What’s the best way to sell home technologies such as connected home and smart home systems that offer home control and security via smartphone apps?
Homebuilders at the recent TecHome Builder Summit’s Marketing, Merchandising and Selling Best Practices Roundtables nearly universally agreed that they need to provide interactive displays in design centers and other points of purchase.
Interactive displays show buyers the features and functions of controlling lights, cameras, big-screen movie action and whole-house music and climate control. Touchscreen displays in particular entice interactivity. Homebuyers learn first-hand, through their own touch, how they can control and operate home systems and how these systems can enhance their convenience, energy-savings and lifestyle. And this gets homebuyers jazzed about the technology available to them in their new homes.
When people see what they can do, sales of control and connected home systems become so much simpler. Homebuyers sell themselves. And a sales person only has to have a basic knowledge of the system, how to operate it and be able to espouse the benefits the systems provide.
Yes, interactive displays are a beautiful thing.
There are several ways to do this, and builders at our roundtables had a host of ideas.
Best Practice Roundtable was sponsored by GE Home & Security Technologies.
Work with Vendors on Displays
Savant Systems, for one, has an attractive point of purchase display that garnered plenty of homebuilder interest at the TecHome Builder Summit. The 80-by-48-by-18-inch display features a built-in iPad mini dock for running the interactive Savant home control app, Savant’s Smart Wi-Fi thermostat, Wi-Fi lighting, host (processor), controller and universal remote, a SmartEnergy plug-in switch to monitor energy usage and control devices and space for a 40- to 52-inch mounted HDTV for video demos and to see how Savant’s SmartEnergy management system works, for example. An optional desktop iPad charging dock, Savant-controlled Kwikset electronic door lock and Apple TV can also be displayed.
It's all interactive, everything is functional (thermostat, door lock, Wi-Fi lighting keypad, remote, security camera, etc.), plus it includes a number of video presentations for the screen to attract attention,” says Tim McInerny, director of product marketing for Savant. “Letting customers directly interact with these systems will help the homebuyer realize that this builder is putting the latest and greatest technology in their homes.”
Online Options Displays
Builders are very interested in offering technology products and other options online, via websites, where homebuyers can browse options and other features, make selections, keep running tallies and be prompted to make selections in time for construction deadlines. Several systems like Studio Chateau and BDX’s Envision product exist, but have yet to been maximized to effectively sell options for home technologies. (TecHome Builder is developing ways to offer home tech via online options tools in lifestyle-based packages.)
The New Home Company uses iBars of interactive iPads that allow buyers to peruse options. Salespeople can also take clients to the bigger flat-panel display to go over options. The New Home Company also has its own app for communities rather than collateral material, and is planning an iCafe in a new development in San Jose, Calif., to entice techies in Silicon Valley with a high-tech sales gallery and “design studio on steroids.”
Leapfrog with Video
Marcus-Colvin also suggests presenting quality virtual presentation of technology options, such as short videos that explain the essential features and benefits. Buyers should be able to shop and research by type of system, room, lifestyle and good/better/best merchandising. Promotion packaging will increase take rates, and leapfrogging traditional fit and finish options will increase the priority of technology in the homebuyers’ minds. They’ll still want floors and countertops … we think.
Startup Serene Homes of Southlake, Texas, is working with Wisenbaker Builder Services, which runs design centers for homebuilders such as Meritage Homes, Ryland, Altura, Dunhill and several other area homebuilders, to create virtual photos and fly-throughs of what spaces will look like with the options they select for Serene Homes.
Every product in Wisenbaker's Grapevine, Texas, design center will have an RFID tag, and sensors in the kiosk will read that to provide a realistic rendering of what the space looks like with that flooring or countertop selection, for example. Users will save photos from the 3D renderings to a key-shaped USB stick, and the system emails the selections to the builder.
Serene Home’s own amenity center at its Hills of Windridge development (1,284 lots at $170K to $300K and up) will be set up more like an Apple Store, where sales people can control the touchpoint of the homebuyer experience.
Serene is working with BHI’s EX2 division to rewrite BDX’s Envision product, so it's a customized program for Serene.
Power also talks of developing augmented reality displays that use devices like Google Glass to provide realistic 3D renderings of options and how they would look in a person’s home. With RFID tags and sensor technology now so reliable and advanced, this is not a far-fetched notion. However, Power notes that camera sensors need to be stronger.
“This is an industry that is a year away from creating a [virtual] model that’s more of a walk-through experience,” he says.