New products and local development: Samsung’s appliance focus for 2013

By Claire Reilly

Samsung took to the stage in Jakarta last week to show off its new line-up of home appliances for 2013, unveiling a range of whitegoods, microwaves and floorcare products that will hit retail floors in the coming months.

There was plenty to see, including products developed specifically for the local market, as well as new designs and feature sets that are sure to stand out on the retail floor. Whether it’s the new refrigerators developed to fit Australian kitchens (launched under the appropriately Australian in-house codename ‘Barossa’) or the sloping lids and rear controls on the Double Bay top-load washing machines, Samsung is focused on bringing premium features to traditional home appliances.

Samsung developed new top-load washing machines for the local market under its 'Double Bay' project, featuring rear controls and and sloping lids.

Speaking to Current.com.au in Jakarta, the head of home appliances at Samsung Electronics Australia, Mike Lilly, said the new line-up is the result of years of testing and refining, all done with the end-consumer in mind, and it is this focus on research and development that sets the range apart.

“The difference is the detail we’re putting in to what consumers are looking for,” said Lilly. “We have labs set up regionally for more localised product development, and we’re providing insights from the local markets into those labs — we’re now starting to see the first products coming through based on that type of research.”

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What better place than Samsung’s Regional Forum to talk about regional development, and the research that has seen Samsung bring “an Australian look and feel” to its home appliances. But aside from the aesthetics, the brand has also stayed dedicated to making life easier for consumers.

“The amount of R&D we put into appliances, it’s about localising product and tapping into people’s lifestyles to find out the pain points that people have with appliances. Appliances are nice thing to use, but you shouldn’t have to think about using the product.

“If it’s hard to organise your fridge for example, what are the things we can do to make it easier to organise? Well, we’ve introduced slide-out shelves on the Food Showcase refrigerator, due in Quarter 4. It’s designed specifically with the perishables at the top, and the bottom section at kids’ height where kids can get their snacks at the right height for them, while at the same time not opening up the door and letting all the cold air out.”

The Food Showcase refrigerator features a front door that allows quick access to different shelves of food, while the main door can be opened to access the full refrigerator.

Energy efficiency has also been top of mind, with new top-mount refrigerators that feature inverter compressor motors and R600 gas for increased energy efficiency, giving them a 3.5-star rating. As Lilly puts it, “Even from the entry-level through, Samsung has energy efficiency across the range now”.

And this is one of the key things that will draw consumers to Samsung’s premium product offering when they walk into a retailer to buy a replacement appliance.

“The life cycle of a home appliance is around seven years,” said Lilly. “So what was in market seven years ago or even two years ago is much less efficient now compared to what we’re seeing new in the market, based on the advances in technology. The build is better, the energy efficiency is better.

“That creates a need to upgrade for greater efficiency, but it’s also about feature sets. The ice dispensers on the side-by-side refrigerators are better than they were six or seven years ago. They take up less room in the fridge but you’re actually getting more ice out of the fridge.

“The design is also better. I think there’s been a rapid change in design — it’s probably not as prevalent as it is in AV — but certainly in home appliances we’re seeing better finish in the stainless steel, or easy open handles for convenience. There are a lot of small things that add up to a big difference in the final product.”

Samsung's Four Door French Door refrigerator features a compartment on the lower right that can be converted between fridge or freezer. It is set to hit the market in June, with a dispenser model (roughly 870-litres capacity) and a non-dispenser model, which Lilly billed as the biggest in the market at roughly 900 litres. A Wi-Fi model will also come in 2014.

For the year ahead, Lilly said the home appliance category was “looking quite robust” thanks to “more investment from a retail perspective in terms of space on the floor”. But brands and retailers still had a key challenge ahead.

“There’s always a ground level of business in home appliances because of the replacement market, but we know that a lot of people would like to upgrade their appliances now as well,” he said. “So the challenge for us is to entice people into the home appliance section when they aren’t necessarily looking specifically to replace or purchase and say, ‘Let’s go and have a browse’.

“It can be quite a daunting area when you walk in amongst all those fridges — it’s an area where you’re probably not thinking of going unless you’re looking specifically for a fridge. So how do we bring them in?

“Retailers can bring some colour and some flavour into it to spruik up the displays. Make it bright again.”

The sliding shelves are a feature on the refrigerators that should be demonstrated to customers in-store.

As more brands enter the home appliance market and the risk of price erosion in whitegoods increases, high-end feature are likely to become an important differentiator between brands. For his part, Lilly insisted that in a changing market, Samsung would not be the brand to drive prices down.

“It won’t be led by us, but we have to be a lot smarter about how we go to market,” he said. “That’s why we’re focused on premium — new technology, new designs, products that look great — that’s where we have to focus the business.

“Consumers have to know and understand that if they spend a little bit more now, then the long-term benefits are there. Better energy efficiency, better usage. I think it’s an easy message to sell.”

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