An Open Source: Selling the Smart Home; from Brand to Betamax to a Bloodbath

 Matt Lau, General Manager of Sales APAC

This week, Matt Lau, who leads the Australian and regional sales team shares some of his experiences and thoughts on the Asia Pacific market and how they have adopted smart home. After working for industry giants such as Apple, Matt joined LIFX in 2017 and was instrumental in the Australia and New Zealand go-to-market and launch. An avid smart home user himself, if anyone knows what Aussie's want out of IoT, it's Matt. 

Mid shot of David Lau. Wearing a polo and blazer. Sitting on a blue ouch. Image has been taken under pink lighting.

Matt, Australia makes up a disproportionate amount of LIFX business compared to its population. Why do you think this is - Loyalty? Luck? Lau? ;)

Haha, not Lau. 

Building loyalty has been at the core of LIFX DNA. But what I believe is more important than loyalty and luck, is what takes place before either of those. 

Listening. It’s a basic concept that so many companies don’t practice. And when we listen - be that our marketing team listening to the user, or the sales team that I’m a part of, listening to our retailers - we can feed that insight into our overall customer experience. LIFX takes an experience-first approach so we’ve centralised customer experience (“CX”) and user experience (“UX”) into all our product development. 

In addition to this, Australia is our home market, with the bulk of the team based in Melbourne. This means there may be latent advantages in brand tone, identification of opportunities more instinctively, and of course who doesn’t like to support a local company?

 

You’ve worked for some of the biggest brands in the world; Volvo, Tesla, Apple. Are there any traits that you saw through all of those companies?

Absolutely! The first that comes to mind is vision and focus.

We all want to change the world in some way shape or form. It’s important to never lose focus on that vision. Without going into the specific brands, my previous experience has allowed me to discover a variety of consumers while exploring new ways to grow market share. I’ve been at the beginning of brand launches or new product releases where critical decisions can have a long lasting impact in the subsequent years. It’s this discipline that was critical in establishing a framework for LIFX go-to-market in Australia in 2017. With an initial - we admit, imperfect - attempt at a launch into the Australian market in 2014, it was important that we got it right the second time in 2017. And I believe we did.     

I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to represent a company who strives for “Smarter Light”, not just smart lights. I’ve been able to share this experience with my family and to see the lights turn-on and the blinds go up with a “Good Morning” every day brings a smile to all of us at home.


How have you seen Australian and New Zealand retail respond to the retail lock down. Have your retail partners - and LIFX - been hit hard?

COVID-19 has impacted us all. Our retailers in Australia have demonstrated the ability to exercise appropriate social distancing measures and we’ve seen a significant pivot to their web stores. 

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have and will continue to support us during this time. It’s because of you that LIFX Australia hasn’t been as hard hit as some of our other regions. Thank You!

 

What do you prioritise when thinking about selling a smart home product?

A “smart home product” requires a better experience than what you’re already achieving with a “dumb product”. In terms of LIFX and lighting, we focus on colour and light quality, energy efficiency, schedules and integration. LIFX has been independently tested by Choice as the most energy efficient smart lights in Australia. In addition to this, we are also the most connected, working with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and other third party integrations. 

 

HomeKit, Alexa or Google Home?

First of all, I’m biased. I currently have just over 100 Apple HomeKit devices and having spent multiple years with the company, I align with Apple’s focus on privacy and ease of use. I simply wanted an ecosystem that “just works”. While Alexa and Google are fantastic at voice, they didn’t provide the level of automation and local control that HomeKit offered (at least not yet). Siri has a long way to go to catch up to Google and Alexa, however almost the reverse can be said regarding rules and automation triggers. The great part is, they aren’t all mutually exclusive; why not have all three?

I think it’s fair to say that I’m too far down the rabbit hole and I don’t see myself switching from Apple HomeKit anytime soon, but the beauty of the ecosystem is that everyone can make their own choice and have a great result.    

Where do you see Smart Home in 3 years?

A “Smart Home” will be defined through home automation triggers, effectively allowing our homes to adapt to all our varying lifestyles. Amazon, Google and Apple recently announced they are working on a project “CHIP” (Connected Home over Internet Protocol). What has been proposed is a universal standard for connecting devices to a smart home. In my view, this standard is what will drive the majority of connected devices 3 years from now. If history is anything to go by, this won’t be a simple ask. In almost every instance where there have been conflicting views on standards, it’s taken multiple years to establish (VHS vs. Betamax / Bluray vs. HD-DVD etc…). If there’s one thing for certain, I’ll be keeping a close watch on how these tech juggernauts manage privacy and security risks. In the end though, even when a standard is agreed on, it’s the home automation system behind this that will win out. Using the example above, Bluray is a standard we are all familiar with, however the Bluray player quality ultimately translates this standard into what we see and hear. 

In the next 3 years, I see the fight for control in our homes to be a financial bloodbath between Amazon, Google and Apple. Things are just getting started.