OK, Google and Alexa: What else you got besides telling jokes, relaying the weather and playing music?
Best Buy wants shoppers to explore the other possibilities such as turning on lights, changing the temperature on your thermostat and controlling appliances — and buy the extra gadgets that you can connect to the voice-assistant devices.
Starting next month, the Richfield-based electronics giant will roll out expanded smart home displays to 700 of its stores highlighting some of those applications of the Amazon Echo and Google Home in concert with other products such as Philips Hue smart light bulbs, Nest thermostats and Insignia smart plugs.
The effort is one of the latest ways Best Buy is doubling down in the smart home category, one of the fastest growing categories in technology. Last month, it announced a significant partnership with Vivint Smart Home in which its home monitoring system and services are being added to the retailer’s offerings.
It’s also another example of how some of Best Buy’s biggest competitors, such as Amazon, are finding an interest in partnering with the big-box retailer to sell their products. Similarly, while Apple has many of its own retail stores, it also has become a powerful partner of Best Buy with mini-shops inside of many of its stores.
In a recent research report, Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Keith said Best Buy stands to be the biggest retail beneficiary of consumers’ increasing interest in smart home products. Home Depot and Lowe’s will also be big players, but he noted that Best Buy can sell consumers a whole suite of products, for example those that strengthen their Wi-Fi signals in their homes.
Piper Jaffray found in a consumer survey that about one-third of respondents were interested in buying a smart home product. When asked where they would buy one, 26 percent said Home Depot, followed by Best Buy, 24 percent; Amazon, 22 percent; and Lowe’s, 15 percent. One-fifth said they already had an Amazon Echo or Google Home product while 18 percent said they planned to buy one in the next year.
The market for voice-controlled gadgets is only going to get bigger. By 2021, more than 220 million devices globally will be controlled with a voice assistant, up from 10 million last year, according to projections from IHS Markit.
The new interactive displays coming to Best Buy stores, along with an enhanced online presence, will be interactive but will not allow customers to freely ask questions of Alexa and Google Home, said Carly Charlson, a company spokeswoman. They will allow consumers to see how the products can interact with one another, though.
“Like a lot of things in tech, sometimes it can be complicated to understand, especially in how it all works together,” she said. “But this in a very visual way shows consumers how the products work and integrate with other products. And it shows how many possibilities there are to use them in your everyday life.”
The 10-by-4-foot displays will not be as extensive as one of the shop-in-shop experiences Best Buy has with other major vendors such as Samsung, Apple and Sony. No Google or Amazon employees will staff the areas. Rather, Best Buy’s blue shirts will be on hand to help walk customers through the experience and to answer questions.
Still, Charlson said both Google and Amazon partnered with Best Buy on the displays. She declined to provide financial details of the partnership.
“We’re excited to work with Best Buy on this because their stores are one of the best places for customers to see, hear and understand how these delightful Alexa experiences come together,” Miriam Daniel, product director of Amazon Echo devices, said in a statement.