How to Market the Smart Home: Focus on Experience, Not Use Cases

For smart home adoption to expand beyond the niche segments of technologically sophisticated upscale consumers and technology-focused DIYers, marketers must do a better job of understanding the inherent value the smart home offers. Current marketing approaches are fragmented and focus on individual devices and single use cases. Most companies are wondering which combination of entry points – appliance and home entertainment control, energy management, pet monitoring, property protection, safety and security – make the most sense. But, the mass market is not buying a platform or devices controlled by an algorithm, they are buying an experience. The key to smart home marketing is to view the smart home as a complex dynamic system, an assemblage with new capacities from ongoing interactions among devices and consumers, from which new experiences emerge. Marketers must focus on communicating the value proposition inherent in experience; current approaches may actually be underselling the smart home. We discuss the value of our framework and offer eight actionable insights derived from our research that can guide marketer action in the early stages of adoption and usage of consumer Internet of Things devices that comprise the smart home.

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Emergent Experience and the Connected Consumer in the Smart Home Assemblage and the Internet of Things

Download the Monograph:  Hoffman and Novak (2015) Emergent Experience in the IoT

Since the commercialization of the Internet began over twenty years ago, we have been fascinated with the opportunities that computer-mediated environments present for human interaction. As a result, we have spent the last few decades researching the marketing and consumer behavior impact of consumers’ interactions in digital environments.

Now, as the consumer Internet of Things emerges, we find ourselves with renewed excitement as we consider the opportunities for consumer interaction in physical environments with objects that have brought the Internet with them into the real world. Just as the Internet was revolutionary because it enabled many-to-many communication through connected digital networks at unprecedented scale, the IoT is a revolutionary advance that brings the digital into the physical realm. Now, interaction is distributed not just virtually “on the Internet,” but also everywhere in the real world where people actually live, work and play.

What awaits us as we are able to interact with smart objects in our everyday lives, and these objects are able to interact with each other, often autonomously? What are the implications for human interaction and for consumer experience? Will new marketing approaches be required? In the course of thinking about these kinds of questions over the past few years, we realized we needed a new framework to help our thinking jell. We found that framework in assemblage theory. The smart home assemblage serves as the context for our theorizing, but we believe our approach generalizes to any consumer IoT assemblage.

In the monograph linked above, we present an assemblage-theory based conceptual framework and its implications for consumer experience in the smart home. In 8 sections, we discuss the evolution of the Internet and the emergence of the consumer IoT, offer a lay version of assemblage theory, develop our framework and discuss the implications of our framework for research in UX, consumer experience, and marketing strategy. The last two sections offer some early practical insights derived from our theory and some perspective on where things might be going. 

Because the pace of change is rapid, we wanted to put this material on the Web as early as possible for comment and feedback. The monograph remains a work in progress. We are developing several papers based on these ideas  for submission to academic journals and look forward to hearing from others working in this compelling new area.

Donna Hoffman & Tom Novak
Washington, DC
V1.0, August 20, 2015