The connected kitchen is catching on: As appliances become smarter, more consumers are seeking smart white goods that make life easier. By 2025, it’s expected that 11.6 percent of U.S. households will have some form of smart appliance, ranging from dishwashers to refrigerators and everything in between. Retailers are rising to meet the demand both online and in-store.
Despite this groundswell, a study by CEDIA, BSH Home Appliances Corporation (a company of the Bosch Group), and CE Pro revealed that 38 percent of custom integrators have not completed a single project involving smart and connected appliances. While the majority of home technology pros want to integrate appliances into their product mix, learning to talk to consumers about how these products fit into the bigger “smart home” picture isn’t as simple as it might seem. A jumble of different options, inconsistent interoperability across devices, and varying control features can all make for a complicated conversation.
As more leading smart appliance brands like LG and Bosch enter the custom integration space, dealers and integrators must step into consumers’ shoes. They’ll need to take the time to understand what the customer is hoping to achieve with a smart appliance, other goals an appliance might impact, and which devices should be part of the same smart home network. With a complete picture, dealers and their integration partners can help their customers take full advantage of smart home appliance features and avoid a Tower of Babel in their networked device communications.
Understand the client’s existing set-up
The first step is to understand the client’s existing ecosystem and how new appliances can further enhance or complicate it. Smart devices connect more than just homes; they connect lifestyles and add simplicity to day-to-day tasks. In bringing smart appliances into the conversation, begin by investigating which technologies the client already has in place, which AI assistants they are already using, and what they hope to achieve with smart appliance technology. As with other smart home solutions, the interface and features of these appliances should be comfortable and consistent with the rest of the home.
If the homeowner is looking to add a smart appliance to a home without much tech beyond a voice assistant speaker, they might be open to a voice-activated fridge or washing machine that leverages the same cues and removes a lot of the intimidation out of taking on new technology. On the flip side, if a client has a fully integrated control system already in place, it’s important to offer the technology that will not only blend seamlessly into the ecosystem, but also enhance the convenience and function rather than detract from it.
The smart home is meant to make life easier, with each device easing the burden of everyday tasks. That said, smart appliances aren’t hitting their full potential if they can’t co-exist with the network that’s already in place. To ensure that clients are getting the most out of smart appliances, interoperability should be a consideration early in the process. If a customer needs a separate app to help manage the dryer, or if it’s not tied into the whole-home control system or voice assistant they’re using, chances are these new features won’t be very helpful to them. Really, whatever tasks the smart dryer is supposed to alleviate have just been replaced by the new task of having to download, learn, and manage a new software program.
Focus on the right features
Outside of interoperability, features, and perks also need to be at the forefront of the conversation to make sure the appliances will deliver on what the homeowner is seeking. From mobile connectivity to remote-start the dishwasher, to smart mics that pick up voice commands from across the house, smart home devices should automate convenience. The right mix of features will depend on lifestyle: While some customers are interested in devices that prioritize safety sensors and remote control, others will want to prioritize efficiency. Some might even be seeking a bit of razzle-dazzle from a sleek, impressive device.
Dealers can turn whatever perks appeal to homeowners into selling points. For example, if the customer is interested in monitoring and managing their home energy consumption, then they need smart appliances that are capable of reporting such data. Major appliances are some of the biggest energy suckers in the home, so no home energy management portrait is complete without them. Ideally, the smart home manager should be able to send remote commands to optimize efficiency as well, running cycles at off-peak power consumption hours, for instance. Some AI assistants can even make lifestyle recommendations based on data for connected devices, letting customers know if they should consider changing temperature settings or cycle durations for certain appliances to help meet green-home goals.
These features aren’t merely virtuous; they demonstrate the literal value of smart appliances by quantifying utility savings over time. When offering a customer a smart appliance to meet green goals, always emphasize the financial savings as well. When making purchasing decisions, customers tend to value both environmental and cost considerations, but prioritize the latter. By offering smart appliances with eco modes, remote control, scheduled start, and other means of energy management, dealers can give customers the best of both worlds.
Reduce the learning curve for the customer
Some users will be driven more by pure convenience. In this case, the dealer and integrator must understand the existing device ecosystem well and ensure interoperability. They should also strive to limit behavior changes required from the customer. In the best cases, once the smart device is fully set up, it becomes proactive, giving the user suggestions and notifications through communication channels that the customer is already using. However, getting over that initial setup hurdle can be daunting. Bundling the appliance with setup services can not only increase the margin on the sale, but also improve the customer’s satisfaction with the purchase. As a bonus, it also gives the dealer insight into the customer’s smart home ecosystem, increasing opportunities for future sales.
Smart appliances will only continue to find their way into connected home conversations: From asking the fridge for a head count on grocery items to telling the oven to preheat to 350 degrees when elbow deep in a turkey on Thanksgiving, smart appliances offer a unique advantage to the connected home ecosystem. Integrating them into the holistic home system can greatly enhance the user experience. Dealers and integrators should be prepared to start the conversation about which devices are the best fit for any consumer’s lifestyle.