Control & Automation

On Millennials, DIY, Smart Homes, Professional Installation and the Business of IoT Things

It’s not that Millennials and other with-it customers want cheap; they just want smart home solutions that are simple and convenient. Will traditional custom installers meet their needs, or will Millennial-run start-ups own the market?

On Millennials, DIY, Smart Homes, Professional Installation and the Business of  IoT Things
The new world order includes Millennials — the generation that has grown up on technology, likes to order everything online, and doesn’t want to waste time with pesky salespeople and system designers.

Julie Jacobson · November 2, 2016

In a CE Pro article not too long ago, I said it: the DIY trend is starting to get scary

I addressed some challenges in the pro channel considering the new world order — one that includes very good, very inexpensive smart-home solutions for do-it-your-selfers, along with an entire ecosystem that makes it simpler for people to purchase and install their smart devices, whether by themselves or with a little guidance from a pro. 

And, of course, the new world order includes Millennials — the generation that has grown up on technology, likes to order everything online, and doesn’t want to waste time with pesky salespeople and system designers.

I questioned integrators: What are you doing about this new reality? How can we exploit today’s on-demand economy? What can we learn from Uber and Airbnb?

What can we learn from SnapAV, which pioneered this model in the custom channel?

Why has SnapAV done so well? Because dealers want to research, order, buy and receive products simply, without having to speak to sales, logistics and accounting people on the other end.

Why wouldn’t your customers want this same experience?

Some Readers Aren’t Buying It

RobMacK (posting on a different cepro.com story about Millennials) writes:

We’re supposed to market our products/services to Millennials who have an 8-second or less attention span? Who don’t even have (maybe) 20 percent of the purchasing power that their older (and wiser) boomer generation have? And who think that they know everything (already!) about tech? … Millennials want to do it all themselves. Let them. I’ll still be happy to provide their parents with quality service and equipment.

As an aside, Rob’s comment makes me wonder: Who is actually making the tech-related decisions for their aging parents these days? And who will be the “mature” buyers in the next decade or two?

But the other reality is that “traditional” customers are dying off (literally) and high-touch installs are becoming a smaller piece of the entire custom pie, which is growing overall if you count semi-custom.

It’s not so much that Millennials and other modern-day customers want cheap; it’s more that they want simple, convenient and immediate.

As usual, Steve Firszt of the industry consulting firm Vital Mgmt sums it up better than I:

Julie’s larger point, to me, is the perceived experience of doing business with a specialist. We ask too many questions. We throw around scary technical jargon. As a buyer, I have to make too many decisions about too many things I know nothing about. … [C]heck the mirror and ask, "What is it like to do business with me?"

Similarly, "Ben" comments:

Dealers need to remember who they’re designing for, which is the customer. Dealers can be easily caught up in over-designing projects which will eventually cause customers to turn to simpler, less-stressful solutions (whether that is a DIY solution of just another integrator).  

Today’s more mature integrators, retiring within a decade, might do well to proceed with business as usual. But those dealers in it for the long haul — especially those targeting the mid-market — should look out for the eager Millennials now entering the "custom" electronics field. You can be sure they will capture their peers with relevant marketing campaigns and disruptive business models.

Why should we continue to cede “our” business to innovative young start-ups? Why can't "we" be the future-looking start-ups?

When I urged integrators to consider new business models that jibe with new realities, I was thinking along the lines of one particular example from the senior-living market, which also is being disrupted by a “DIY” movement called aging in place.

There will always be a need for assisted living facilities (as with pure custom integration), but how can these facilities exploit the growing aging-in-place movement? San Francisco start-up Seniorly, the “Airbnb of senior living,” allows facilities to fill temporary vacancies with seniors who might need a short stay. The company has partnered with Lyft to further simplify the experience for the facility, the short-term guest, and their caretaker.


NEXT: About that DIY Home Automation Thing: Case Study in Senior Living




7 Clever Ways to Hide Home Technology - CE Pro Download

Most technology products are not that visually appealing. Black boxes and tangled wires do not add to the character of a high-end smart home project. Luckily, our integrator readers have a number of clever solutions so these components don’t have to be visible in your next project.




  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at jjacobson@ehpub.com

Follow Julie on social media:
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Julie also participates in these groups:
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View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.



  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Business · Sales & Marketing · Business Operations · News · Blogs · DIY · Industry Insider · Millennials · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by BradYoung04 on November 15, 2016

exactly Julie. And that kind of service is what differentiates businesses. Millennials are a valuable market and investing the time and energy in them now will be worth it in the long run.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on November 7, 2016

Totally agree on the empowerment thing. Custom-centric manufacturers have made some decent progress over the past few years enabling users to create their own scenes and schedules. They could definitely do more.

Posted by BradYoung04 on November 7, 2016

ahardeman I think you have hit the nail on the head. It’s about empowering your customers, which is what millennials in particular respond to.

Posted by antoniohardeman on November 3, 2016

RobMack,

I certainly agree with you that the integrator’s input should be valued and listened to because experience does trump other things.  I’m big believer in experience driving decision making to an extent.  As you’ve said both sides need to listen a lot.  That’s the one area I think millennials may have a problem.  As they get older they tend to listen more.

