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

CES 2015 – The Emergence of the Smart Home

After three days of pounding the floor at CES 2015, I’m back in Washington, DC and ready to collect my thoughts about this year’s experience.  Originally, Donna Hoffman and I expected,as we usually do, to spent most of our time at Central and South Halls in the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Not this year.  In 2015, CES was divided into three zones:  Tech East (Las Vegas Convention Center ), Tech West (Sands and Venetian) and C Space at the Aria.  Tech West housed pretty much all of the new emerging product categories we were interested in – smart home, fitness and health wearables, 3D printing, robotics and sensors and over 375 startups in Eureka Park.  While it’s overgeneralizing to Oculussay that Tech East only showcased big TVs, its a fair generalization that Tech West came across as housing the new and emerging and Tech East the same old-same old.  With some exceptions – Oculus was situated in Tech East (BTW I wasn’t impressed by the Samsung Gear VR – it’s a step up from Google Cardboard but not a full blown Oculus experience).  So, most of our time was spent at Tech West – the “New CES.”

Smart Home Systems.  In my last post, I talked about Samsung’s big push this year promoting its new SmartThings acquisition and the role that Internet of Things (IoT) is playing in Samsung’s product and marketing strategy. In Tech West, it became clear that Samsung and SmartThings has a lot of competition. Lowe’s displayed its entire Iris line of connected home products, including hub, cameras, motion sensors, smoke alarms, leak sensors, locks, keypads, lights, plugs, garage openers, smart pet doors, and more.

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#CES2014 Wed update

Professor Donna L. Hoffman

Yesterday’s day in the halls was exhausting. We hit Central Hall and saw exceptionally large TVs, Ultra high def TVs, 3D TVs that don’t need glasses, bendable TVs and more multiway tablets and PCs than I can count. Central Hall is flashy, noisy and completely insane. The LG and Samsung exhibits were great, Panasonic seemed lackluster.

Qualcomm had a big exhibit for the first time in Central Hall. We toured their smart home – nice. The AllJoyn tech is a great idea. Devices can talk to each other triggered by events. It’s a good idea.

Cisco had a very interesting display of their dashboard for monitoring and managing the retail floor. The analytics are impressive – drawing from all manner of connected devices and sensors. It’s currently being tested in North America and Europe with a well-known big box retailer. Cutting edge.

I took lots of pics but don’t have…

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Impressions from #CES2014 day 1

Professor Donna L. Hoffman

We spent most of the day in South Hall, visiting booths for smart home, sensors, wearables, 3D printing, drones and smart objects. Belkin’s wemo exhibit was impressive – they seem the farthest along in offering a well organized set of connected devices for home applications. Word is Lowe’s and Staples have impressive set-ups so we’ll check those out tomorrow.

The Parrot drones were delightful – one type is like a cute little bug and the other is like a futuristic little plane. I bet these become wildly popular.

The most interesting development had to be represented by the 3D printing tech zone. Two years ago, 3D was a few booths hidden in the back and Maker Bot’s printer looked pretty bootleg, and was glitchy, to boot. Fast forward a mere two years and there are too many manufacturers and related suppliers to count and Maker Bot is now the slick…

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Smart Home interesting but lacks integration

Professor Donna L. Hoffman

The Zigbee home automation booth had an interesting prototype hub about 6-12 months away. The challenge is to deliver simplicity and ease of use to the mass consumer market.

Z-Wave, a competitor, told us that one strategy is for alliance partners to lead with retail customers and hope
those pull in the end-user consumer interested in the “smart home.”

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WristRevolution at #CES2014

Professor Donna L. Hoffman

pebble-black_thumb[2]It was only a few years ago that Tom and I wandered around the fitness tech zone at CES. It was sparse, it was lonely, and people looked confused. CEOs worked hard to explain how a band you could wear on your arm, your pants, your bra, or your wrist could do some simple tracking and maybe improve your fitness level.

Fast forward to CES 2014, opening next week in Vegas, baby!, and now there’s a new TechZone just for that – WristRevolution – devoted entirely to nextgen wearables. Sensors! Apps! Internet connected!

This – and the “smart home” almost certainly mark the start of the consumer Internet of Things.

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