Residential Security: Adapt to Survive

Aug. 11, 2017
How traditional alarm dealers can leverage their existing skills to break into the residential AV and smart home markets

The smart home industry is exploding with no signs of slowing down. Especially with new voice assistants, consumers are starting to see the value in equipping their homes with multiple smart devices such as video doorbells, interior and exterior cameras, smart thermostats, and even multi-room audio. Consequently, traditional security alarm dealers must consider crossing the line and moving into these categories to stay relevant and retain customers.

According to “The Future of Tech” report from global information company The NPD Group, virtual assistants are a strong contributor to smart home growth, while security devices and sensors are driving other sales of consumer technology.

As the custom electronic business shifts with adoption of smart home and other entertainment devices and systems, security installers must adapt to stay relevant, and take advantage of the opportunity to grow.

Consumers cutting cords for smart, wireless devices in their home presents an opportunity for dealers, but homeowners will want one installer who can also service everything else connected to the network. From the perspective of the average homeowner, the security dealer they called in to install their home surveillance system should also be able to add sensors and AV devices. Many security alarm dealers are already equipped with knowledge and licensing of a variety of the home systems crucial for installing these new technologies, so it is easier for them to transition into the new markets in ways that their potential competitors cannot.

Understandably, many installers are cautious to enter the smart home and entertainment market based on the time invested it takes to expand into a new category, both from an educational and business operations perspective. However, with the right support, training and continued education, embracing the demand from new customers in categories just outside of security will help security dealers expand their business model.


It is Not as Hard as You Think

Thankfully, security dealers do not have to stray too far from their roots and habits to get into AV and smart home, because many are already equipped with an understanding of in-wall wiring. Once the walls are open to install CAT-5, there is very little to keep an installer from adding in-wall speakers. With many states requiring security installers have a low-voltage license, that is another leg up on residential AV dealers looking to cross over into security. In fact, it is actually easier for security installers to add residential AV than the reverse, because of this historical and other home system knowledge.

Customers are also becoming more informed about the products and services they want. While most still need professional installation, they may start their conversation by bringing up technologies they have seen online or in their friends’ homes. They have done their research, read the reviews, will ask hard questions, and are likely to get multiple estimates on their project.

This is making business more competitive for dealers, as homeowners will quickly find someone else to suit their needs if they feel they are not getting the best service or someone who can do it all.


The First Steps

Expanding into new categories is not easy, so security dealers should not try to add them all at once. Instead, they should select the most popular categories that their customers are asking for first, and add others as they get more comfortable.

It is important to consider that customers – while more educated than ever – may not be asking for some technologies and parts that may prove necessary. For example, the foundation for a smart home installation is the wireless network, and adding many wireless devices such as sensors, cameras, door locks, etc., requires a robust network with bandwidth to carry everything. Many customers are not aware of this.

Without improving the network alongside other additions to the home, it will be strained and start slowing down or frequently drop out – effects that can be harmful to the dealer-customer relationship and even the dealer’s company reputation. This is important to note for homes with outdoor audio or TVs, because they need an upgraded network for extended range.

Integrators should discuss the network needs with their customers when they are discussing the initial asks of the system. Customer education on all relevant options and needs is key at the start of an install to ensure a smooth completion and successful end result. Not only will the system working properly without add-ons make the customer happy, it reduces service calls for the dealer.

Security-turned-AV or security-turned-smart-home dealers must also consider potential growth for systems, so customers can add on new features when they are ready. This could be led by the dealer in primary discussions, by asking what the consumer wants or can afford today, and features that they think are cool or useful but are not ready to purchase.

It is likely that eventually, the customer will be ready to add on those other features, and good dealers have planned for that day by setting up a system that’s future-ready and able to take on new capabilities.

This can also contribute to growth for the dealer’s business, as once a customer has a good experience, they will call back to expand their system or venture into new technologies. If dealers are not knowledgeable or equipped to install other categories that their customers may request after the initial installation, they could lose a loyal customer.


A Helping Hand

Dealers can receive support for the transition into new categories by working with a local distributor who already provides security, AV, smart home and networking products. Good distributors reliably have all of the product needed on-hand, and also serve as a valuable resource for project introductions, category/product suggestions and product training.

Distributors are also able to pass on project opportunities to their dealers, acting as an additional lead generator. Dealers can experience added benefits by working with a distributor alliance, which gives them access to an extended network of distributors who have experience and solutions to a wider variety of issues. Distributor partners and their customers can benefit from their broad knowledge base by reaching out to other alliance members for help with product, technical issues and project planning.

For dealers who frequently order online, a local distributor can also be a friendly face to bounce ideas off of, and can offer advice on new products to try out and for which to get training.

The shared knowledge and resources of a network of distributors provides additional value to dealers, and many distributors – including all 12 PowerHouse Alliance members – offer regular monthly training initiatives to keep dealers updated on new technologies and categories that they may want to expand into.


Dennis Holzer is Executive Director of the PowerHouse Alliance, a national consortium of regional wholesale distributors. To request more info about Powerhouse, visit