Is Best Buy’s latest Geek Squad service a blueprint for niche IoT?

Discussion
Photo: Best Buy
Jul 18, 2017
Matthew Stern

As Best Buy has worked to turn itself around, two of its biggest differentiators have been its Geek Squad service offerings and its focus on selling and supporting IoT devices. The chain’s latest move leverages both by focusing its Geek Squad resources on a very specific niche within the smart home/IoT area. Best Buy is offering smart home consultations and installations geared towards adults acting as caretakers for elderly parents.

The smart home service, called Assured Living, consists of a free assessment that allows caregivers to determine the right arrangement of in-home monitors, devices and alerts for effectively caring for the elderly people in question, the Star Tribune reported. Geek Squad employees then implement the technology.

It’s easy to see the unique challenges facing a customer setting up a smart home for this purpose. For instance, a caregiver would want to balance the need for monitoring with the cared-for adult’s need for privacy and personal autonomy. Thus, when choosing a suite of smart home solutions, the devices will vary in accordance with the elder’s level of mobility and other capabilities.

Walgreens is addressing the needs of the aging population by building features into its mobile app such as a function reminding users to take their pills, larger fonts for those with weaker eyesight and simplified menus for easy navigability by those who rarely use mobile apps.

Other brands intent on establishing leadership in the smart home market have also recently announced services to help customers take care of technically challenging in-home setups. Amazon rolled out its own smart home consultation and setup service in seven markets. This, of course, also serves Amazon’s vested interest in making its Alexa voice assistant the centerpiece of as many smart homes as possible.

But Best Buy’s move may offer evidence that there is more than one way to slice the smart home market. As the market matures, we could see more smart home setups geared towards niche needs, and perhaps vendors creating and bundling suites of devices for those niches.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does targeting a specific niche of smart home services put Best Buy ahead of Amazon in its efforts to offer smart home installation? Will Best Buy own this niche, and what other smart home/IoT niches could service providers target and establish themselves in?

Braintrust
"As in-home IoT offerings multiply, the need for customer assistance will rise, particularly among those of us who aren't digital natives."
"Best Buy is likely to discover the reality of this idea is far less interesting than it sounds on paper."
"Sounds like a subscription business opportunity to me."

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11 Comments on "Is Best Buy’s latest Geek Squad service a blueprint for niche IoT?"

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Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust
Geek Squad has some formidable competition from local security system integrators in serving the home market with technology definition and installation. Integrators are digital-savvy and bring a wide range of expertise in Wi-Fi, cabling, surveillance, security, remote control and IoT devices. They are typically owner-operated and based on strong training programs by suppliers who work through large distributors (such as the ADI Global security distributor division of Honeywell) and have technical certification programs from industry associations. They are fast becoming the go-to people for anything home and office. As the home technology revenue pie is growing fast, all who have… Read more »
Ian Percy
BrainTrust
Best Buy has the potential to own this niche, IF … I tried the services of the Geek Squad when you had to go find them in the store and then leave your computer with them for goodness knows how long. Not once did I have a “wow” experience based on the supposed genius of those in the Squad. It typically ended with a decision to go somewhere else and eventually to subscribe to a remote-access computer service that had both PC and Mac experts. So my “IF” is totally based on Best Buy’s ability to recruit enough brilliant tech… Read more »
Art Suriano
BrainTrust

Many senior citizens like technology but have a high fear factor because they don’t know how to use it. Best Buy is smart to recognize that. I believe this will be very successful for them and no doubt other retailers will follow. If Best Buy markets it well and builds loyalty based on customer satisfaction, they can and most likely will own that niche.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Best Buy’s Assured Living initiative will have tremendous success. More and more Baby Boomers and seniors are staying in their homes due to healthcare costs. Connected devices and accessibility will provide caregivers and family members the ability to stay connected for safety and comfort. Home Depot, Lowe’s and other DIY brands should take note and do the same for accessibility and safety devices. I myself must have installed over two dozen safety handles for friends and family.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

This is a huge opportunity for Best Buy, which has a presence all over the country. As in-home IoT offerings multiply, the need for customer assistance will rise, particularly among those of us who aren’t digital natives. In addition, installing and servicing IoT devices gives Best Buy new relevance. I’m always impressed at the direction Mr. Joly is taking this company.

JJ Kallergis
Guest
Targeting niches of smart homes services or specific use cases should be helpful to Best Buy and other retailers looking to make these technologies more tangible to the average consumer. They are still on the early end of the maturity curve, but with them and others pushing smart home technologies, it should rapidly take off in the coming years. Another smart home niche that we have already seen Comcast and the competition get into is home security. Most consumers would like nothing better than to get rid of the $50 per month-or-so security monitoring fee in favor of something more… Read more »
gordon arnold
Guest

For the incompatibility issues out there, I see internet service providers being in direct line to make the Internet of Things and it suppliers work for consumers. It would be a profitable market versus giving away time and phones. Best Buy’s ability to get technologies to work together is far too limited.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Best Buy is likely to discover the reality of this idea is far less interesting than it sounds on paper. I’ve come to consider IoT a problem opportunity — it became an investment gold rush ending up with an incredible array of devices. But the promise of those devices is rarely delivered. The home security market has been stagnant in growth for over 30 years. Why? Not that many homes need it. (In a focus group on the topic one woman observed “we’ve been in our house 25 years without a break in. Why do I need a security system?”… Read more »
Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
4 months 20 days ago

Best Buy is ahead of Amazon for now given the head start it’s had with Geek Squad and its physical presence, but it is unwise to expect Amazon not to be formidable in this niche and others. That said, Best Buy also has trust not only of older shoppers, but it’s also compelling for the caregivers who are Boomers and (increasingly) GenXers. It’s a smart strategy from Best Buy who, more than many other retailer, has done some smart things to successfully compete with Amazon.

Cristian Grossmann
BrainTrust
While Amazon excels at providing products and services conveniently and at a competitive rate, it is not competitive in this niche market … yet. I applaud Best Buy for this strategy and in a market that is underserved and very necessary and truly helps customers. We can buy anything at the drop of a hat, but we still can’t get affordable installation services that easily, so I think BB’s Assured Living plan fills a great need. If this proves to be a big success for Best Buy, Amazon may try to swoop in at an even more affordable cost, but… Read more »
James Tenser
BrainTrust
I believe the technology service & repair business has enormous potential. Having dabbled in home automation a bit this year, I can attest that installation can get complicated in a hurry. Then it requires ongoing attention. Sounds like a subscription business opportunity to me. Among the most difficult challenges for homeowners — melding devices from multiple manufacturers — such as smart thermostats, electronic door locks and garage openers, safety devices like smoke detectors, voice-controlled speakers, security cameras, connected appliances and the home wifi network — into a unified solution that is easily monitored and managed. Certainly, not every household wants… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As in-home IoT offerings multiply, the need for customer assistance will rise, particularly among those of us who aren't digital natives."
"Best Buy is likely to discover the reality of this idea is far less interesting than it sounds on paper."
"Sounds like a subscription business opportunity to me."

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