A couple of years ago, most people hadn’t heard of Internet of Things (IoT) or the smart home. Even 12 months ago if you mentioned IoT to a room filled with people, you still would have had many blank faces looking back at you. And yet IoT has been around for decades, with the ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) launched in 1974. It is one of the most common everyday objects that has network connectivity. Which is essentially what IoT is: things that can collect and transmit data.
IoT and smart home are now here to stay, so you’d better get up close and personal with them, and make them your friend. By doing so, you will simplify your business and your life.
Carley Knobloch talks about all things digital relating to lifestyle on NBC’s Today Show, and is a host for the HGTV Smart Home program. She is also a mom with two kids and is proud to own a myriad of devices. Her stance is that “technology should rise up to serve you, not burn you out.” She says that “adopting the right technology can be life- changing” and that you can “live beautifully and elegantly with technology without spending a lot of money and time.” More importantly, she believes that everyone can do it if they have the right guide or do the right research.
Carley’s first advice is to not panic.
Yes, it’s not news—technology and the rate at which it’s changing and advancing can be overwhelming. But as a retailer, you need to take one step at a time and learn as others around you navigate the new place we are all in. “Retailers should at least have a cursory understanding of what’s happening in the market, for example, which systems are popular,” Carley says. “‘Works with Nest,’ ‘Apple Home- Kit’ or ‘Amazon Alexa-compatible’ are some to look out for. And a great place to start is with your customers: look into what are they curious about. What are they asking for?”
It won’t always be so overwhelming, and education is key to keeping up with and getting ahead of the others. Carley comments that right now the market is cluttered with options, many espoused by people in companies that won’t be around in the future or won’t have competitive systems in place. “It’s tough to figure out what to invest in and what products are compatible with what systems—that’s a problem for both retailers and consumers,” she says. “That will definitely change in the coming years. As market leaders become clear, it will be easier to determine what’s a worthwhile investment for retailers and consumers.”
Carley warns retailers that they will fall behind their competitors if they don’t keep up with technology, but if you are smart enough to run your own business, then you are also smart enough to get ahead technologically.
“Consumers are having their eyes opened to the convenience and the safety features of connected appliances, so deciding that you aren’t going to keep up, or that you can’t keep up, is a futile option. I meet so many people who feel that technology is moving too quickly or is too complicated to follow. That’s a mindset that sets you up for failure. Pace yourself, stay informed on trends and popularity, and don’t feel like you have to know it all. Most importantly, stay in touch with what your customer is asking for. That’s a recipe for not falling behind and staying relevant to the people who shop from you.”
To help make technology less intimidating, Carley recommends reading blogs such as TheInspiredHome.com and her own, CarleyK.com. “Trade magazines and technology blogs online will be covering the landscape as it evolves,” she explains. “And to make it less daunting, seek out publications that cater to the less tech-savvy crowd. They’re a good way to stay informed without making your head spin. And the new ideas out there are exciting!”
As a retailer, you should be excited as well. Yes, you can run a business without embracing technology, but it does mean that you are missing out on opportunities and you are not reaching as many people as you could. Which basically means that you are not making as much money as you could. “To reach people where they are (on their phones, on the go), and to reach a larger nationwide or worldwide, audience, you have to keep up and help your customers make informed purchasing decisions by providing video, reviews and more. Your customer relies on you to help them,” Carley says.
Many people bemoan automation in business, saying it will result in people losing their jobs, but Carley sees it completely differently. “Having software automate things for you doesn’t necessarily reduce the personnel you need. Having things automated in my own business frees up my team to think creatively, solve problems and come up with new ideas instead of having to do the administrative work that a robot can do. Having mundane tasks taken care of means we can think bigger about the business, not to mention spend more time with our families. As technology takes over what people can do, it’s up to us (employers and employees) to adapt, grow and evolve what we do to keep relevant in the market. A challenge to be sure, but not a recipe for unemployment if you stay on your toes!”
If there is one thing that scares Carley about the Internet of Things, it’s the effect it can have on our privacy. Cyber attacks are real, and it’s easier than ever today for hackers to gain access to personal information. Data collection is also rife. “Consumers will get more savvy about it, and they’ll put companies on notice: If you aren’t transparent about what you’re doing with the data you’re collecting, and you’re not actively protecting information by investing in hacker-proof technology, they will go elsewhere,” she warns.
Carley’s main advice to retailers on the IoT learning curve is simple and could apply to any era. For example, when people were told they’d be able to get money from a hole in the wall, many were skeptical. Break it down and look at it in the way that Carley does: The IoT is an invention that can enhance and simplify life. “Don’t feel afraid, feel empowered,” she says. “Educate yourself slowly but diligently, and listen to your customers. Technology doesn’t have to be scary—you got this.”
You can check out Carley’s blog at: carleyk.com
Featured Image Photo Credit – Daniel Colloby