“Is it really that time of year again?” It may be hard to believe, but another Black Friday looms, albeit markedly different to those of years gone by. Despite the radically unconventional retail landscape, Brits still plan to spend £6 billion at the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year.

An area that we expect to benefit from these conditions is smart home technology. Whilst the leading tech companies have been implementing strategies in this space for the past few years, 2020’s unprecedented consumer behaviour could signal a step change in consumer adoption. Increased time working and relaxing from home has got consumers seeking more convenience and comfort in their immediate environment, prompting greater investment in the home. Studies predict a 30% surge in shipments of smart home voice control devices this year, and the coming week will be a major driver in this increase.

Across industries, Amazon has been the unrivalled business success of 2020, thriving through its diversified model that has served homebound customers with everything from face masks to home office furniture.  At MTM, we are keeping up with Amazon and its competitors’ evolving smart home strategies, and what it means for consumers. In this latest mailer, we give you a guide to understanding the vast and diversifying world of the connected home.

Home Entertainment: the pathway to a smarter home

Our MTM Breakfast Seminar about ‘voice’ last year identified voice technology as a fast growing category with significant implications for content discovery, and since then, that onward trajectory has only continued. 

The current frontrunners in the smart speaker realm are Amazon, who have already built a reputation for slashing prices of their hardware around sales season year after year. Amazon’s most recent annual hardware event introduced a raft of new products, including a new spherical redesign of the familiar Echo and Echo Dot speakers, the Echo Show 10 smart display that tracks the user’s movement around a room, and a new Fire TV Stick with integrated voice control in the remote. 

Amazon’s new look spherical Echo smart speaker

Amazon’s ‘Alexa Everywhere’ strategy has been highly successful to date, and its voice software has become synonymous with the smart speaker universe – but it’s also showing signs of trying to assert its dominance further. For its recent Prime Day event, Amazon knocked its puck-shaped 3rd gen Echo Dot down to its lowest ever price of £18.99, in a clear bid both to entice a fresh wave of smart speaker owners, and normalise smart speaker multi-use throughout the home. 

Google, meanwhile, have recently hinted at a major upcoming drive towards hardware. One would assume their Nest devices will be a big part of that shift. Similarly to Amazon, they have recently launched Chromecast with Google TV. Interestingly, they launched in the US free with a month’s subscription to YouTube TV. This suggests a move towards creating more synergies with the company’s software legacy and product portfolio. While unlikely to compete on price, they will be hoping their holistic offer can move the needle their way.

Apple has demonstrated a unique ability to integrate people’s lives through best in class hardware. Their latest venture into smart home entertainment looks to build on those hardware credentials. The HomePod Mini is Apple’s closest attempt yet at competing with the Amazon Echo. When Apple loyalists consider its compatibility with the brand’s full suite of products, it is likely to be a major draw for those looking to kickstart their smart home journey.

The three competitors’ latest smart speaker offerings – Apple HomePod Mini (left), Amazon Echo (centre), Google Nest Audio (right)

Energy & security: uncharted waters 

While Home Entertainment is a natural space for Amazon, Google and Apple; the brands haven’t yet been able to credibly extend into Energy and Security – exemplified by a much lower uptake of Energy and Security smart home products.  However, successfully embedding these sub-verticals will be important for these brands to establish themselves in people’s homes. 

Voice controlled light bulbs have already added an easy first step into the Energy sub vertical. Amazon, Google, and Apple’s compatibility with a wealth of light bulb brands offers a seamless gateway to voice-controlled energy usage – this part of the market has mushroomed in recent years. 

Even Amazon’s older generation smart speakers had light bulb compatibility

Contrastingly, smart security products have historically been viewed with suspicion by consumers, partly due to several high-profile hacking incidents in the past. In pitching these types of products, tech giants must overcome deep levels of mistrust in surveillance, and therefore, adoption has been slower. Partnerships with local security brands may be needed to offset some of the inherent concerns.

However, Amazon is pushing hard with its more accessible awareness products, such as Ring Video Doorbells. Prices are being slashed this sales season, in a clear sign that Amazon trusts its competitive pricing strategy to win over a doubting market. Meanwhile, Google and Apple also have home security offerings, in the form of the HomeKit and Nest Secure sub-brands respectively, although these are less mature than Amazon’s. 

Amazon’s Ring Always Home indoor drone

How are you connecting?

With each coming year, the connected home strategies of each tech giant grow. For now, the battle still resides largely in the entertainment space, and shoppers should be on the lookout for the host of new products this sales season. For consumers who have already dipped their toe into smart home hardware, there is an ever-growing array of energy and awareness products that Amazon, Google and Apple offer that could provide natural growth of their ecosystems this Black Friday and beyond.