own smart-home systems. In today's world, consumers are used to a plug-and-play setup for almost all of their personal technology. The everyday consumer doesn't want to hire an electrician or work on a complicated installation for days; they want to install it themselves in a small window of time. The smart-home industry has improved in this area, but there are still too many devices with a difficult installation process.

Along with high prices and complicated installation steps, the use of siloed products is a major barrier to greater smart-home device adoption. When consumers purchase their first smart-home product, they may understand the features and benefits of that particular device, but they don't get to see how it can interact with other devices within their home. Most retail stores aren't fully showcasing the abilities of each product they sell, which leaves consumers unaware of which products are interoperable.

Despite these barriers, there are easy solutions for retailers and manufacturers to overcome negative consumer perception of smart-home technology. Changing ideas about value doesn't necessarily mean lowering the prices. Retailers should be selling each connected device with a compelling value proposition, which can be through an education program like a smart-home showcase, in which shoppers can experiment with devices and see how they work together. Most consumers don't invest in expensive clothing without trying it on first, and the same process should be applied to smart-home technology. By testing out use cases like dimming a bulb when lowering the thermostat, consumers have a chance to see the full potential of each device before they spend the money. However, retail showcases are a rather large investment, so companies can start the shift to consumer education through detailed product descriptions and online tutorials.

There is no "one size fits all" for smart-home technology—there needs to be a personalized solution for buyers to understand how devices can make their lives easier. My company, Muzzley, a smart-home platform that makes it easy to use connected devices via its one app solution, is an example of how personalization can be achieved. It allows consumers to create shared rules between connected devices and provides smart suggestions unique to each user. By only suggesting products that are applicable to each consumer's interests, companies such as Muzzley or IFTTT are creating a personalized, seamless experience that shows each user how his or her smart-home devices can work with each other. If consumers were informed about unique use cases before they actually purchased the product, they would be more inclined to obtain more products to make them interact for their specific needs.

Consumer education is rooted in supportive customer service and innovative technology. Customer service should span beyond the purchase point; retailers should provide consumers with additional help after they've taken the product home. Once retailers and manufacturers start focusing more on educating the consumer on the value of each product, the smart-home industry can begin to flourish.

Eduardo Pinheiro is the CEO and co-founder of Muzzley and has more than 15 years of expertise in platform development. Prior to establishing Muzzley in 2013, Pinheiro helped develop applications such as Findmore, Mobbit Systems and TIMwe. He has also worked at the computer science research center at the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa, where he received a degree in economics, and went on to become a developer in the first Portuguese Linux distribution.

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