Will smart homes be sold in living rooms?
Decades ago, salesmen would travel door to door to explain the magic of vacuums. Do Internet of Things (IoT) products also require in-home visits?
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, both Best Buy and Amazon are hiring consultants to travel to consumers’ homes to educate, recommend and customize tech items for homes. For both companies, the visits are free and employ a soft-sell, no-pressure approach, although they may lead to sales or fee-based installation or repairs.
Focusing on Echo devices, Amazon launched its “Smart Home Consultation” in Seattle in July 2016. The company has since pushed it out to six cities and is expanding to more markets, according to the WSJ.
Best Buy’s In-Home Advisor program, tested over the last year and a half, is now in five markets and will reach all major U.S. cities nationwide by September.
On its second quarter conference call on Tuesday, Hubert Joly, Best Buy’s chairman and CEO, said its in-home advisors “provide free consultations and serve as a single point of contact covering all technology needs across all vendors. In other words, they can help you design, including place a great entertainment system, help you pick out your appliance for a kitchen model or help you stream music and content across your home without annoying buffering issues.”
At Best Buy, in-store associates suggest at-home consultations for certain customers. While the company plans “awareness building activities” as the program rolls out, word-of-mouth is leading to wait lists for the free advisors in some regions.
“There is an internal debate at the company on how big is this going to be,” stated Mr. Joly on the call.
Amazon’s “Smart Home Consultation” microsite promises to let consumers test drive popular smart home products through interactive demos and learn how to voice-control their home. Amazon states, “We’ve vetted and tested hundreds of products, so we can recommend the best products that fit your needs and budget.”
Neither Google, which sells Google Home, nor Apple, which launches the Siri-powered HomePod smart speaker in September, are offering such services.
- Ding-Dong! Best Buy and Amazon Bring Back the Traveling Salesman – Wall Street Journal
- Best Buy Reports Better-than-Expected Second Quarter Results – Best Buy
- Best Buy’s (BBY) CEO Hubert Joly on Q2 2018 Results – Earnings Call Transcript – Seeking Alpha
- Smart Home Consultation – In-Home Appointment – Amazon
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will in-home consultations be critical to driving demand for smart home devices? Which company — Best Buy or Amazon — is better equipped to service the smart home market?