The smart home was intended to make consumers’ lives easier, safer, and more enriching but despite substantial hype and industry investment, a recent Accenture report suggests Australians’ attitudes towards smart home technology mean it will be some time yet before it is fully adopted.
The research reveals that in order to design the smart home solutions that customers really want, brands need to shift from a product-focused approach to a holistic human-centric approach.
The report “Putting the Human First in the Future Home” looks at consumer behaviours and routines and how the influence of emerging technology impacts their identity and motivations—and crucially, the tensions that arise.
Significantly, the research reveals the habits and hesitations of Australians toward buying smart home technology. 70 per cent of those surveyed wait for others to try new devices and services before buying, while considerations are largely based on cost – with 64 per cent looking at the price of the device, ahead of functionality (42 per cent) and ease of use (40 per cent).
Interestingly, only then do Australians consider what brand they’re purchasing, with just a quarter (25 per cent) considering the reputation of the brand they’re buying from before purchasing.
For Australians, the Future Home is an Attitude—not a Technology
- Home life is becoming more important for Australian consumers: half of those surveyed (55 per cent) now spend more time in their homes while only 9 percent say they spend less time in their homes.
- This differs across geographies with two thirds (65 per cent) 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 per cent.
- 58 per cent describe their homes as “comfortable/cosy” and only 38 per cent describe it as “safe/secure”
- Meanwhile over seven in ten consumers (72 per cent) use “relaxed” to describe how their home makes them feel.
Jonathan Restarick, Communications, Media and Technology Lead at Accenture in Australia and New Zealand, said, “The future home should be built around people first. There is a significant opportunity to develop strong future offerings that are built to enhance our lifestyles. But success requires brands to think differently about product design, with specific focus on seamlessly supporting the household.”
With Emerging Technology Come Emerging Tensions
Australian attitudes toward smart home technology signify it’s still a battle between help and hindrance, with the research identifying several tension polarities around technology in the home, the strongest being that smart devices make us feel more connected but also more isolated.
For half of Australian respondents (51 per cent), technology at home makes them lazy, while over half (57 per cent) say it makes them feel isolated. Notably, nearly half of Australians (48 per cent) surveyed find technology at home intrusive, and 42 per cent consider it addictive.
But across geographies and demographic groups, the trade-off between “easy” and “lazy” is consistently won by “easy.” More than 70 per cent of people recognise that technology at home makes life easier, from preparing food and ordering groceries online, to controlling their home climate and environment.
The research does reveal positive sentiment toward smart home technology – 63 per cent of Australians agree that it makes them more connected, while almost six in ten (59 per cent) agree that it makes their home life more fun.
Interestingly, half of global consumers agree that it can be a barrier to social interaction (50 per cent) and this view is echoed in Europe (62 per cent), the US (66 per cent) and Australia (65 per cent) – in contrast, just 14 per cent of Japanese consumers agree with this.
Restarick said, “Consumers need to rationalise 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 deliver real value in the future home are the ones that allay their customers concerns about feeling isolated, or intruded on in the modern technological environment.”
Across Generations and Demographics, 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 group’s 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. Over half (58 per cent) of 18 to 34 year olds worry that they are too dependent on technology, while 46 per cent of respondents in this age group are also fearful that smart devices in their homes know too much about them. Rationalising 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 (61 per cent), more fun (53 per cent) and keeping them connected (61 per cent). Their fears around the isolating effects of technology are lower than any other age group (46 per cent) and just 36 per cent of this sector perceive technology as making them lazy. Interestingly, less than a fifth (19 per cent) of the respondents in this group are worried about the addictive nature of technology, the lowest across all age groups.
- Families living with children have more concerns about technology at home – 63 percent think it is addictive, makes them dependent (70 percent) and lazy (68 percent), while those without kids have an even less positive attitude toward technology – only 48 percent say it’s fun, and 24 percent say it makes them feel in control.
“Companies need to recognise that there are times when consumers want more technology in their lives, and times that they don’t. For example, we are seeing consumers favour technology where they can set limits on the devices to prevent over exposure. Brands must also recognise the need for a delicate balance of customer personalisation and privacy,” Restarick said.
“Now more than ever customers are seeking a unique experience but also transparency around how their data is being used and if it is secure. Success is ensuring the technology is seen as helping the household more than the provider.”