The smart home was intended to make consumers lives easier, safer, and more enriching but despite substantial hype and industry investment, smart home technology is yet to be fully adopted by consumers. To design the smart home solutions that customers really want, brands need to shift from a product focused approach to a human centric approach.
This is according to Accentures (NYSE: ACN) The Dock whose report Putting the Human First in the Future Home combines detailed global qualitative research with quantitative research to look at consumers behaviors and routines and how the influence of emerging technology impacts their identity and motivations and crucially, the tensions that arise.
The Future Home is an Attitude not a Technology
- Home life is becoming more important for consumers: half of those surveyed (50 percent) now spend more time in their homes compared with five years ago while just one in eight (13 percent) say they spend less time in their homes now.
- This differs across markets with two thirds (65 percent) of consumers in Brazil believing they now spend more time in their home the highest level observed in the research. Meanwhile Chinese consumers are more likely to spend less time in their home than consumers in any other country at 43 percent.
- When asking consumers how to describe their home 62 percent choose comfortable/cozy this is similar across all markets with the exception of India where clean nudges ahead (51 percent versus 49 percent).
- Meanwhile over seven in ten consumers (71 percent) use relaxed to describe how their home makes them feel. This is particularly true in the Nordics, where nearly four in five (78 percent) chose this description.
Claire Carroll, Portfolio Director at Accentures The Dock, said, The future home should be built around people first. There is a significant opportunity to develop strong future home offerings that are built to last and there are several untapped markets. But success requires brands to think differently about product design, customer segmenting, and targeting.
With Emerging Tech come emerging tensions
The research also identified several tension polarities around technology in the home, the strongest being that smart devices make us feel more connected but also more isolated.
Across geographies and demographic groups, the trade-off between easy and lazy is consistently won by easy. More than 70 percent of people recognize that technology at home makes life easier, from preparing food and ordering groceries online, to controlling their home climate and environment. However, for nearly half of respondents (43 percent), technology at home can also make them lazy, as there is an overwhelming number of things that can be done without leaving the comfort of the sofa.
Consumers are more likely to agree with positive statements about technology – over seven in ten (71 percent) agree that it makes their lives easier and almost six in ten (57 percent) agree that it makes them more connected and makes their home life more fun. However, almost half of global consumers feel technology can be intrusive (46 percent). Half of the respondents agree that it can be a barrier to social interaction (50 percent) and this view is most prevalent in Europe (62 percent), the US (66 percent) and Australia (65 percent) “ in contrast, just 14 percent of Japanese consumers agree with this.
Claire continued, Consumers need to rationalize the tensions created by their relationship with technology, especially around dependency, intrusiveness, and isolation. While many brands can sell smart-home products that make people feel more connected, those brands that will deliver real value in the future home are the ones that produce connected products, which also allay their customers concerns about feeling isolated in the modern technological environment.
The opportunity is here and now
As future home owners and potential smart-home customers, younger generations are crucial markets. Conversely, many brands understanding of this groups anxieties around technology is limited. Meanwhile those aged 65 and over emerge as an avenue for opportunity.
- The youngest respondents are the most negative about the way technology is affecting their lives. Almost half (49 percent) of 18 to 34-year olds worry that they are too dependent on technology, while 43 percent of respondents in this age group are also fearful that smart devices in their homes know too much about them. Rationalizing the fears of the 18-34 consumer will be vital to the product design strategy of the future.
- By contrast, the group most positive and trusting of technology are those aged 65 years and over precisely the part of the market that many technology companies have been neglecting. This group see smart devices as making life easier (62 percent), more fun (51 per cent) and keeping them connected (51 percent). Their fears around the isolating effects of technology are lower than any other age group (53 percent) and just 31 percent of this sector perceive technology as making them lazy. Only a quarter (25 percent) of the respondents in this group are worried about the addictive nature of technology, the lowest across all age groups.
Claire concluded, There is no single technological solution to the future home “ but to design smart home products that will have longevity, companies need to better understand whats happening in the black box of their customers behavior in the home. This means understanding customer attitudes throughout their various life stages, what the idea of home actually means to them and getting a better appreciation of their surprising behavior behind the front door.
With people spending more time at home than ever before, brands need to act now to better understand the opportunities. The multi-disciplinary team at Accentures The Dock, working with Accenture Research and Fjord analyzed the insights to develop eight mindsets that help explain behavior in the future home. The full report can be read here.
The research was undertaken by Accentures The Dock and Accenture Research, in partnership with Fjord, Accenture Interactives design and innovation consultancy, between November and December 2018. Over 6,000 people, in 13 countries (United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, India, Japan and Australia) were surveyed. Respondents represented different age and demographic groups including single people, couples and families with children.
The team also conducted two, week-long DScout studies with 40 participants in United States, United Kingdom and Germany between July and August 2018. Using a contextual enquiry approach, participants combined the use of video, photography and diary-style reportage to gather an understanding of their approach to home life and their behaviors, needs and relationships with technology at home.
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The Dock is Accentures flagship R&D and Global Innovation Centre based in Dublin, Ireland where design, business and technology come together under one roof. The Dock is home to a diverse team of 300 creative problem-solvers made up of highly talented experts in design, engineering, artificial intelligence and IoT. The multi-disciplinary team at The Dock research, incubate, prototype and pilot digital and emerging technologies together with clients and partners to pioneer new ways to fulfill human needs using emerging technology. To learn more follow us @AccentureDock and visit accenture.com/thedock.
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