I’ve worked in the retail tech industry for over twenty years and to rip off the famous campaign ‘There’s a Beer For That’ there’s now definitely ‘A Gadget For That’ and it got me thinking. There’s so much ‘stuff’ around and I wondered if consumers truly understand the full functionality of the products they buy.
So, I started asking friends and family which isn’t unusual of me (as they are not people in the marketing industry) things like ‘how much of the functionality of your mobile phone do you use?’, ‘is your Alexa or Google Home hooked up to your TV or thermostat?’ ‘Have you set your wireless speakers to be multiroom capable’ and it quickly became clear that gadgets were rife but not being used anywhere near to their full potential.
This started to pose some serious questions for me around where people are buying their gadgets, the service they’re experiencing and ultimately the product experience. So, I decided to commission research that looked at consumer purchasing behaviour in one of the fastest growing consumer categories Smart Home technology. According to EY Some 59 per cent of UK households are expected to own a smart home device by 2022 and smart home retail value is expected to reach £5.11 billion worldwide this year.
The research showed that 56 per cent of adults have bought the latest must-have smart home tech including WIFI controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers but most of them had little idea what to do with it. Over 30 per cent said they regretted buying at least one or more items of smart home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running and they couldn’t get all their devices to connect which is the whole point of having a ‘smart home’. This totally backed-up my gut feel and desk research about how consumers buy, integrate and utilise gadgets.
The study also showed that those people that bought their smart home tech from a brick and mortar retail store did so to play, touch and feel the product (40 per cent), get advice from sales staff (30 per cent) and a demonstration (30 per cent).
There’s some real retail tension here for me. If people want the latest gadgets and they’re up for new technology, why aren’t more retailers and brands making the buying experience more educational and interactive to give consumers a better product experience?
Surely this is where bricks and mortar stores can win over online retailers? What consumers are looking for from retailers and brands is very simple – provide me with an immersive shopping experience where I can interact with the product, teach me how to use it and then send me on my way. Then I will come back.
The high street is in a period of evolution rather than extinction and as brick and mortar stores start to adapt in terms of estate size, store concepts and customer experience which will entice shoppers back I think we’ll see a whole new and exciting shopping experience.
For me Dixons Carphone’s proposition is spot on - ‘We simplify mobiles, electricals and technology’ and there’s no better way to do that than face to face with an expert!