Selling the Smart Home

Samsung showcase illustrates its smart home vision

Over the years I’ve seen numerous attempts by manufacturers of smart home products to showcase their offerings. Different companies have experimented with various approaches, ranging from traditional retailing of individual products supported by materials at the point of sale, to creating a dedicated showcase in a “store within store” format.

Apple is a good example of the latter. In 2018, the company installed a lavish smart home experience zone at the John Lewis store in London’s Westfield shopping centre (see picture below). It’s an impressive, and no doubt extremely expensive, stage for Apple’s HomeKit-enabled devices, made by a variety of manufacturers.

Apple HomeKit showcase in John Lewis store in London
Apple HomeKit showcase in John Lewis store in London

However, during my visits I noted that customers didn’t really seem engaged with the concept, and there was a distinct lack of staff on hand who could knowledgeably sell the smart home story to customers.

Opting for a different tack, Samsung has taken a more focussed approach, with a dedicated “connected living apartment” in a residential block in the shadow of Wembley stadium. Samsung uses the show home to demonstrate its capabilities to representatives from major sales channels such as retailers and network operators, journalists and people interested in smart home technology. The space also serves as a forum to train Samsung staff.

Samsung has long been committed to making all its consumer electronics products smarter, and at CES 2018, the company promised to make “all Samsung products IoT-ready by 2020”. Its smart apartment is a reflection of that commitment, displaying a variety of products spanning Samsung’s domestic appliances such as fridges and washing machines, smart TVs and mobile products including smartphones.

However, in a refreshing change from other showcases I’ve seen, Samsung also has an array of products from other manufacturers that connect to its SmartThings platform. They include smart speakers from Amazon and Google, cameras from Arlo, heating control by Honeywell, smart home products from Ikea, a doorbell from Ring, smart locks from Yale and various products from other makers, like electric curtain rails. Samsung only presents products that are commercially available, which is quite unusual for showcases like this, as companies often like to show off the latest and greatest wares and developments even if they’re not actually shipping.

A casual observer of the smart home market would automatically assume that Amazon and Google completely dominate this growing product category. But Samsung also has a strong footing here, thanks to its solid position in smartphones, TVs and other appliances. These all provide ways for consumers to start using Samsung’s SmartThings platform to control the smart devices in their homes. The company’s increasingly agnostic approach lets customers connect smart devices from a multitude of manufacturers to SmartThings, a fact that bodes well for its progress in this segment to continue.

Selling the smart home is always going to be tricky as each household has unique needs, but I believe Samsung’s show home will definitely open the door to more customers buying into its smart home dream.