Anyone who has been paying attention to the home technology space has probably noticed quite a few of the major players in the direct to consumer “IoT” market are developing “pro” programs. As a former integrator now working for an industry association that’s definitely stirred up some mixed emotions and has me asking questions. But as I’ve started speaking with these companies and looking at the bigger picture I see opportunities -- lots of opportunities.
Let’s first ask the question, “Why are these programs forming?”
The smart home technology space is gaining tremendous momentum, According to Parks Associates’ latest research, the number of U.S. consumers that now own at least one smart home device has doubled (17% in Q4 2015 to 34% in Q4 2020) over the last five years. The number of “Power Users,” which Parks defines as those that own between five and nine such devices, has also grown significantly, doubling in just the last two years.
Do It with Me vs. Do It for Me
As the average household increases the amount of “smart devices” we’ve seen two new types of smart home tech consumers emerge thanks to the broader availability of these devices.
The first group falls into a DIY category. Sometimes called the “Do It with Me” group, they feel completely comfortable setting up a smart speaker, thermostat, or smart bulbs. Digital natives are prepared to tackle setups as they’re very familiar with smart phone apps and the process of connecting devices to their WIFI. However, these smart home consumers can get overwhelmed as they add additional products to their eco-systems. There can be a break in continuity of the overall smart home experience the barrage of apps and general product maintenance can get overwhelming for the average homeowner.
The second group is one that CEDIA has often referred to as the “Do it for Me” consumer. These smart home consumers don’t want to set up even a single device. They’ll happily pay an expert, not unlike hiring a plumber to install a new faucet or an electrician to install a new ceiling fan.
To answer this demand, the “pro” programs were created, which is an easy way to make integrators available to complete what most CEDIA members would consider a simple install for the general consumer. When consumers have an easy way to access the service they need through the “pro” programs, it can make the whole process less intimidating. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence of even one of these simple installs leading to a larger project, and even the golden ticket: more referrals. More products sold and installed professionally means more happy customers. The more devices in the home, the more work will be created for all.
These pro programs are made up of tech individuals and integration companies. The individual tech contractor is not a new concept for the industry. Security, satellite, cable, and internet service providers have all used individual contractors over the years. The direct-to-consumer technology market is just a new venue for them. If you were around the industry in the late ‘90s to early 2000s, you’ll remember the huge satellite boom, which created a lot of quick installation work for tech individuals and integrators alike. The “Do It for Me” and “Do It with Me” opportunities emerging as a result of the direct-to-consumer products that have gained mass attention and adoption will fuel the next wave of integration demand.
With the support of some of the biggest tech companies in the space, the services tech pros provide are that much closer to being recognized by the average consumer as a trade --something that has long been a pain point for our industry. Long gone are the days of the “AV dude” or “that person that installed my TV”. Integrators are now the people you call for all technology installations and system designs in the home.
Companies with these pro programs are offering referral services to those that qualify. Some companies are offering to sell the products as well, making for an easy upsell on a jobsite. When an integrator’s installing a smart thermostat, the technician might interest the customer in smart speaker or a smart doorbell. If the customer doesn’t have an adequate wireless network, there’s an opportunity to speak with them about upgrading. The opportunities for those participating is vast.
CEDIA is recognizing the trend from the big brands, and is actively working to partner with their pro programs. There is room for everyone at the table. Some companies may find value in subcontracting to these professionals – others may see this as a new staff recruitment pipeline. CEDIA is committed to helping grow the industry, and for our part not only are we working with the big companies, we will continue to support the tech individuals who want to upskill and explore a deeper career in our industry.