If Staples Connect Has Failed, Staples Need Only Look Within for Answers
Analyst Michael Wolf recently posted to the Next Market Insights blog about the likely imminent demise of the Staples Connect home automation hub and ecosystem. Staples’ much heralded but little known smart home hub enables home owners and small office managers to connect and control lighting, HVAC, security, and more from one central app. It originally blended the best connected home devices from GE, Lutron, Philips, Honeywell, D-Link, and more into a solid, cohesive ecosystem.
Wolf’s observations on Staples’ web site, support services, and inventory suggest one strong, unfortunately reality: Staples Connect is dead. On the heals of bad press about Nest and the recent announcement to shut down its similar $299 Revolv hub, it starts to look like the promise of the smart home is faltering. But is it?
I would argue that in Staples’ case, Connect’s failure has nothing to do with what’s going on in the industry and everything to do with what’s been going on at Staples. This has less to do with the smart home business model being harder than most companies understand going in and more to do with Staples’ complete lack of support for the platform beyond even its original pilot program.
With Zonoff as a partner, Staples could have changed the face of smart home merchandising, but the company instead took the original retail concept that Zonoff helped design and sterilized it. They replaced the pilot’s original interactive product display area with shelves of same-sized empty boxes and a plastic mock-up of the hub — as if they were peddling hard drives that they didn’t want thieves to steal. They also dramatically reduced the number of SKUs (product options) they stocked and displayed in stores.
About a year in, Staples lost its program lead for Connect. Sources tell me that since then, nobody in charge of the program at Staples has had the necessary influence or, worse yet, leadership support to do anything.
Ask yourself how you knew that Staples was even in the smart home game. Maybe you saw it in the store, read about it in a blog, or heard about it on one of the shows over at Technology.FM. Did you ever see Staples advertise it? Did the weekly circular that falls out of nearly every single Sunday paper around the country ever feature Staples’ smart home tech?
And what about continual innovation? Staples occasionally introduced product improvements, but early promises of Insteon integration never went anywhere, and after a hub hardware rev in 2014, the platform basically stalled. It’s been over a year now since Staples added support for any new devices—at a time when smart home technology is growing and changing more rapidly than ever.
No…this isn’t a sign or reflection of what’s going on in the industry. This is about Staples. This is about abandoning a new project after barely getting it off the ground. This is about a failure to invest in continuous research, technology, and innovation. If you’re going to develop and launch a product that delivers value to customers, you must plan on funding that value stream as long as there is value there. I would assert that Staples never understood the value they originally delivered with Staples Connect.
So now comes the real test for Staples: If the Staples Connect line is indeed dead, will Staples learn from Nest’s mistake with Revolv and put an end-of-life support plan in place so as not to abandon current Staples Connect product owners? Like Revolv, Staples Connect relies on cloud services to access and control the devices in your home or office. Or will Connect owners just be left with a canister-sized piece of junk less useful than a can of beans?