Amazon opens showrooms in model homes to demo, sell smart home products

Last week, we reported on how Amazon was leveraging a new relationship with home builder Lennar to expand its smart home business, specifically in the sale of home security services. Today, Amazon is taking the next step forward in that strategy: it’s launching a new chain of showrooms it’s calling the Amazon Experience Centers across Lennar model homes to demo and help sell its smart home devices, Amazon Dash Buttons, and other consumer electronics services such as streaming Prime Content with Fire TV.

The model homes will be fully connected up as Alexa-enabled smart homes, Amazon says, with customers able to walk through and see the full effect of being able to use Alexa to control all electronic and connected kit, from TVs and lights to thermostat and window blinds.

These Experience Centers will also become places where people can go to arrange for and order home services through Amazon Home Services, the company’s Thumbtack-style marketplace that lets people search for and book a range of in-home contractors for cleaning, fixing or helping in other ways.

The centers will open first in 15 model homes in the cities of Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC, and Amazon will be looking to strike deals with other home builders to replicate the model.

The Experience Centers, and the other work that Amazon is doing to provide a more in-person angle to its smart home strategy specifically is particularly important to the company’s smart home and consumer electronics strategy. If people are buying products to put into their homes, and many of those products represent the next generation of consumer electronics, it’s important for Amazon to provide more real-world touchpoints both to better sell and explain the services, and to help make consumers — the majority of whom will not be early adopters — more comfortable with the purchases.

“We wanted customers to experience a real home environment that showcases the convenience of the Alexa smart home experience, great entertainment available with Prime, and Home Services,” said Bhavnish Lathia, general manager, Amazon Services, in a statement. “We are excited to extend our relationship with Lennar with the launch of Amazon Experience Centers. As one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, Lennar offers the potential to enable this experience within easy driving distance of millions of customers.”

The launch of these Experience Centers is also just the latest move by Amazon to bring its online marketplace and virtual salesrooms into more physical, brick-and-mortar environments. Other efforts have included Go, Amazon’s cashier-free shopping experience launched at the end of last year, and its university campus-based stores, which have been around now for several years. All of these also complement the major investment that Amazon has made in another physical sales environment: last year the company acquired the Whole Foods chain of supermarkets for $13.7 billion.

As with the company’s home services specialists, the people who will staff the Experience Centers will also be employees of Amazon, “experts” in the company’s parlance, “employees who are specially trained on the latest technology and are passionate about helping customers.”

For Lennar, the idea will be to use the format to help it sell more of its homes, as well as the premium packages to add on the numerous extras of making them into high-end smart homes. The company controversially once worked with Apple as its smart home partner but more recently swapped to working with Amazon, reportedly because Amazon sold not only its own devices, but those of third parties.

“Amazon’s ability to bring a home to life with Alexa smart home experiences, entertainment and services – coupled with their obsession with customer experience – is a natural extension of our Everything’s Included approach to homebuilding,” said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, in a statement. “We picked Amazon because of our shared commitment to customers, their Amazon experts across the country, and their ability to connect customers with thousands of service providers through Amazon Home Services.”