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The race to own the home - part 1

In this two-part post, Jenna Law, our UX Director, explores IoT and specifically its impact on the race by brands to own the home.  To kick it off, Jenna discusses how such a lofty ambition begins with smart integration and looks at the brands approaching it the right way.

Nearly every client that has come through our doors over these past months has had a clear and focused objective “We want to own the home”.  

They all have slightly different nuances but essentially want to create more direct and pertinent relationships with customers in ways where customers trade data and behavioral insights in exchange for tools and services to make life quicker, simpler and easier.  

The new vision for brands is to be completely integrated into a consumer’s lifestyle, so that there is no longer a segmentation between the world of them vs. the world of us. Advances in technology are making that goal more tangible everyday.

But when a brand states they want to ‘own the home,’ it makes a rather grand assumption that the home is actually up for grabs. It also, more importantly, assumes that customers are willing to allow brands in. Has anyone actually checked?

Here is what we’ve learned from our recent conversations and research on the subject:

The home is not owned… yet
With such a land grab for the territory, by such a wide range of players, it will be. From IBM to Staples, the land will go quickly- we predict within the next two years.

The ‘Internet of Things” (IoT) promises to be the leading methodology to help us all get there. IoT is essentially the technology that can enable consumers to connect their services, products and devices together – helping them get a broader picture of their consumption behaviors and lifestyle choices. For brands, this data collection is crucial, something they have long craved but have never been given the permission to ‘own’. IoT will be powerful on both sides of the coin.  

Amazon is already making advancements with their Echo and Dash solutions made to “investigate new contexts that influence purchase behaviour,” explains Tim Allen, Wolff Olins’ North American President, who helped design Echo during his time at the company. 

Google has invested heavily in their smart energy solution Nest. Nest aims to help consumers control and monitor their energy consumption from the touch of their phone, crucially putting the control back in to the consumer’s hands, literally and metaphorically, and out of the energy providers.

John Lewis, one of the leading retailers in the UK recently launched a “dedicated and innovative Smart Home technology department” in their flagship store in London. The department is designed for customers to explore and purchase for the ‘house of the future, today’, integrating smart home technology across areas such as heating, lighting and entertainment. The fact that ‘smart homes’ have hit the high street is a telling sign that this trend is becoming more credible and realistic by the day.

Competitors or disruptors, like Google, that are moving into the home space, having started life in other sectors, don’t necessarily have the expertise and experience that true home brands do. ‘True home brands’, like John Lewis, are the ones already in customer homes and have been for generations. These incoming disruptors may have the flexibility and speed to react to the market needs in a new and innovative way, but the latter have a legacy and trust instilled in consumers’ subconscious that could just act as the advantage point. 

For ‘true home brands’ it’s not too late to claim their rightful territory. Customers already have the pre-existing relationship – it just needs to be built upon. If technology is disrupting the world, it’s all the more reason to move quickly. The world expects it and customers, if not already, will soon start to demand it. But, what they want might be more specific than what brands are willing to give.

Come back tomorrow for part two as Jenna dives into what customers value most and what this means for competition.


Illustration by Vivian Yang

Jenna Law is UX Director at Wolff Olins London. You can follow her @plexusdesigner