Research: DIY Gains Momentum in Smart Home Market

New Data Sure to Send Shivers Down Integrators’ Spinessmart home survey graphic

In what some might view as a startling result, new research from GfK reveals that a majority of consumers (52%) said that they prefer to install their own smart home products. This result is substantially higher than the percentage of consumers who said this (43%) the last time this survey was done in 2015.

See more on this eye-opening research on the DIY market…

Perhaps because of growing interest in smart home technology, not to mention the proliferation of smart devices, consumers seem to be demonstrating an increased comfort level with these devices. Some of the credit for this could be due to large scale manufacturers such as Amazon and Google, both of whom have focused on offering devices that are simple to install and easy to use.

Product trends favor this as well…with formerly difficult to program thermostats from traditional HVAC providers being replaced by more consumer friendly alternatives, such as the self-learning Nest thermostat which observes and self-replicates your favorite temperature settings. Add to that the number of devices that offer easy interaction via an app-based interface, and consumers feel empowered.

Consumers are Ready to Tackle Smart Home Installs on a DIY Basis

Whatever the reasons, GfK’s data – as reported recently in Quirk’s Marketing Research Review – appears to suggest that consumers feel more ready than ever to tackle installing, and even maintaining, smart home products and services on a DIY or Do-It-Yourself basis. For example, not only do a majority of consumers say they want to install their smart home devices themselves – an ever greater number, fully 57%, say that they want to maintain these systems themselves as well.

Age breakdown of DIY consumers

This table presents the comparison between the 2015 and 2018 consumer surveys showing the gain in the percentage of respondents who said they wanted to do their own smart home installations, broken down by age groups. As you can see, all age ranges showed an increase in the number who said they wanted to do their own installations, but the age ranges up to age 44 showed the biggest gains.

There is however, an age-component to these results – with the younger demographics showing the greatest propensity to want to DIY their smart home systems. In comparing the 2018 study versus the 2015 study, GfK noted that there was increased desire to self-install smart home systems of between 10-19% in the younger age ranges up to age 44. But even in the older age groups, there was still an increased DIY desire, albeit to much less of a degree.

Pressure to Increase on Manufacturers for Interoperability

The study notes that this increased desire to self-install smart home systems and services will result in increased pressure on manufacturers and service providers. Why? Well, nearly two-thirds of the survey’s respondents (62%) say they expect devices from different smart home brands to be able to communicate with and operate with each other. And that two-thirds percentage actually increases to 68% in the 25-34 age group, and an astonishing 72% in the 35-44 age group who demand this.

“Device makers and service providers alike need to work harder to collaborate and pave the way for seamless installation and service,” said Tom Neri, commercial director for tech and durables at GfK. “Reflexive siloed behavior will only drag down acceptance and yield poor word of mouth from amateur technicians. That said, there does exist a segment of consumers, skewing older, that would be responsive to an install and maintenance service support offering for smart home products.”

The GfK study was taken with 1,000 U.S. participants and balanced by age, gender, and region to replicate the overall American population demographics. Surveys were completed on multiple types of devices.

See more on this research from GfK at this link…

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.


Research: DIY Gains Momentum in Smart Home Market — 6 Comments

  1. Is Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant “DIY”? DIY tends to connote an enthusiast putting together his own cobbled together “Fred Flintstone” solution. These products have a superior interface and tend to outperform installed systems that are 10X the price. A time of reckoning is upon us…

    • Hi Gary,

      Since DIY or Do-It-Yourself connotes the consumer purchasing the product and setting it up themselves, I would think Amazon Alexa and Google Asistant are mostly DIY products. While it is true that integrators report installing them as well, the millions upon millions of units sold by industry are largely consumer installed.

      “A time of reckoning is upon us…”

      Yes, I would say this research makes that point as well.

      Thanks for reading!


      • I think there is a huge opportunity to design and install systems featuring these platforms. But the model will be different. Customers will not need to pay $120 an hour to make these systems a reality in their lives, but that expertise does have value. Integrators who embrace change will be just fine. Those who don’t will not.

  2. The outcome is to be seen. These also represent a very fast rise in the number of related “smart home” products. Most of these are at prices well below what the integrator market has offered, but often far less capable or far less integrated.
    This is equally true of plumbing or electric where one can roam the rough or fashion electric aisle or shop for fixtures, but both these markets are still vibrant from serving consumers who don’t want to DIY, or run into issues, or want to upgrade.
    Like those markets it will be up to industry how they address it to see what the purchase path is. Yes, there are always many things to be concerned with, especially competition but this still looks like massive opportunity

  3. The DIFY model that I pioneered years ago simultaneously with Richard Berrie & JJ Canon and a few others has been way ahead of this curve.
    We have of course faced serious derision from “serious” & “professional” integrators and vendors who seem a little too desperate to prop up the traditional model.

    Below the true Estate Level, the delusion that we must pack in as much complexity in terms of infrastructure, distribution hardware, control systems, and unnecessary costs only made sense when DVD players were $1,000… Of course, there will always huge homes that will require “real” systems, but we as an industry have pushed that concept too far for too long.

    The distributed SyLo (System Local) system approach was a key step along the way. Facilitated by Sonos first (I’ve been on board since near the beginning and took some shots early), then the new-Gen AppleTV and now Roku / FireTV with Harmony for local control augmented by Alexa serving up CordCutter YouTube(TV)/Vue/Netflix/Hulu/Vudu/Prime packages. It really makes for a seriously high performance, stable, convenient and enjoyable package.

    Easy, cheap, stable WiFi (it’s all about that Wifi…) from Eero added to Ring / Nest / August / Rachio / SmartThings / RA2Select, etc. plus Stringify/IFTTT and these “toys” aren’t just for the DIYer to hack around with any longer, they make for serious “integrated” systems that demand respect. Any doubt about that is simple ignorance.

    It’s also a lot easier to explain that a dead $249 item falls into the update and maintenance category than $5K “real” control processor that bricks and is no longer “supported”.

    There ARE still the science project rasPi-based stuff that I can’t unleash on clients yet, openHAB, Python and a few others that need serious hard/software tweaking, so I keep pushing the envelope at my house (yes my fam lives in constant state or terror) to stay on the bleeding edge so I know what’s ready for primetime. We have great music to smooth things out.

    I obviously have always believed that if you keep doing things as they’ve always been done, you will surely get passed by and made irrelevant. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that there is serious value in offering “real” HiEnd HiRes HiFi music and media systems, it just means we aren’t wasting money on unnecessary proprietary things and we have more budget left for the important stuff. The DIY toys have also gotten me into a lot of great situations where great systems happened.

    Bottom line is that systems at any level of sophistication or cost will need service/updates/replacement and the true satisfaction of the end-user will always result from the skill and experience of the design/installation/programming talent, whatever the cost or “seriousness” of the gear.

    • Hi Loren,

      Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for your very thoughtful and detailed insights.

      Since this story ran I have received some criticism from those who question this survey and it’s results. Many believe it impossible for consumers to install their own smart home devices successfully.

      I suggest everyone should keep an open mind and feel some respect for the consumer’s view on this. Smart home devices are improving, and consumers are getting more comfortable with them. Markets aren’t static…they are always moving.

      And denying trends does not protect one from them. On the other hand, one survey does not necessarily verify the trend.

      So I will keep watching the consumer views on the smart home market – and report my findings. We are still early in this segment. Let’s see where it goes!

      Happy holidays!


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