For over 100 years, independent home appliance retailers have thrived at providing the best experience in the last three feet of the delivery and service process. Creating great in–home experiences leads to very happy customers, and that’s been the key difference between shopping local and buying from national chains.
Having a strong sales and service experience has always required excellence in delivery and installation. From the in–store sales associate who can confidently schedule a delivery and install, to the service and support teams at the retailer and manufacturer, it can be a difficult process to navigate. But for over a century, the best retailers catered their operations and trained their associates around the delivery and install process to ensure it was great. That said, in the last five years, with the introduction of appliance connectivity, this has started to change the complexity of product setup, and it has added to the delivery and install process.
According to Google’s projections, the Connected Home industry represents a $490 billion annual market, and more than 42% of first–time Google Nest buyers are likely to return to the store to buy another connected product within one month of their initial purchase. The opportunity in the last three feet stems from the fact that, as Google points out, 52% of Americans are too scared to install their connected home products on their own.
This statistic feels understated if you were to ask these same customers if they felt comfortable setting up their connected home devices, which includes downloading an app, connecting each device to their network, registering their email and password, and ensuring seamless operability with the rest of the home. The collective setup process for all of these connected devices is too complicated and time consuming for most customers. They need an expert that can not only install these products, but also properly set them up and ensure continued functionality over time.
At Nationwide Marketing Group, we talk to thousands of retailers about their biggest challenges, and it has been clear that the “Show me” and “Do it for me” independent service retailers have had their struggles with the connected home category — inclusive of the home appliance category. The time to deliver, install and set up these products is not what it used to be. We’ve heard over and over again that it is hard to get excited about selling a complete connected home package when the setup and support of these devices takes massive amounts of time. It doesn’t help that one minor glitch or connection error, which is bound to happen eventually, will negatively impact the customer experience.
When an installer enters a customer’s home, there are a large number of other variables that could impact the performance of the connected home appliances. Variables like routers, internet providers, computers and phones connected to each other in the home all complicate the efficient setup of other new connected appliances. Likely, most of these other products were not purchased from a single retailer, which further complicates the installation and setup process. It complicates the after–setup support process for the customer, as well. Who should they call when their phone won’t connect to their fridge? Which could be an internet issue, a smartphone software issue or possibly an appliance issue.
All of this is to say that it has become clear that we need to solve the setup and support equation on the back end for the retailer. Doing so is crucial and will enable more confident selling on the front end.
But how? It seems simple at first: All we need to do is partner with each manufacturer to help train installers, which should speed up the installation and setup process. Then, go work with each manufacturer to set up best–in–class tech support for issues that pop up after install. But when you dig into why these problems are happening in the first place, it becomes obvious that this will not be an easy fix. Delivery, install and setup are three distinctly different functions in the new connected home. The entire home has a hand in creating connectivity and communications challenges for the installer and the customer. Manufacturers are going to have a hard time taking the lead when it’s likely some other product competing for bandwidth that’s creating confusion.
It’s going to take a universal services provider to craft the perfect solution for the retailer and consumer. Creating that perfect solution means finding a way to speed up the device setup process for installers, while also setting up a complete whole-home tech support solution competent enough to solve any home network question. Whoever is able to find the answer is going to open the box to a great customer experience and retailer opportunity. And retailers willing to invest in those types of training and resources will lead this category for the next 100 years.
This article was first published in the March 2020 issue of The Retail Observer.
Derek Mattila is the vice president of connected home and new business development for Nationwide Marketing Group