We’re living in a connected world where technology is evolving at an incredible pace and smart home devices are becoming more and more mainstream, seamlessly integrating into all areas of our lives.
From using a phone to control the heating or asking Google or Alexa to dim the lights, consumers are increasingly adapting and adopting smart technology throughout their homes, and the kitchen is now no exception. “Appliances are very much part of the connected home now,” says Keval Shah, Beko’s head of marketing.
This hasn’t always been the case acknowledges Steve Macdonald, business director, freestanding division at Hoover Candy UK, who notes that connected appliances have “had a slow start”. However, he says, this is changing as a result of the “mass-market adoption of Alexa devices”.
How retailers can tap into the smart sector
» According to Peter Wadsworth, BSH Home Appliances’ innovations manager, retailers must act now if they want to capitalise on sales of connected appliances. “Crucially, the window of opportunity for retailers to get a head start on their competitors is closing. In two years, anyone who hasn’t fully embraced the technology in their showrooms will already have been left far behind”
» Whirlpool’s brand manager Charmaine Warner believes independent kitchen specialists have an advantage over online retailers when it comes to smart appliances. “Smart appliances cannot be effectively demonstrated on the internet, making for an even greater opportunity for the retailer,” she says. “By taking ownership of the technology, opening up the showroom to become an experience store and an engaging centre, inviting customers to touch and see the appliances in action, the entrepreneurial retailer can really take advantage of extending business in this market”
» Neil Pooley, Miele’s category manager for kitchens, also stresses the importance of having working models on display. “It’s important to simplify the smart home – demystify the confusion around the complicated set-ups and show the real benefits. It also helps to have a live demonstration to showcase the latest trends if possible”
Stuart Mayo, head of marketing strategy, connected living (AI &IoT) at Samsung Electronics, agrees. “As consumers are now more tech-savvy than ever, they are learning to embrace a connected lifestyle, which is resulting in connected appliances becoming increasingly normalised,” he says. “We see about a quarter of UK households now having connected devices and that number is increasing all the time.”
Another manufacturer that is experiencing growing demand for smart appliances is BSH. “Our connected appliances have been on the market for three years and momentum is continuing to build,” says Peter Wadsworth, innovations manager at BSH Home Appliances.
Connectivity is making its mark across all appliance categories, from laundry and dishwashers to cooking and cooling, but what is the most popular? For Beko, it is washing machines and dishwashers.
“These are the appliances that offer the best-connected functionality at the moment,” says Keval Shah. Connected dishwashers are also doing well for BSH, but it is ovens that are its top sellers according to Wadsworth. “Ovens are doing particularly well thanks to our Home Connect app, which provides a great recipe feature, full remote control, useful notifications and partner integrations.”
Miele, meanwhile, says it is its smart cooker hoods that are most in demand. “Some of our most popular connected/voice-controlled appliances are our cooker hoods, which can be connected to Amazon’s Alexa system, allowing customers to change the power and lighting levels with ease while cooking,” says Neil Pooley, category manager for kitchens.
Regardless of what connected appliance consumers are looking to buy, the technology must be accessible and offer the consumer genuine benefits, from time to energy savings. “Most looking to invest in a smart appliance will be looking for something that makes their lives easier and is simple to operate,” stresses Laura Jones, product manager at Smeg UK.
Sales may be on the up but it seems homeowners are still somewhat wary when it comes to going the whole hog and completely kitting out their kitchens with smart appliances. “Consumers have been hesitant to commit to a fully integrated connected household in one purchase. Instead, they are now choosing to build their home over time by investing in one connected device at a time as they come to replace their appliances,” explains Samsung’s Stuart Mayo. “Once consumers have one smart appliance in their home, they are much more likely to make their next appliance a connected one.”
Historically the premium price tag that comes with connected appliances has prevented them being more widely embraced. However, products are now becoming available across a variety of price points. “Connected technology is no longer just for the elite and that’s reflected by the range of brands embracing the technology,” says Beko’s Keval Shah.
BSH’s Peter Wadsworth agrees: “Models will be available at more price points, more partners and services will be available and our offering will get better all the time.” Hoover Candy claims it is leading the charge in making smart appliances available to more consumers. “Hoover is committed to bringing this technology through at mass market price points, giving the brand an edge over competitors,” says Steve Macdonald.
Samsung Electronics’ Stuart Mayo says: “Sales of our connected appliances are forecasted to grow significantly in 2020 as consumers’ understanding deepens around technology innovations for the home, specifically how smart appliances can help bring them more control over their home, while increasing safety and accessibility.”
BSH’s Peter Wadsworth also believes connected appliances offer great benefits in terms of accessibility. “Whether it’s voice control for the visually impaired or visual cues for the hearing impaired – like flashing connected lights when the dinner is ready – these technologies can actually be life-changing for some customers.”
Words by Nicola Hanley.