Late last year, appliance giant BSH acquired a controlling interest in Kitchen Stories – a video-rich food and recipe app. The deal highlights how suppliers are looking to become ‘content’ companies and connect their products to digital platforms. Tim Wallace caught up with Mario Pieper – the group’s chief digital officer – at the June Smart Kitchen Summit in Dublin to hear more…
Q: How does a corporate giant like BSH transform itself into a digital content provider?
A: It’s a journey. Selling connected appliances and offering new kinds of service was the easy part. What we have to improve is making our people – which number around 16,000 worldwide – part of that journey.
Q: Tell us about the deal with Kitchen Stories…
A: Users can access Kitchen Stories recipes in the Home Connect app and be inspired to try something new. Choose the recipe and the correct baking time and temperature will be sent directly to a Home Connect oven. We love to talk about technology partnerships. In the case of Kitchen Stories, it’s about what a big corporate like us can offer to a start-up – to be their customer. The personality of Kitchen Stories fits our company. So we’ve added that as a puzzle piece to our transformation.
Q: We’re seeing a move towards mergers between traditional hardware companies and software start-ups. How do you approach that?
A: It’s not an integration, it’s a service by itself, it’s run separately. We don’t try to interfere. You have to know what you can do as a company and what you can’t. Unfortunately, a service like Kitchen Stories is something we can’t do. If you think about the recipes, this is the focus, our proposition, it’s very important. We have a lot of partnership models. We have a connectivity platform that combines all our appliances – that’s 15 brands worldwide. This is the basis for everything.
“We are not at the maximum extent of consumer experience yet, but that will happen, because pretty much everyone believes that this platform [BSH Home Connect] will be the survivor. This will turn into a few platforms over the years and then we’ll get interoperability. Within that, we’ll have huge ecosystems, and within these ecosystems consumers will have the experience they need – I’d expect that will happen in five to 10 years.”
Mario Pieper, BSH chief digital officer
Q: How do you balance the need for quality and the need for platforms working together?
A: There’s an obvious conflict. On one side, you have the perfect consumer experience and on the other there’s the interests of the [appliance] companies. So the smart home is still a dream. It always starts with one smart device and hopefully builds up to a smart home, but never the other way round. We already have 30 partners and that works quite well. We learn from each other what works and what doesn’t, and also deepen our offering. For example, the Kitchen Stories offering is making the cooking process easier. We also have a lot of partnerships that direct us into the home, connecting with other domains.
We are not at the maximum extent of consumer experience yet, but that will happen, because pretty much everyone believes that this platform will be the survivor. This will turn into a few platforms over the years and then we’ll get interoperability. Within that, we’ll have huge ecosystems, and within these ecosystems consumers will have the experience they need – I’d expect that will happen in five to 10 years. China will be faster, of course.
Q: What’s the appeal of the smart home for an independent retailer?
A: In our case, all Siemens iQ700 and Bosch Serie 8 appliances now come wi-fi-enabled with Home Connect as an option, but for consumers to see the real benefit, they must have a specific need that the Home Connect usability can solve. Consumers can benefit from the convenient operation via the app, while also saving on energy costs. It’s not just that the washing machine informs you when the laundry is done, or lets you switch it on and off, it’s more about helping you chose the right program for your wash, the most economic or the fastest. Something different each time, not using just one program time and time again.
Q: What’s useful and will quickly catch on?
A: The fully connected kitchen is already a reality, offering a variety of opportunities that are far from being exhausted. Partnerships are very important to support the Home Connect functionality, for example Amazon Dash Replenishment, which will automatically order more dishwasher tablets when you’re running low. This enhances the convenience that Home Connect offers the consumer. The Home Connect app will regularly remind you what your appliance needs and can automatically order new tablets, which adds a further level of convenience.
Q: Could the complexity of these new appliances confuse dealers and consumers?
A: The more tech-savvy person will definitely find the set-up easier, but there is a step-by-step guide backed up by advice via our customer service team if you need further support.
Q: What’s your advice on how to sell smart?
A: Become an advocate yourself. Install Home Connect in your showroom or home so you can talk from personal experience about the advantages. You’ll be able to talk about the installation, too.
Q: Is smart tech more about whole-house solutions than cameras in your fridge?
A: The opportunity is the ability to link the two together – for example, the lights flash when your dishwasher is finished or when your meal is cooked. You can link the heating, appliances, and smoke alarm and security systems so the smart home starts to recognise when you’re at home or away and changes the set-up accordingly. It frees up time and it can all be as integrated as you want.
- Read more about smart home trends in the October issue of kbbreview.