Selling Tech to Active
When selling home technology, builders who serve the "Active Adult" market—active, over-55 homebuyers—need to emphasize slightly different things than those serving younger people.
The most popular tech options with this demographic relate to home security. And this holds true regardless of budget, while those who can afford a little more tend also to opt for whole-house audio.
When it comes to security, the most-desired products include entry controls that can be monitored and operated via the internet. This includes video door bells, connected entry locks, and garage door openers. "People in this demographic tend to travel a lot, leaving the house unoccupied," says Meredith Lewis, design center consultant with Epcon Communities, which has built 370 Active Adult communities in 30 states. "If there's a storm while they're away, they want to go online and see if the house is OK."
They also want easy to use technology with clear benefits, both of which should be demonstrated in the model home display. "It has to be intuitive," says John Manrique, VP of Marketing with West Palm Beach Fla.-based Kolter Homes. "Show what the technology will do for the buyer in ways they might not realize when viewing it on the shelf at BestBuy."
A great way to demonstrate these benefits is with vignettes, which show how a single pre-programmed setting can control multiple connected devices. Jay Goldberg, VP of Marketing with Traditions of America, an Active Adult builder headquartered in Radnor Penn., says that his company is working with its technology provider to develop these. Pressing the Home button on the cell phone app might open the garage door while turning on pre-selected lights and low-level background music; a Movie button might dim the lights and close the blinds in the home theater area, while displaying the Netflix screen on the TV. These vignettes are all custom: it's up to the buyers to decide what to name them and what each one will do.
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Of course home technology is complex, which is why some builders ask their technology provider to do the selling. "We don't want to become the Geek Squad," says Lewis. To avoid that, Epcon limits its involvement to having the electrical contractor install data wiring and a router, as well as a couple of USB outlets for charging phones and tablets. It recently starting asking its technology sub, Guardian Technologies, to make a sales appointment with each homebuyer. According to Ryan Braet, Epcon's VP of Purchasing, the initial results of this approach have been promising. "Guardian has probably called on 17 people so far, and dozen of them have purchased tech items," he says.
Traditions of America also works with Guardian and Alarm.com, and Goldberg says that turning technology sales over to them has yielded better results than his salespeople could hope for. "Our people don't understand this stuff as well as the Guardian guys do," he says. "You need a deep knowledge of the technology to effectively communicate its value to the customer."