The reason that I say that my implementation was unusual is because of the streaming sources I decided to use.  The low profile in-ceiling speakers and the 6 source 12 channel amp were the only standard pieces of the install.  I knew that I wanted to have the flexibility of listening to different sources in each room or a group of rooms as needed.  So for example, I wanted to listened to a Sirius XM show via the Sirius app only in the master-bath room, master bedroom and kitchen while I get ready for work without playing the source in the other rooms of the house. 

I looked at Sonos first during my initial research.  The integrator informed me that a Sonos solution solution would be costly.  He then suggested a few of the solutions that are talked about here on CEPro.  But he made it clear that to stay within my budget I was looking at a system that could only do 3 independent sources at a time and no grouping.  At first I was fine with that but then I started to research.

That’s when I stumbled upon review after review of Google’s Chromecast Audio (CCA) as a potential streaming source.  I saw that plenty of mainstream streaming apps such as Pandora, Spotify and others had CCA support built directly into their apps.  And then I found information that Google enabled grouping of CCAs in December of 2015, which is something that I wanted.  As I researched A/V message boards and Reditt I found out that if you have an Android device, I have a new Samsung Tab S2 tablet, you could stream the audio playing from any app on the Android device even if the app didn’t directly support CCA to a CCA.  That sealed the deal for me.

Posted by RobMacK on November 3, 2016

ahardeman: you, sir, are a rare breed. Someone who does their research in advance, asks pertinent (even challenging) questions and above all allows others to do their jobs. I wish I could have 100s of clients like you. The reality is that I won’t.

A few key points I’d like to stress if I may. Please don’t get offended when I say that I believe that my 15+ years of expertise and know-how in residential integration can’t match up with some online research done over a few days/weeks. Not that your research isn’t a good thing, it’s just that integrators like us have “Experience”. We know what works and what doesn’t. We may not know everything but we know far more than people give us credit for. I’ve had clients school me on a few tricks over the years (search here on CEPro for “Roku and Time Warner” for example) so I’m very happy to learn new things all the time.

Design is VERY important. You wouldn’t think of telling an architect that you didn’t need design for your new house no less than you would tell the GC that he didn’t need plans to build it. Design is so often overlooked or even discarded. It has to be a focal or integral part of every project. Without it, the project is doomed to fail.

We need to encourage full 2-way communication with our clients in order to deliver the best possible project. That means listening on both sides of the table. All too often, clients believe that integrators are over-selling or over-complicating projects. Integrators can also tell you about all the times they were told that the Client “knew everything”. I’ve seen both scenarios all too often. I listen a lot, but I expect to be listened to as well.

As an aside, I’m curious about the WHA system you put in and why was non -traditional- it’s not everyday you can do too many custom things with WHA.

Thanks for the ongoing conversation Julie!

Posted by Julie Jacobson on November 3, 2016

Thanks for sharing your perspective, ahardeman! Good lessons for integrators.

Posted by antoniohardeman on November 3, 2016

I’m not a millennial, I’m 39.  But I’m around the professional ones a lot and I think that for millennials and people in my age group, the fact is that we have way more information available to us.  We research and read redditt, twitter, and other social sites and AV message boards to figure out what will meet our needs/requirements.  So we don’t *think* that we need to pay someone to design and pick out the appropriate equipment because we have tons of information at our fingertips. 

I’m a prime example of this sort of thinking.  In July I had a A/V company come to my home and provide me with a quote for a whole home audio system.  Everything the gentleman said was fine, but the advice was predicated on the traditional way of thinking about WHA.  I had already completed my researched by reading this site and its’ sister site, other A/V sites and I asked questions online to determine what I needed for what I wanted to do.  The A/V company had never done an install like mine and I knew more information than they did.  But what made me want to work with them beside their reputation is that they listened to my ideas and they provided me with options that they thought would work.  They even researched additional information to help themselves understand what I was requesting.  In the end I had them install the system that wanted and it works just fine.  It would have never worked if I felt they weren’t open to what I was saying or that they were just trying to sell a me a package that has worked for them in the past. 

I think technologists that are working with millennials must be flexible and open to listening to what the millennials and those like myself want in their system(s).  Millennials really like to have their voices heard and they like to deal with people that they think are *open* and non-judgmental.  So be open to what they have to say.  Otherwise, you end up butting heads.

Posted by Audioplus on November 2, 2016

8 Second attention span is much longer than our 50, 60 +. 90% have ADHD and don’t want to learn anything, make it inexpensive, make it easy, I don’t want what was installed in 2004. Print out a 220 page manual and hand it to them as bathroom reading material

Posted by Audioplus on November 2, 2016

8 Second attention span is much longer than our 50, 60 +. 90% have ADHD and don’t want to learn anything, make it inexpensive, make it easy, I don’t want what was installed in 2004. Print out a 220 page manual and hand it to them as bathroom reading material

Posted by antoniohardeman on November 3, 2016

I’m not a millennial, I’m 39.  But I’m around the professional ones a lot and I think that for millennials and people in my age group, the fact is that we have way more information available to us.  We research and read redditt, twitter, and other social sites and AV message boards to figure out what will meet our needs/requirements.  So we don’t *think* that we need to pay someone to design and pick out the appropriate equipment because we have tons of information at our fingertips. 

