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I Ask Again: Can Home Automation Succeed at Retail?

Can today's superstores succeed in home automation where Best Buy, Home Depot, RadioShack, Lowe's and other retailers have failed in the past?


Is a standalone kiosk compelling enough to sell Iris Lowe's home automation systems on the retail floor?
Julie Jacobson · June 25, 2013

While DIY home automation systems are certainly sellable, can they be moved en masse by home improvement and electronics stores? The long history from CompUSA, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Home Depot, RadioShack is nothing short of dismal. But the times, they are a changing.

Here are some of the challenges faced by retailers selling the smart home:

Home automation is not an impulse buy.
When you go to Home Depot for supplies to build a deck, chances are you won’t happen upon the home automation kiosk and drop $250 for a system that can control your lights, thermostats and security.

These can be complicated things that aren’t going to sell themselves.

Where do you put this stuff in a store?
Do complete home control systems go in the lighting department? In the HVAC section? By the computers and TVs? That’s been the big problem in the past – no one knows where to put this stuff in a store, so they end up in kiosks with no connection to the rest of the shop.

Who sells it?
That guy in the orange apron probably isn’t trained on the home automation system in the kiosk, so when you ask him for help, he does exactly what the consumer would do: reads the label.

Single-purpose smart devices make more sense.
While a complete home-control system can be challenging to sell in a superstore, single-purpose devices can enjoy better success: Put the automated door locks with the mechanical ones, the smart bulbs with the dumb bulbs, the learning thermostats with the oldfangled ones.

At least in these cases, the sales associate in the HVAC section can tell you how to wire a thermostat and the hardware guy can teach you to swap out a lock.

RELATED:
Can RadioShack & Other Retailers Sell Home Automation?
X10 VP: ‘Julie you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about’

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Point-of-sale kiosk for Lowe’s Iris home automation system



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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