THE BLOG

Technology in the Home: The Connected Home Becomes a Reality

19/11/2014 11:17 GMT | Updated 18/01/2015 10:59 GMT

This month saw the launch of our second annual Retail Report, which crunches a year's worth of data to show how the nation shops, lives, and looks in 2014. The findings revealed some interesting trends, especially when it comes to how we are using technology.

The big technology story for us recently has been connectivity. As technology advances, more devices are becoming wireless, bringing the dream of a fully automated home closer to reality. This year we are seeing more of our customers embrace smart technology that shapes the way we live, and how we run our homes.

No strangers to the idea of connected products, we have now reached the stage where the average person has three wifi-enabled devices in their home. Linked to this, portability was a big factor for our customers so far this year, with sales of convertible tablets up 695 per cent, fulfilling the need for powerful, practical devices.

The appetite for connectivity is extending to products beyond the computing and communication categories. John Lewis customers are looking to the power of intelligent technology to take the hassle out of household chores, save money and make their homes work in a way that suits their increasingly busy lifestyles. The best example of this is the growth in sales of the Nest Learning Thermostat. This is a thermostat that allows our customers to set the heating to come on during their journey home from work, so that the home is warm and welcoming on their arrival. Even during this year's clement summer, we saw a 30 per cent increase in sales.

Similarly, smart washing machines launched in February this year. The range by Samsung can be controlled remotely via an app, meaning you don't need to leave wet washing sitting all day until you get home from work, as you can start the cycle remotely whenever you like. We have also seen increasing interest in smart TV technology. The recently launched Chromecast from Google allows users to make their existing TVs 'Smart', by connecting it to their laptops, tablets or smartphones to stream online content.

In the future, we expect to see a home where all appliances are connected, and can be controlled by one central hub, allowing personalisation and greater lifestyle choice.

The use of technology to afford greater personalisation also extends to wearable tech, with many of the recent developments designed to help us monitor our health and wellbeing. Everything from calorie counting, to monitoring heart rate whilst running or walking can now be recorded. We have seen a big surge across this sector, with sales of wearable tech showing a 395 per cent uplift compared to last year. A good example is the Moto 360 Smart watch, which has been very popular since launching in October. Consumers are embracing the convenience of a watch which cannot only tell them the time, but also display notifications based on emails, the weather, traffic or even their heart rate.

The increasing appetite for technology has led to the emergence of the 'prosumer' -- someone who demands superior products that might once have been the preserve of professionals or experts, even just for a hobby or leisure activity. A good example here is within photography. Sales of lenses costing £2,000 and above were up a staggering 2,400 per cent. Similarly the professional standard action cam, GoPro, saw sales rise by 466 per cent compared to last year, as adrenaline junkies and sports fanatics rush to capture their riskiest moves in the highest resolution possible.

Given the squeeze on housing stock in cities, especially in London, it might be thought that people are living in smaller properties, such as flats and studios. So one slightly surprising statistic was that less space did not mean that our customers are prepared to compromise on home entertainment products. In particular, the trend is still towards larger TVs, with sales of 50" screens and above up 52 per cent year-on-year.

The overarching trend in technology, then, is towards greater connectivity, portability and personalisation, with consumers choosing to spend greater portions of their disposable income to ensure that they get premium products to indulge their leisure, entertainment and fitness pursuits, as well as making their lives easier.

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