New Technologies Drive Evolving Lock Market

July 7, 2020
As the market for digital security products and services grow traditional locksmith services face new options
This article originally appeared in the 2020 Access Control Trends & Technology bonus publication.

Mechanical locks and keys have remained remarkably unchanged for thousands of years[1]. The earliest known locking devices, from Mesopotamia and Egypt, employed a series of wooden pins not so different from standard pin tumbler locks. While this ancient design continues to play a ubiquitous role in physical security, successful security providers have long expanded their offerings beyond simple door hardware. As lock construction evolved, early locksmiths became talented metal workers, plying a trade that was often not confined to locks and keys. Similarly, today's locksmith industry encompasses a wide range of security services, from residential and commercial security system installation, repair, monitoring, and surveillance, to key cutting, resale, and more. Although the demand for locksmithing services continues—indeed, society continues to build more and more structures that must be secured—the latest technology has essentially rendered many traditional services obsolete. In other words, while the market for security products and services is growing, the need for traditional locksmith services is in decline.

Locksmith Market Faces Crossroad

Innovative technologies, specifically a tech-savvy customer base, are a driving force behind the shrinking locksmith market. Inexpensive and convenient “Do it Yourself” security solutions are widely available, both online and at big-box retailers, providing commercial and residential customers with easy access to off-the-shelf products. Gone are the days when installing a decent security system at home required an advanced technical degree. The average consumer now needs little more than a free afternoon to achieve comprehensive home surveillance, complete with remote monitoring and electronic access control on their entryways. In the rare case where a commercially available system isn’t designed with the plug-and-play simplicity we’ve all grown to expect, the internet is sure to save the day with a seemingly endless supply of instructional videos and DIY tips. Even services that once fell exclusively within the purview of the local locksmith—key cutting, rekeying, programming vehicle fobs—have been automated or outsourced, whether to an online provider or a kiosk in the mall.

Perhaps most critical, this market evolution is placing growing pressure on a locksmith community that’s likely to see a dramatic decline in membership through the coming decade. It’s certainly no secret that locksmithing hasn’t attracted near the same interest from Millennials and Gen Z as it did with Boomers and Gen Xers; as the lion’s share of the locksmith community nears retirement, they might find it difficult to pass the torch.

All of which begs the question, how does a locksmith stay afloat in a rapidly shifting industry with a dwindling need for conventional services?

The silver lining to this evolution in the consumer security market is that interest in home security is at an all-time high[2]. Moreover, the proliferation of off-the-shelf products means that home security systems are now accessible to everyone. These mass-market security products have fortunately played an important role in educating customers that may have previously assumed that a robust security system was too complex or expensive. In turn, the education of the residential market has inspired small businesses that once believed installing a security system meant also hiring an IT department. Ultimately, the waning interest in traditional locksmith services has given way to a rapidly growing market for all things security. On paper, this is encouraging news for locksmiths and security professionals; we have an ever-expanding market, educated, attentive customers, and a glut of innovative security products. Frankly, the challenge for most firms has simply been embracing the change.

Evolution Spurs Revolution

Thinking back to the first locking devices, some 6,000 years ago, it’s hard to imagine mechanical locks and keys truly going the way of the dinosaurs. And while the basic lock and key are likely to remain a constant in the industry, so too will these more advanced security innovations. Smart locks, keyless security systems, Wi-Fi cameras, IoT peripherals, and other electronic devices ultimately give customers what they crave most: control. Or, at the very least, the illusion of control. One of the most enduring byproducts of our connected world is the average consumer’s desire to micromanage every aspect of their lives, often from the palm of their hand. It’s evident in the way Uber and Lyft revolutionized the transportation industry, or online booking disrupted travel agencies at the turn of the millennium. Even insurance companies now have smartphone applications that let you monitor and fine-tune your policy, if your heart so desires. For better or worse, today’s security offerings are no different.

Residential users now expect administrative-level control and visibility over their doors and cameras, all from the comfort of their couch. Admittedly, it’s a dramatic shift from the years when only businesses and the wealthiest of residences would invest this level of attention in their security. The locksmiths that have thrived in this market are following examples from other industries disrupted by the smartphone era; they have embraced innovative solutions while identifying opportunities to generate recurring revenue through services and support. And honestly, they’ve invested time in customer engagement, building relationships, and differentiating themselves from arm’s length retailers. To this end, locksmiths must identify real-world problems, find appropriate, affordable solutions, and assemble a team willing to embrace the future of the security industry.

