Retailers have a vital role to play in promoting sales of smart appliances by helping consumers choose the right products for their lifestyle.
So said Mark Siddall, managing director of MR Kitchen Design in Chalfont St Giles and Darren Taylor, managing director of Searle and Taylor in Winchester, speaking on a panel at The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG) annual conference about their customers and smart kitchen appliances.
Smart appliances have become less just for techies and more for a wide range of people, from expert cooks to busy parents, even making life easier for those with disabilities.
Siddall believes that kitchen retailers have a responsibility to lead the smart appliance sector as their designers are more in tune with what consumers really need. He said: “We are seen as kitchen specialists and customers comes to us for a reason. They want us to tell them what is the best product for their kitchen.”
Both Taylor and Siddall have identified two typical types of customers who want smart appliances – those who want to use all the functionalities – like amateur bakers who will use all the oven settings, and those who simply want the appliance to speed up their day-to-day life.
Siddall said “Customers want to be able to walk up to a microwave, open the door, push one button and cook their food. They don’t want to invest time in how the appliance works. What we have to do as an industry is look at the simple features customers are looking for.”
He used the example of a parent making multiple meals for their family and how a simple appliance that could hypothetically scan the barcode of a ready meal could simplify the cooking process. Siddall said: “Once we get to that stage, we have sold it, as it takes the aggravation out of cooking.”
Taylor described his experience with smart appliance and how he was sceptical when they were first introduced to the market, but now sees them as more useful to a variety of people.
He said: “I was naïve to begin with, thinking that this was a young person’s product, but it is amazing how many older people, around 60 or 70, are bringing in their iPads with Pinterest and mood boards. These people may find it harder to see, or have a disability, and having the controls on their phone could help. Appliances that open doors automatically or that you can program at standing height also mean they do not have to crouch down.
“I am warming to smart appliances. It is something we can’t avoid. It is something that might help make a sale. If people don’t want to use those functions, then they don’t have to download the app and can use the appliance as normal, but it is there if you want it in the future.”
Siddall spoke about how only a couple of years ago smart appliances were too complex for most users and how manufacturers are now creating simple-to-use appliances that have complex systems inside.
Siddall explained: “The complexity of the appliance has to be behind the functionality. User interaction has to be very simple. Set the program, set the temperature and go. It can be complex to make that system, but let all the AI do the work behind the scenes.”