LESSONS LEARNED: TRENDS IN HOME APPLIANCES.
Whenever we talk to builders about the appliance category, they lament to us the problems with delayed delivery, issues with scratched-up product, and too much change in offerings at the manufacturer level. In the same breath though, they would talk about the need to be current, given home appliances are critical components to the most important room in the home – the kitchen. No other room generates more focus, emotion, and aggravation from both the home buyer and from the builder.
The data’s pretty clear about this. Families now spend up to 90% of their waking time in the kitchen. From cooking, eating, entertaining, doing homework, and anything in between, the kitchen is the “hub” of the home. To that end, two core themes, design and connectivity, emerge as leading issues in the minds of builders, regardless of the segment of the marketplace they’re operating in.
IN THE KITCHEN
TIME SPENT IN YOUR HOME
Given the importance of the kitchen in the overall perception of the home, design is more critical than ever. The balance that home appliance manufacturers are having to manage is between function and design. On the design side, the industry has progressed from biscuit-colored appliances to a plethora of options including stainless and even the newly minted black stainless. Whirlpool went one step further with the launch of Sunset Bronze in their stainless lineup. In the super-premium range, we’re looking at panel ready finishes, enabling the home buyer to seamlessly integrate the look of their appliances with their cabinetry.
On the functional side, more and more features are being introduced to the home appliances. 73% of Americans are cooking at home at least 4x per week. And with a desire to bring restaurant-type recipes to the home, consumers are looking for features that enable them to deliver chef-quality meals each and every day. Steam convection is one of those features. Ultimately, both ladder up to home appliances doing more to satisfy two core consumer needs in the category – experience (via looks) and performance (via functional features).
The other theme is centered on our increasingly connected world. Everything associated with our lives is being connected. From GE, Electrolux, and Whirlpool recently expanding their partnerships with Google Home and Alexa to Samsung integrating its home appliances around its SmartThings app, most of the home appliance brands are going all-in on connectivity. Forbes once estimated that the smart kitchen market could be upwards of $10B in size. Some of the use cases don’t make a lot of sense (do we really need to control the dishwasher remotely?). Others, like being able to look at who’s at the front door through a screen on my refrigerator, looks like a great idea.
This ladders up to the third core consumer need for the home appliance category – convenience.
NOW WHAT DO YOU DO?
Many of these themes are impacting what goes on the home. Think of connectivity in the HVAC space, the impact controls are having on lighting, or even brands vying to control the whole home through open standards operating systems (think HomeKit from Apple).
Given how connectivity is starting to integrate different categories together, you need to figure out how to integrate your brand and its products into these new ecosystems. Lighting systems now need to stay abreast of what home appliances are doing, which need to be aware of what folks in the garage door space are doing. Either embrace it, or you too, will be left out.
Fundamentally, both situations ladder back to you, the marketer, needing to take a step back and “pressure-testing” your go-to-market strategy. And they apply to almost any brand in the building space. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have the right products to meet these challenges?
- Do you have the right distribution model in place to support your business?
- Is your pricing such that you can potentially insert new products that meet this challenge, while still enabling you to be accessible to the market and be margin accretive to the rest of your portfolio?
- Do you have the best campaign and support model to drive awareness and education amongst builders, architects, designers, distributors?
- Do you have the right campaigns and CRM processes to drive demand on the consumer side?