It’s a given that big box and online retailers will continue capturing sales for plug-and-play surveillance and access control products. However, many of these outlets are lacking in the type of post-sale customer engagement that can drive repeat purchases and build lasting recurring revenue streams. By engaging with existing security product users, locksmiths can optimize upsells with end-users that are already educated and readily understand the value add for complimentary services and support.

An Educated Client is the Best Customer

If nothing else, present-day shoppers are certainly more informed than previous generations. The typical end-user, armed with a smartphone and an endless supply of product review sites, may invest hours of research prior to purchasing. The importance of maintaining an online presence that’s visible during this research phase can not be overstated. Beyond that, a locksmith’s overall approach to security should feel comfortably familiar. First and foremost, locksmiths must be committed to listening.

Tune in to your local or online community to discover what customers are looking for. Repeated concerns indicate an opportunity to adopt technology to meet customer demand. Key control, rekeying, internal theft, community safety, and a variety of other anxieties are often voiced by individuals and businesses seeking assistance from a locksmith. Auditing security needs is a necessary protocol in growing business and ensuring future sustainability. It is essential for locksmiths to seek out solutions that solve the real-world problems customers are facing every day. If the solution isn’t readily available, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Find it! If you aren’t researching, I can assure you that your customer is; and they will happily take their business to a provider that has already identified a viable technology. The astute locksmith will find the solutions first, promote the benefits second, and let the inevitable consumer research bring clients through the door. 

When looking to adopt new solutions, it is important for locksmiths to carefully consider their target market. There’s a vast selection of products, each designed to meet the specific needs of everyone from residential customers to large commercial facilities. It’s here that locksmiths can truly differentiate themselves from the big box retailers and online warehouses. By meticulously evaluating the needs and abilities of your clients, you can tailor a custom solution that addresses their security requirements without disrupting their daily operations. Success at this phase builds client trust, and trust is fundamental in securing the repeat purchases and recurring revenue commitments that support a sustainable business.

Find the RMR and the Right Partner

By and large, the security market hasn’t escaped the plug-and-play mentality of computer peripherals. Most customers are seeking a security solution that is simple, both in installation and operation. Manufacturers have certainly taken note. New technologies, whether for residential or commercial access control, are designed, above all, for ease-of-use. More often than not, this means keyless systems, employing cellular devices connected via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. There’s no denying that these technologies have contributed to the shrinking need for traditional locksmith services. However, these new solutions not only satisfy overwhelming consumer demand, but they also provide lucrative opportunities to generate recurring revenue through subscription-based services and features.

What’s more, these connected technologies often keep clients tethered close enough to foster post-sale engagement and build lasting relationships. As the market has been inundated with retailers and wholesalers competing solely on price, long-term customer relationships are critical in driving repeat purchases and optimizing upsells and complimentary services. For many traditional locksmiths, installation, and management of the latest innovative technology involve at least one technical capability that is beyond their comfort zone. In this case, it is imperative that locksmiths invest the resources to either improve their technical aptitude or consider a partnership that provides the necessary technical support.

Independent-minded locksmiths may understandably have reservations about partnering with another security provider. Under the right circumstances, however, it can provide tremendous value to both parties. Such an arrangement gives the locksmith the freedom to focus on revenue generation, namely, cultivating customer relationships and pursuing new opportunities. For instance, many security products are still brought to the market through specific channels. For locksmiths that lack an in-house technical team, it can be both cost and time prohibitive to adopt an innovative new product for customers.

When accounting for the necessary technical training, potential competition, and investment in demonstration products (typically requiring both hardware and software), the barriers to entry are high. And yet, customers will inevitably turn elsewhere for the right solution. In this case, forming a partnership with an established technology provider can help alleviate the growing pains associated with adopting a new product line, enabling the locksmith to capture business that would have otherwise fallen by the wayside. With properly aligned business objectives, a partnership should be mutually beneficial. Offloading resource-intensive support to a dedicated vendor allows for expanding customer reach while maintaining a manageable workload. Depending on the go-to-market channel for the product offering, the right partnership can also provide leverage in protecting deals and help maintain a loyal customer following within a targeted area.      

If you are struggling to generate recurring revenue or need to identify new opportunities in your target market, consider partnering with a technology provider that supports you and your customers.

About the Author: John Moa is the Director of Sales at CyberLock Inc. which is located in Corvallis, OR. CyberLock Inc. is the global leader in smart-key, electronic-lock access control solutions. Learn more at or visit 

[1] Archaeologists have uncovered locking devices dating to 4,000B.C., in what was the ancient kingdom of Assyria, now modern-day Iraq.

[2] “Looking forward, the market value is projected to reach US$14.1 Billion by 2024, registering a CAGR of 19.7% during 2019-2024” (