I’m a prime example of this sort of thinking.  In July I had a A/V company come to my home and provide me with a quote for a whole home audio system.  Everything the gentleman said was fine, but the advice was predicated on the traditional way of thinking about WHA.  I had already completed my researched by reading this site and its’ sister site, other A/V sites and I asked questions online to determine what I needed for what I wanted to do.  The A/V company had never done an install like mine and I knew more information than they did.  But what made me want to work with them beside their reputation is that they listened to my ideas and they provided me with options that they thought would work.  They even researched additional information to help themselves understand what I was requesting.  In the end I had them install the system that wanted and it works just fine.  It would have never worked if I felt they weren’t open to what I was saying or that they were just trying to sell a me a package that has worked for them in the past. 

I think technologists that are working with millennials must be flexible and open to listening to what the millennials and those like myself want in their system(s).  Millennials really like to have their voices heard and they like to deal with people that they think are *open* and non-judgmental.  So be open to what they have to say.  Otherwise, you end up butting heads.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on November 3, 2016

Thanks for sharing your perspective, ahardeman! Good lessons for integrators.

Posted by RobMacK on November 3, 2016

ahardeman: you, sir, are a rare breed. Someone who does their research in advance, asks pertinent (even challenging) questions and above all allows others to do their jobs. I wish I could have 100s of clients like you. The reality is that I won’t.

A few key points I’d like to stress if I may. Please don’t get offended when I say that I believe that my 15+ years of expertise and know-how in residential integration can’t match up with some online research done over a few days/weeks. Not that your research isn’t a good thing, it’s just that integrators like us have “Experience”. We know what works and what doesn’t. We may not know everything but we know far more than people give us credit for. I’ve had clients school me on a few tricks over the years (search here on CEPro for “Roku and Time Warner” for example) so I’m very happy to learn new things all the time.

Design is VERY important. You wouldn’t think of telling an architect that you didn’t need design for your new house no less than you would tell the GC that he didn’t need plans to build it. Design is so often overlooked or even discarded. It has to be a focal or integral part of every project. Without it, the project is doomed to fail.

We need to encourage full 2-way communication with our clients in order to deliver the best possible project. That means listening on both sides of the table. All too often, clients believe that integrators are over-selling or over-complicating projects. Integrators can also tell you about all the times they were told that the Client “knew everything”. I’ve seen both scenarios all too often. I listen a lot, but I expect to be listened to as well.

As an aside, I’m curious about the WHA system you put in and why was non -traditional- it’s not everyday you can do too many custom things with WHA.

Thanks for the ongoing conversation Julie!

Posted by antoniohardeman on November 3, 2016

RobMack,

I certainly agree with you that the integrator’s input should be valued and listened to because experience does trump other things.  I’m big believer in experience driving decision making to an extent.  As you’ve said both sides need to listen a lot.  That’s the one area I think millennials may have a problem.  As they get older they tend to listen more.

The reason that I say that my implementation was unusual is because of the streaming sources I decided to use.  The low profile in-ceiling speakers and the 6 source 12 channel amp were the only standard pieces of the install.  I knew that I wanted to have the flexibility of listening to different sources in each room or a group of rooms as needed.  So for example, I wanted to listened to a Sirius XM show via the Sirius app only in the master-bath room, master bedroom and kitchen while I get ready for work without playing the source in the other rooms of the house. 

I looked at Sonos first during my initial research.  The integrator informed me that a Sonos solution solution would be costly.  He then suggested a few of the solutions that are talked about here on CEPro.  But he made it clear that to stay within my budget I was looking at a system that could only do 3 independent sources at a time and no grouping.  At first I was fine with that but then I started to research.

That’s when I stumbled upon review after review of Google’s Chromecast Audio (CCA) as a potential streaming source.  I saw that plenty of mainstream streaming apps such as Pandora, Spotify and others had CCA support built directly into their apps.  And then I found information that Google enabled grouping of CCAs in December of 2015, which is something that I wanted.  As I researched A/V message boards and Reditt I found out that if you have an Android device, I have a new Samsung Tab S2 tablet, you could stream the audio playing from any app on the Android device even if the app didn’t directly support CCA to a CCA.  That sealed the deal for me.

Posted by BradYoung04 on November 7, 2016

ahardeman I think you have hit the nail on the head. It’s about empowering your customers, which is what millennials in particular respond to.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on November 7, 2016

Totally agree on the empowerment thing. Custom-centric manufacturers have made some decent progress over the past few years enabling users to create their own scenes and schedules. They could definitely do more.

Posted by BradYoung04 on November 15, 2016

exactly Julie. And that kind of service is what differentiates businesses. Millennials are a valuable market and investing the time and energy in them now will be worth it in the long run.

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