Having to navigate a global pandemic has deeply shaped the relationship between consumers and their connected devices at home. Assurant research reveals that adoption of connected technology has reached historic highs with consumers becoming more dependent on home automation and smart home devices than ever before.  

Much of the increased connectivity has been due to in-the-moment necessity, but as we look to the post-pandemic world, the question becomes: are consumers properly equipped for the future of smart homes?  

Despite connected tech becoming embedded in almost every aspect of today’s society, there remains underlying issues that need to be addressed for the smart home market to fully flourish. For example, more than a third (36 percent) of those who purchased a connected product never ended up connecting it to their home network.  

Why? The most common answer was they didn’t know how. That’s a huge problem as smart products need that connection to send sensor data to the cloud for analysis and get return instructions to adapt to its user’s routines. Otherwise, they can’t be “smart.” 

Prepping consumers for the next evolution of the smart home begins with providing support and building trust starting at the moment of purchase and extending throughout the product’s lifecycle. An effective support channel is key to helping consumers build not just a connected home, but an intelligent one. 

The first step for product providers and manufacturers is better understanding the connected consumer. Here are some helpful insights. 

Everyone is Becoming Connected 

With more people working and learning from home, smart home technology is no longer just for the early adopters and those who are tech-savvy. Even “technophobes” — people who traditionally have been less likely to purchase or use connected tech — were thrust into this more connected world and have become more likely to advocate for its use. 

Technophobes tend to be relatively older than other buyer personas and likely didn’t grow up using technology. They’ve generally viewed new technologies as too complex to try and adopt. Their biggest concern is that an expensive connected product won’t work as expected after they buy it, and thus will provide no value.  

However, tele-health and other pandemic-born use cases have opened the door to new possibilities with this group. They have seen the value of increased connectivity. Emphasizing the merit and ease of use will help continue adoption of smart home living among technophobes and open up a new demographic for product providers.  

Ease and Simplicity are Key to Smart Home Adoption 

Simplicity and user-friendliness are important messages for other buyer groups as well. With the uptick in the number and use of owned connected devices, consumers have developed certain expectations for these purchases. 

They want a simple, easy way to go from unboxing to usage. Their top frustrations include: 

  • Connecting the new devices to Wi-Fi. 
  • Insufficient troubleshooting self-help. 
  • Establishing internet connectivity across smart products. 

As you can see, the top concerns are not with the product themselves, but with their experience getting connected. In fact, since the pandemic started there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who said they’ve experienced problems getting connected, and a decrease in those who complained that the product didn’t perform as promised.  

Consumers are looking at connectivity differently than they did prior to 2021. They can see the possibilities of their homes adapting to their lifestyle. Before they can get there, however, many need help with the basics. 

Let Them Know Help Is Always Available  

Value-added services (VAS), like tech support, extended warranty and insurance not only make the post-purchase experience better for customers, they have proven to be a great incentive to get people to buy connected products. In fact, 70 percent of consumers say they would be more likely to buy connected devices if they were offered VAS at the time of purchase.  

This has been especially true since the onset of the pandemic. Between 2019 to 2021, the number of people who said they would buy more connected products if they came with on-demand tech support jumped 44 percent. It’s clear that consumers want expert guidance with installing, connecting and using their connected purchases to optimize the smart home experience. 

Safeguard Their Privacy 

At the same time, as people connect more products in their homes, there is a rising concern about protecting their personal data. Sixty percent of people from Assurant’s connected consumer research said they have heightened concerns about their online privacy and security due to the rise in connectivity resulting from the pandemic. Top concerns typically include password corruption, identity theft and location tracking. 

Unfortunately, many of the smart devices that first came onto the market had little or no security or privacy controls. Manufacturers have taken notice, but concern remains around connectivity and interoperability between smart home products. 

Once again, providing support to help consumers walk through these concerns and maximize the security of their home network is a sure path to building loyalty and prepping the consumer for the next generation of smart home connectivity.  

Eduardo Arthur is SVP of Home Solutions for Assurant. He is responsible for driving the vision and strategy for Assurant’s connected home, retail and multiple-system operator (MSO) distribution channels.