POINT OF VIEW
Why the kitchen industry needs to unite and reshape
By Rudolf Voigt
Visiting some kitchen stores and appliances retailers last weekend, we somehow felt set back in time: stand-alone solutions for both furniture and appliances all-around. You may be the proud owner of the world's best multicooker, but you will still need a hot plate for your pan, a space for your toaster, your microwave, your water heater, the coffee machine and more. But aren't we all tired of searching space in our kitchen for our appliances fulfilling single tasks? And despite digital shopping lists and delivery services, getting fresh groceries into my fridge and onto my worktop where and when I need them still seems archaic. Why – in the year 2018 – aren't there more integrated solutions available? To answer that, one needs to look at the way the kitchen industry works:
Actually, there are two industries that have been in an ambiguous state of co-dependence for decades. On one side, there's the kitchen- furniture industry – cabinet makers, really – deeply rooted in physical matter such as laminated chipboard, stone, and lacquer. On the other, there are appliance makers that are electronic by nature. We know some exceptions – e.g. Miele produced both furniture and appliances until 2005 –, but the necessities of scaling have led to two separated businesses delivering the final product. This is why our customer experience is fragmented and unfulfilled.
From equipment to consumer services
It's obvious that tech giants like Amazon, Google and Apple are on a mission to expand their digital reach into all aspects of our physical lives. And they’ve only just begun to infuse tech-enabled solutions into those products that have defined our lives at home for decades. Some may regard Amazon’s Echo as a voice-enabled interface for searching Amazon. In reality, it’s a game changer in home automation. It represents a milestone for our future of living at home, and it’s also an invasion into the home-turf of the kitchen industry.
If it is what customers dream of, what would keep Apple from offering complete kitchens with smart integrated service solutions? If it makes business sense, why wouldn't Amazon use their expertise and market power to deliver fresh food directly into the fridge? The kitchen is the ideal center stage of new, digitally-enabled business models for the home.
So here is what to do:
Build a singular vision
First of all, the separated kitchen industries need to team up and dare to establish an integrated, holistic vision of cooking, eating and living at home – regardless of who provides what. The implementation of this vision could be massively accelerated by bundling forces across industries into new, agile ventures. It is an opportunity too-big-to-miss in the race for future relevance.
Embrace food retail and food brands
The kitchen is the meeting point for demand and supply in the home. Since traditional retailers are looking for new ways to enter households in competition with the online giants, why not invite them in? Dare to leave your traditional home base and set up cooperations with relevant brands – FMCG conglomerates and food brands can play can a key role here.
Reshape your offer
Most of all, start reshaping your offer with an obsessive focus on convenience-loving, time-poor consumers through services that balance efficiency with a superior user experience. There is also large potential in specific offers for older consumers and for those who live further away from urban centers.
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