Smart appliances ‘don’t match modern living’

Smart home features ‘go against the trend’ of modern living, an appliance distribution expert has argued.

Malcolm Scott, commercial director of Swift Electrical, has claimed that as people become more affluent there is a marked increase in daily convenience shopping, rather than the weekly big shop.

So while features like inventory control and auto-replenishment offer some benefits, they are not ‘game changers’, he argued.

“Fridge and freezer inventory management will appeal to some, and could be a real benefit, but will not match the lifestyle of the majority of consumers because of the rise of convenience shopping and healthy eating,” said Mr Scott.

Mr Scott’s argument comes as new data from analyst Juniper Research revealed that the number of global connected appliance shipments is set to reach 202 million by 2021. Currently, shipments have hit 17m in 2016.

The research highlighted that with the cost of including basic connectivity now less than $10 (£8.15), manufacturers would increasingly introduce basic connectivity into many mass-market, as well as high-end, big-ticket items.

Malcolm Scott
Malcolm Scott

It also stated that with greater customer affinity, ‘significant’ household adoption was far more likely.

However, Mr Scott argued that although the report is interesting it is not UK-specific and major appliance-based. He said that while it is already possible to simply and cheaply manufacture interconnecting major domestic appliances, no manufacturer or retailer has yet succeeded in persuading UK customers that ‘just because you can, you should’.

He claimed that to date only Hoover (pictured), a part of Hoover Candy Group, has made any real effort to offer mass-market major domestic appliance connectivity as anything other than ‘top-of-the-range’ hero products.

“Downloading of recipes and after-sales service fault detection seem to be the only features that most people accept as actually yielding any benefit,” he said.

“Product launches at retail shows like The Good Food Show tend to suggest that while everyone likes the idea of an LED screen TV on the fridge, actually on closer examination, most consumers cannot find a practical use for it. The string of fridges with cameras inside them and with food scanners and the like are generally perceived by most consumers as ‘gimmicks’ and having very little practical value.

“For most consumers, in the current market, extra benefits are great if they do not increase the cost, but not worth paying extra for. These features will develop mostly to differentiate appliances on the shopfloor, to make people stop and look and will be added by manufacturers at no price premium as time passes.”

Mr Scott concluded: “The sad truth is that major domestic appliances are like brown goods (TV and video). Consumers expect ever-better products for ever-lower prices. Adding extra features in such a dynamic market is simply ‘keeping up’ with competitors and is expected by consumers.”