Residential Access Control: Connecting to the Next-Gen Customer

Dec. 12, 2014
Inside the changing demographics of residential electronic lock buyers

Now more than ever, it is essential to understand the wants and needs of today’s new breed of electronic lock purchaser. Why? Because this new, younger and more technologically proficient purchaser has a greater understanding of what is available and what they want than buyers of any previous generation. They are “plugged in” to all the available information about home automation products through their computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, DIY videos on YouTube and DIY TV programs on a variety of lifestyle-focused broadcast networks. They have read the latest product reviews and many regularly participate in user forums or respond to blogs.

Today’s electronic lock shoppers may even know their options as well as most sellers, distributors and installers. They are likely aware of all the ways that electronic locks can be a central part of a home automation system, whether through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave or ZigBee. You need to be able to provide electronic lock solutions that meet or exceed their very high, knowledge-based expectations.

A Buyer in the Know

According to a report from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), “Adoption and Usage of Home Automation Technologies,” more than half of consumers (58% in 2013, up from 49% in 2012) are familiar with home automation technologies. Interest in home automation has almost doubled during this period, from 37% to 61%. Four in 10 households are familiar with the term “smart home,” more than a third with “home automation,” and three in 10 with “connected home” all numbers that are significantly higher than the previous year. More consumer education can be done by dealers and integrators, but clearly awareness of home automation technologies is on the rise.

You Need to Know “Y”

This study also explains that 72% of those interested in learning more about the broad topic of home automation fit into the 18- to 34-year-old bracket. In the more specific category of electronic locks, greater focus on security and peace of mind comes into play. It is a buyer in the mid- to upper-end of the this age bracket that would likely be looking at today’s electronic locks — a first-time home buyer with a strong interest and knowledge of the huge technological advances that have taken place in the world of door locks in recent years.

With electronic locks, we are talking about potential purchasers that fit snugly into the generation commonly termed “Generation Y” (also sometimes called “Millennials,” “Generation We,” and “Echo Boomers”). Your target market was born in the late 80’s and early 90’s. According to, they “have been raised within a time period where they have constant access to technology. Computers, mobile phones, and the Internet were all accessible and part of their youth. Subsequently, every move they make is punctuated by technology and gadgets that are as much a part of their life as food and toilet paper.”

Because this generation is prone to loving cool gadgets, they love locks that have features that extend beyond the norm. They are attracted to locks with features like remote access control and notifications — features that enable them to stay “plugged into” their homes even when they are far from home. This is only natural, because this generation is connected to some device pretty much at all times. You would rarely see a Gen Y member without a smartphone or tablet.

Information Empowers

This connectivity means that many of today’s buyers are doing their research. They are buying online, after reviewing their options at a range of websites like Gizmodo, Engadget and The Verge; and using social apps like Yelp, YouTube and Pinterest. Or if they are going the brick-and-mortar route, they are learning everything they need to know about a product before they go in-person to a retail store. When it comes to investing in a home automation system and the individual components such as electronic locks, they become very knowledgeable shoppers. Most have an awareness of the ways that smart products and electronic locks can add value, security, convenience and the “cool” factor to their home.

For the newest generation of lock buyers, a lock is more than a potential aesthetic upgrade, like flooring or faucets. Their expectation is that locks will be part of their connected lifestyle, a cool “gadget” that adds powerful features and convenience to their home as well as a heightened level of security.

Connecting With Those Who Grew Up Connected

 So how do you meet the needs of this connected generation, this Generation Y? How do you sell electronic locks to the most technologically aware, gadget-conscious consumers? By demonstrating that the electronic locks you are offering can be a centerpiece of the smart home they desire, and that the locks have all the features they expect, and maybe some that they are not aware of yet.

 You can also focus on the affordability of home automation systems that use an electronic lock as a focal point. Your target customer may be just starting out in their career and have limited disposable income, so affordability may be the key variable when it comes to making home improvements. The Gen Y market knows the connected home of the future has arrived today, but they may not realize how relatively affordable components like the electronic lock can be.

Of course, when making smart locks a central element in a home automation system, do not neglect the focus on protecting the family and home. Ironically, this same generation that is tethered to their electronic smartphones and tablets also maintains a strong focus on non-virtual family connections. According to, this relatively young demographic makes striking a rounded work/life balance a priority, with family life taking priority over work life.

According to CEA findings, security product owners buy for emotional reasons, in addition to convenience, connectedness and “cool.” Quoting the CEA report, these “consumers tell us their satisfaction is linked to the peace of mind that stems from making the [security] system part of their routine.” These consumers feel that safety and security — and thus, electronic locks — are critical components of a home automation system, if they were to purchase one. The ability to lock and unlock doors when away from home, or at night lying in bed, is very desirable to a generation that makes family a priority.

The primary key to reaching this new “younger generation” is understanding as much about the latest advances in home automation as they do, and then being able to provide solutions that meet their needs, interests and most importantly, expectations. This new demographic knows what it wants in terms of an electronic lock; you just have to be able to deliver it.

Keith Brandon is the Sales and Marketing Director for Residential Access Solutions with Spectrum Brands' HHI division. Keith oversees all of the residential electronic lock strategies and initiatives in North America for the market leading residential lock brands of Baldwin, Kwikset, and Weiser Locks.


Five Key Features

Here’s what the newest generation of electronic lock buyers are looking for

1. Personal codes that, with just a few simple button pushes, enable a user to enter a home. Users can also assign temporary codes to select individuals, granting them access for a specific length of time. This means that, even when they are away from home, they can allow access to contractors, cleaning people, babysitters, relatives and others, and track when they have arrived and when they have left.

2. Remote communication and control, enabling users to lock and unlock doors from the supermarket, or the beach, or a restaurant. In fact, they can control your locks from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or internet connected device.

3. Remote notifications via smartphones and other devices, such as text messages, when doors are locked or unlocked. It is the ultimate in peace of mind knowing whether the user remembered to lock the door, or that no-one else has unlocked it while they are away.

4. Pleasing aesthetics. Gen Y homeowners do not necessarily want huge locks that scream for attention and compete with a home’s decor. With the latest electronic locks, technology and performance can all be housed inside a compact package for enhanced aesthetics inside and outside the home.

5. Re-key technology that provides the flexibility for homeowners to re-key their own locks quickly and easily, without having to remove the locks from the door. So if keys are lost, stolen or unreturned, resetting is easy. Plus, moving into a new home or remodeling or updating the current home can be hassle-free when it comes to maintaining security.