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Micro-P's Mike Harris advises retailers to get involved in the Connected Home

Mike Harris: Selling the Connected Home

After an impressive talk at PCR Boot Camp on the Connected Home, Micro-P’s Mike Harris expands on the topic – pointing out that it’s a vital opportunity for retailers.

Micro-P is a great advocate of the Connected Home. Presumably you think this is a really good opportunity for retailers?
The connected home is upon us and the opportunity is huge for retailers – smart devices are in the most unsuspecting hands these days and this is only set to grow. These devices just get renewed constantly.

Now that people can connect their devices around the home using simple and inexpensive solutions, the market is going to be massive.

Get rid of your 3D experience centre and add the connected home products. Watch what you want, when you want, share what you want when you want – having everything at your fingertips. Watch, store, share.

A lot of people don’t realise that they’re already using technology in this way, do they?
That they don’t, but the younger generation do. They will in turn teach their parents. My dad uses Skype on a tablet to talk to my brother overseas. This is a man that has been known to pick up the TV remote instead of his DECT phone. The technology just gets simpler and easier to connect to multiple devices.

With the speed at which this technology is moving, I suppose retailers have to work hard to keep up to date, or else risk the consumers educating them, or maybe even walking away?
Customers are already educating retailers – they have to shape up and get involved or they will get left behind. Business is tough enough without serving up the same products to the same customers day in, day out. The strong and dynamic will prosper.

These are fashionable and footfall driving products. Technology does move quickly but the compatibility will always be available for older devices. Manufacturers make sure of this and for the first time they seem to be driving in the same direction.

So what kind of products are involved in the connected home?
Smart TVs, media streamers, NAS drives, tablets, smartphones, notebooks, gaming PCs, multifunction monitor, powerline, wireless routers and networking, games consoles, web cams, IP cameras, infra-red controllers, TV live apps even. I could go on all day. That’s the beauty, when you have a wireless network in the home, a tablet and a TV, or a smartphone and a TV, you’ve got the beginnings of a connected home.

Those that want it all can have integrated iPads controlling heating, lighting, power saving, infra-red controllers to switch everything on or off, delay your heating by half an hour as you’re running late home, turn the hot water on remotely or simply watch three movies in three rooms entertaining Billy, Suzy and mum and dad from one device.

You mention using integrated iPads to control the connected home – is this a good thing, or is it actually taking away from the connected home installation sector?
Hmm, tough one, I think there will still be a large amount of people who want to have the most state-of-the-art set-ups. But for the masses, it’s more simple to start small and build on it with something like iPad apps.

We’re seeing a huge explosion in the tablet sector at the moment – with new devices looming from the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google. Is there still space for new products?
There is plenty of room for everyone; a tablet is a personal choice. Some will just want something for the train, others will want to connect to everything, have the highest resolution and applications. My advice is look around and find what suits you.

I think the connected home is a perfect example of how the IT landscape is changing. It’s a huge market now. Following on from that, I suppose the connected home should bring in more sales for IT retailers from both new and existing customers?
The Connected Home and its products will definitely offer everyone further opportunity and it’s not a one-stop shop, that’s the beauty of this.

You can just keep adding to your connected home with devices available now and products that will continue to evolve. The sky is the limit so any person with any budget can get started and then add devices to suit their needs or depth of pocket.

What other opportunities are there in this space?
Installation and support would be the greatest addition, a reseller/retailer that can demonstrate and provide the products then install and support will be the strongest candidate for success. They will also retain the highest profits. They can become a centre of excellence.

Can you tell me more about Micro-P’s connected home demonstrations suite?
Our demonstration suite at Micro-P Basingstoke is a great space to show off the new products within the connected home – it’s used for manufacturers and customers.

This gives us a chance to hold meetings in a room brimming with technology and a great platform for manufacturers to show their products. It offers the customer vision as to what they could have in store and how best to demonstrate each product/section.

Who typically comes to see it?
We have an open invitation to our customers both existing and new.

I have demonstrated to some huge UK retailers in this space and our sales department, directors and even customers can use this room to demonstrate and host meetings to put the room, products and technology to good use.

Is it right that Micro-P clients can book training as well?
Yes absolutely, I would be keen to hear of any new opportunities. I have been to many retail sites to help and advise them on the products they would need in store, I have trained the sales teams, engineers and external onsite installation teams. Anyone that is keen on getting involved and wants to work with Micro-P is welcome to contact us to move this forward.

What’s coming up next in this area for Micro-P?
We are currently preparing to roll out a huge connected home focus with one of if not the largest buying group in Europe.

They have over 1,000 stores in the UK alone and offer the full service from demonstration to installation and ongoing support. We at Micro-P are very excited about this and following an external show to the independent retail store owners they are suitably excited too.

We should always be looking forward to maximise this great opportunity. Home cinema is old hat, 3D is a battle. Connected home is the future, integrating all these technologies and combining them with a current and futuristic lifestyle… only it’s here now.

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