Shopfloor PROFILE: WHO?

February 2019

Where it began Back in 2013 we saw more retailers going under so it was hugely important for us to diversify and expand what we offered at the time. We weren’t going to ‘out-market’ Currys, AO or Argos, but we could see that there was a sector of the market that was beginning to rear its head and grow. We decided with regards to smart home to create a service and offering that was a bit unique – to utilise what we already sold but with add-on services and products that customers wouldn’t have considered or known about before. We wanted to exceed customer expectations to stop them walking into a shop elsewhere to potentially spend their money there instead. We started simply with TVs, soundbars or surround systems – taking that initial sale and adding to it with additional speakers and things like that. We expanded from there, incorporating audio all around the house and moving into Wi-Fi, network connections and whole home solutions such as lighting, heating and security. Three or four years ago we never did this sort of stuff, but people need some of these things – whereas they don’t necessarily need a new TV – and home automation is growing in lighting and heating control, so if the customer wants to shave the budget at least we can offer them the essentials in a smart format and still get the business.

Seeking advice As a retailer, we’re quite fortunate that we have got a lot of very

39 Offer solutions to customers that you can add to your existing product ranges with ease

good relationships with key manufacturers. In the beginning we requested a bit of extra training from these people, but then even before this a meeting was arranged where some companies came along and presented to our head office about why we should consider moving into this sector. This helped us understand where the market was and what the opportunities were, but training was also required and we did our own research as well. From that initial conversation our

senior team moved forward with the process and that’s when I got properly involved. Then, in 2014, we became a CEDIA member and from here it grew even further. I’ve said it to a lot of retailers before

– there are loads of people out there that are willing to assist and help. A lot of brands are taking this type of area forward but they understand there has to be a level of training in certain products in order to educate the end consumer; it’s not always the same as selling a washing machine or a TV. If products work with Amazon Alexa systems, for example, then that’s great but how do they work and what are the further options and benefits? Shopfloor staff need to know to help benefit this whole venture!

Consumer awareness I urge any independent to start to take smart home related products and services more seriously. I think there’s still a massive lack of consumer awareness of what smart home products can do outside their basic remit.

By 2020 I think consumer

awareness will suddenly grow at ludicrous speed. I do think that retailers should have been on board by now, because soon there will be no point trying to do smart home because you would have missed the exciting boat and you’ll lack the time to make the mistakes that will inevitably happen. We talk about it so much in our industry but there’s still not enough of an awareness among the general public. We can help that as retailers – if we show consumers more about what’s available and the capabilities of these products, then people will be more educated. However, we’re a long way from everything just automatically working without retailers or installers. Even if the customer buys certain products online, you can still find a way to integrate these into an installation solution that you can make margin on, then you’re still relevant and this customer may return to you for future purchases as well.

Showcase the benefits As retailers we can do more with

regards to demonstration – showing customers the benefits. Smaller retailers, for example, can show how more domestic appliances work, such as washing machines, but they could also put Philips Hue products in their white goods display area with an Amazon Alexa to help with demos turning on the relevant products. At this moment, the customer may have never considered that these options were possible, let alone that the retailer can also offer these solutions. This adds another level to the capabilities of all these products.

The key message, in my opinion,

is to start slowly; you don’t have to go in and do the whole home all at once – go in and add value here and there to what you’re already selling. Most brands will give you products that give you good margin that work together, and you’ll find yourself taking on more and more products with ranges that expand in all directions. If you’re going to offer smart services, make sure they work together and not against each other. From a retailer’s point of view, the landscape is tough but people are willing to invest in new technology – there is money out there but you just have to do something different to get hold of it.

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