UK retailer John Lewis opens Google ’˜Smart Home’ demo area

High-end UK retailer John Lewis has recently opened its own ‘smart home’ section dedicated to allowing customers to get hands-on with different connected products and (hopefully) make owning them a less daunting prospect.

With the UK appearing to lead the way when it comes to the growth of the European smart home market, John Lewis’ latest move makes perfect sense.

Whilst offering huge potential for shifting large quantities of IoT products from brands with excellent products awareness (aka your Googles, Amazons & Nests of the market), it’s no secret that most retail stores, even in advanced markets like the US are pretty basic – alas, cardboard cutouts and shelves of products do not a smart home experience make.

John Lewis aims to attract people to the 827 square feet ‘smart home’ area of its Oxford Street store in London – comprised of living room, bedroom and kitchen-themed interlinked sections – and get them see Google-Assistant products including the new Google Home Hub smart display, Google Home Max speaker, Chromecast Ultra and Nest Hello doorbell in action.

Connecting products such as Philips Hue smart lightbulbs and LightWave smart plugs can also be found in the space.

john lewis smart home demo area entrance, oxford street london store

“Sales of smart home products double every year, but the rapid development in this technology has meant that they do a lot more than any of us realise,” said Katrina Mills, John Lewis’ dedicated buyer for smart home products on the everyday consumer’s product knowledge.

She adds: “This ‘smart home’ gives people the chance to have fun testing the products and decide if they would benefit from them.”

Other stores in Leeds, Oxford, Southampton and Edinburgh will soon follow suit and open up new smart home sections as part of John Lewis’ big seasonal push for consumers to engage and buy Google Assistant-powered products for the home.

Whilst it’s great to see retailers trying to create a beyond-the-box experience for potential buyers of IoT products, the larger problem still remains: an education gap into what a product can actually do and how to get it working as part of larger smart home system. (See a recent YouGov poll which found that over half of owners of smart devices don’t fully understand the product’s features and how to use them for evidence). Schemes such as Bang & Olufsen’s professional installation service lead the way for more positive growth and engagement with the pro sector and we can only hope that others eventually follow suit.