It’s a well-known fact: Merchants who built businesses to serve the influx of miners into their communities during the Gold Rush made greater fortunes than the miners themselves. Today, more than 150 years later, the widespread adoption of smart home technology is giving every business equipped to deliver local goods and services a chance to follow suit.
There’s been plenty of talk lately about smart home technology, mostly about whose gateway platform will win the most enduring seat at America’s kitchen tables. From Amazon’s Echo to Samsung’s SmartThings to Google’s Nest and Apple’s HomeKit, some of the tech world’s biggest players are competing to create the gold standard operating system for the increasingly connected home. But very few people are talking about the opportunity the technology presents for low- and no-tech businesses to more fully participate in the still-burgeoning on-demand economy.
Nearly one-third of Americans have used some type of on-demand online service, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. What’s more, Coldwell Banker’s 2016 Smart-Home Marketplace Survey reports that nearly half of all Americans either own smart home technology or plan to invest in it this year — a telltale sign that smart home technology is fast becoming more accessible to the average consumer. From a business perspective, it’s a happy union. The continued adoption of the on-demand economy via evolving smart home technology presents unprecedented prospects not just for the largest tech giants but also for a number of other businesses.
First, there’s the product and service layer. You can already ask Amazon’s Alexa to connect you with a HomeAdvisor plumber or to hail you an Uber. So it’s easy to imagine how consumers might also use smart home technology to immediately connect with other local task-related service providers — think babysitters, doctors, spa services, dry cleaners, etc. Then, there’s the product component; it’s also easy to imagine asking Alexa to connect you with a local florist or department store for a last-minute product delivery. Or even to arrange for the delivery of fresh local produce and groceries on a regular basis. (As luck would have it, Morgan Stanley reports that more than one-third of online shoppers intend to buy their groceries online this year — so it seems the proverbial pump is well primed in this area.)
The Internet of Things (IoT) presents another interesting opportunity. The inevitable connection of our home’s appliances with an Internet-enabled monitoring system will allow our homes to sense whenever an appliance needs servicing or the household is running low on milk — and to alert preferred service providers to take action directly. Tapping into smart home technology will help businesses ensure that they’re the go-to service provider in these ever-increasing, smart-home-centric scenarios. Because, in the evolving on-demand economy, consumers are always going to hire the businesses that make connecting most convenient.
At HomeAdvisor, we recently launched an Alexa skills app that connects homeowners with home improvement professionals on demand. Since the release of the app, we’ve seen an incredibly positive response from consumers. And we’re not alone in our successes. Capital One, Dominoes Pizza and, of course, Uber have recently released Alexa skills apps to make it easier than ever for consumers to pay bills, order pizzas and hitch a ride on command. What’s more, all of these apps are listed among Time Magazine’s “10 Apps That Make the Amazon Echo Even Better.”
In 2016, less than 10 years after the release of the iPhone 1, the convenience economy has reached critical mass. We can officially make a taxi, a pizza, and a plumber appear with nothing more than clicking a button or speaking a phrase. And convenience-hungry consumers not only want more, they’re expecting it. Smart home technology is now on deck to deliver on that expectation. There’s gold in them there smart home apps. And businesses — tech and low-tech alike — are well advised to stake their rightful claim.
Adam Burrows is senior vice president of business and corporate development at HomeAdvisor. His responsibilities include general management of HomeAdvisor’s subsidiaries (mHelpDesk and CraftJack), strategic partnerships, and M&A. He also has served as a mentor for TechStars and an advisor for several other successful internet companies.