More retailers should get behind smart appliances, says GfK

Connected appliances are the biggest challenge facing the white-goods industry and more retailers need to get behind them, according to Natalia Andrievskaya, GfK’s global director for major domestic appliances.

Speaking at this year’s IFA Global Press Conference in Lisbon recently, Ms Andrievskaya (pictured) said: “The biggest challenge for the industry is smart or connected appliances. The industry is pushing connected appliances on the market – by ‘the industry’ I mean manufacturers, because they are pushing them alone, more or less. Is it working?

“Are we now in a reality of the smart home, where everyone is happy and appliances are doing everything? Not really – you still need to load, and unload, everything and add detergent before you can remotely control [your appliance], or watch the cycle on your smartphone. There’s a strong push, but now it’s about starting to create a pull for the consumer. The strongest factor for creating a pull is the smart home.

“When everything else is connected – your car, your mirror and your lighting, the consumer will not think twice about going for a connected appliance. The problem is that the barriers to the smart home – the protocols and standards – will not be overcome immediately. The strong pull will come in a couple of years.”

She added that the growth of electronic personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa could also help to speed up the adoption of smart appliances: “They can simplify our interaction – you don’t need to go to a washing machine or fridge to talk to it. You could talk to an assistant and it will help you to understand what’s happening – it’s a fun element and it adds simplification. The problem is that there are more smart washing machines sold than assistants. They will also need to be very good at voice recognition, which is not always the case so far.”

Ms Andrievskaya said that until a smart-home infrastructure is in place, the industry has to focus on creating clear, standalone value for why consumers should buy connected appliances and create more awareness of the benefits.

She added: “We need to get more retailers on board. The biggest argument from retailers is that it’s too expensive to create a showroom that shows the value of the smart home. Technology can help – manufacturers can create VR and AR programs. In the end, your consumers might not go for a smart oven or washing machine, but you can give them experiences that they will remember. A GfK study shows that 41 per cent of consumers globally would rather go to a store that has a VR experience than one that doesn’t.”