US-based Bissell chief operating officer, Adam Madigan was recently in Australia to meet with the local team, trade partners, customers and end consumers.

Speaking to Appliance Retailer while he was in Sydney, Madigan explained the power of demonstration and importance of education in the floorcare category.

Madigan says floorcare is typically a ‘show me’ category, which isn’t surprising given it started with a door-to-door sales approach; people going into living rooms, throwing mess on the floor and cleaning it up.

“There’s always an element of that within the category, even today. We’re always thinking about how we demonstrate and show consumers how a product works, and that’s certainly foundational,” he said.

“For us, it’s about focusing on the needs of pet owners as a starting point. What insights can we go after? How do we solve their specific needs? Whether it’s wet or dry, we have expertise in both. I certainly don’t want to say that dry vacuums are no good. There are brands – Bissell being one of them – that try to deliver impactful cleaning through a dry vacuum.

“We think the benefit and opportunity in ‘wet’ is equally big. If you look at the opportunity for continued category growth, it’s in wet cleaning because either consumer habits have not been replaced or there’s unmet needs. 

“Bissell is using pet as a focus as we try to understand the issues consumers have when owning pets or in their everyday lives with families, and then we’re solving them through innovation.”

The purchase journey for floorcare products is quite long unless it’s a replacement product, so education differs by market across the world, Madigan said.

“There are nuances in Australia and Europe but in the US, assisted selling for the most part has gone away and online is the primary way consumers learn about a product. The key is thinking about what the purchase journey is in the market and having the right content and capability at the point where the consumer is meeting you on that journey. Our job is not to dictate the journey but to fulfil the journey and make sure the right information is available, where and when the consumer wants it.

“For example, in the US, a product page is extremely important because e-commerce plays a more relevant role in that journey. In Australia, we need to spend more time training and educating floor staff. But at the end of the day, the type of information is generally the same, it’s the delivery method and where you invest which changes.

“For us, having a good team in Australia on the ground to understand the market is so critical. We focus on making sure we’re building good teams in the markets we’re in. We can develop global or locally relevant product, but if we can’t marry it to the shopping journey relevant to that market, we’re whispering in the wind.

“In the US, our upright vacuum business is significant with household penetration well above 40%. When you look at categories like deep cleaning, penetration globally is less than 10%, although it varies a bit by market, but it’s generally low, both in the US and Australia. The growth opportunity is enormous and there’s more competition driving into the category, but we’ve been on the front foot and demonstrated growth and the opportunity to grow.”

The year ahead

From a product perspective, Bissell is excited by the recent launch of the HydroSteam range in Australia, which promises to elevate cleaning performance and meet an unmet consumer need when it comes to mess.

“Moving forward, particularly in Australia, SpotClean has been a nice part of our business because it has a lot of different use cases in terms of what can be cleaned both inside and outside of the home. We’re going to continue to bring innovation and drive differentiation within this range,” Madigan said.

“We want to continue to bring new value to consumers and we believe there’s still a lot of runway and product ranges we haven’t unlocked yet. There’s a lot of competition; we’re not the only ones seeing the opportunities, but we’re excited by that. It helps us stay sharp and it brings scale and penetration to the category. Our goal is to stay ahead of the game, innovating and finding insights that others haven’t.”

Message to Australian retail partners

On a final note, Madigan shared his overarching message to the company’s retail partners in Australia.

“Bissell has been a brand that has brought a lot of new innovation to this category over the last 30 years and it’s something we’re going to continue to do. We believe we’re meeting consumer needs in ways that others aren’t, and our focus on pet owners will allow us to continue to differentiate,” he said.

“Australia has been a high growth market for Bissell and continues to be a priority within the organisation. We believe in partnering with our retail customers to deliver sustainable growth and we’re going to do that through the innovation and penetration we can deliver.”