Kim Benjamin
Feb 16, 2016

Smart strategy? Brands believe intelligence can boost white-goods sales

SECTOR STUDY: With lifestyle changes and increasing consumer demand for more convenient white goods, companies are taking action to develop smarter domestic appliances.

Beyond basics: New products attempt to capture consumer desire with unique features and design
Beyond basics: New products attempt to capture consumer desire with unique features and design

A refrigerator modelled on R2-D2 from Star Wars—one of the latest developments from Haier Asia’s AQUA brand—is just one example of how white goods makers are aiming to make their products more desirable to consumers.

Innovative products that fit in with lifestyle changes—where people become busier and crave convenience—are contributing to the growth of major and small domestic appliances, according to Jasmine Lim, account director for home & lifestyle at GfK Asia. Its findings, covering from October 2014 to September 2015 versus October 2013 to September 2014 (excluding India, China and Japan) show major home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines grew by 4.1 per cent in value, while small appliances, including rice cookers, vacuum cleaners, blenders and irons, grew by 6.3 per cent. Products such as dishwashers too have grown steadily at 3.3 per cent in volume in APAC over 2015, according to Euromonitor, especially in China, Vietnam, India and Thailand. 

Alan Ng, senior VP, chief marketing officer ASEAN at Haier Asia, says the explosive growth of the middle class in Southeast Asia is increasing consumer requirements for white goods beyond basic features. “We’re going back to the basics and redefining product features to better address the needs and wishes of consumers,” he says. “A good example is our recent collaboration with Disney, particularly the life-size R2-D2. There are a number of people who want their own one that moves and ‘talks’ just like the real thing.”

Panasonic is also devising user-friendly, time-saving products. Seeing a trend for energy-efficient home appliances, the firm is incorporating intelligent eco-sensors into its white goods. “There is a greater shift in such products because customers can reap cost savings from lower energy consumption, while contribute to environmental sustainability,” says a Panasonic spokesperson.

Its campaigns include using industry leaders such as chefs, designers and working mothers to promote products through expert views as well as sponsoring the inaugural MasterChef Asia TV series. 

Intelligent appliances are also popular among consumers, according to a Euromonitor report on consumer appliances in China, released in March 2015. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for products with new, smart tech while demanding products that deliver a better quality of life. “As lifestyles become hectic, consumers are on the lookout for smart solutions,” says Winston Phua, head of brand, communications and digital at Philips APAC. “Rising consumption power means people are willing to invest in appliances that can simplify the healthy cooking process.”

Phua adds that Philips is also seeing an increased interest in connected devices and actively innovating on this front, with the development of the Philips Smart Air Purifier 8000i that can be controlled wirelessly via an app. 

Social media is one channel Philips uses with considerable success to engage consumers with products and messaging. Its ‘Lose the oil, not the love’ digital and video campaign, launched this year, ran alongside product demo roadshows at retailers’ premises to increase consideration of its airfryer, where fried food is no longer deep-fried in oil. Philips also ran an integrated digital campaign #CookedwithLove to promote homemade meals and drive awareness of its noodle maker.

EXPERT OPINION
Engaging, relevant brand experience is key to encouraging white goods purchases

Philix Liu, APAC trends analyst, Mintel

There are three main angles to describe key consumption trends in Asian home electronics market: healthy, experiential and smart. Several brands have adopted ‘healthy’ direction and created unique brand perceptions. Honeywell made humorous viral videos to promote air purifiers, and Chinese kitchenware maker FOTILE launched ads telling negative effects of cooking smoke. It is important for brands to understand pain points, address these creatively for the target audience, and present solutions to win them over.

Tech advancement has enabled brands to develop smart products offering efficiency, convenience and customisation. The Internet of Things trend is prominent in electronics design and opens up opportunities for manufacturers to set them apart from competitors. It helps ensure consumers use products with ease and customise goods to specific needs without much spend. 

In the growing on-demand economy, people purchase white goods on ecommerce platforms for convenience and cost saving. But for large items like dishwasher, in-store experience helps customers make the final decision online. Mintel’s Online to Offline Retailing report says 74 per cent of Chinese consumers agreed interactive activities help them make purchases. It is imperative for brands to develop engaging in-store experience. IKEA has set up a pop-up kitchen in China  where people selected via social media come and cook food for their loved ones. 

Brands should be able to create a memorable journey that motivates customers to be a ‘storyteller’ and share it with others.

 

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