Voices from the Industry – Implementing Innovation in your Kitchen and Bath Business
Intro – 25 years ago; then and now
– 25 years ago, I was just starting Equator, a bright-eyed entrepreneur entering an industry filled with global giants
Perhaps recall some of the key players from this time?
– First time walking through the halls at KBIS all those years ago
I shared Equator’s first combo washer-dryer with industry experts, reps and consumers
– Through the ups and downs of business, and the changes in the industry, we’ve continued to advance our signature combo. The relationships we’ve built at KBIS have stayed strong.
I even see some of those people in this building today, innovating to better serve customers
State of the industry
– Recession sent a shockwave through many industries. Home appliances is no exception
– Despite key mergers that cause an ever-shifting landscape, the industry is growing rapidly again
Key recent mergers
Size of industry?
– The industry is turning its focus to technology as it seeks to meet the needs of both developing and developed countries
This has sparked a new level of innovation that focuses not on fancy widgets, but real-life improvements that impact our customers in big ways
Trends in the home appliance industry point toward space-saving, energy-efficient, customized products.
Trend 1: Customization
– People don’t want to fit their appliances; they want their appliances to fit them
– More than ever, products are a reflection of our personality and values
– Standardized appliance models have become blasé in the customizable era of the smart phones and social media
Examples of customization: Color, what else?
– Tie in the SuperCombo; earlier this month at CES, I met an entrepreneur who says he wants to make the clothes dryer obsolete. He’s billing his all-in-one washer-dryer as a machine that will revolutionize the way we do laundry. But we in the industry know that combos have been on the market for years — for just about 25 years, actually!
– But the young entrepreneur is on to something: clutter is a thing of the past, and trends in the younger generation show that when it comes to size, less is more.
Tiny home movement and the future of urban living, where people want (and need) to do more with less space
– Population is increasingly aware of environmental impact of our daily lives
– Both pocketbook and environment are impacted when our home appliances guzzle energy
– Super Combo; what other products on the market do we want to mention here? Any stats on Energy Star or changing energy efficiency standards?
4. Smart home
– You might be wondering what home appliance companies like Equator are doing at the Consumer Electronics Show. Technology used to be viewed as a silo, but it’s now becoming a bigger part of every industry under the sun — including home appliances.
– Smart machines that give the tech-savvy consumer more power, customization and an interface that fits in easily with the smartphone and other devices that are front and center in their lives
– Talk about SmartCombo here
4. Design trends
– Color, color, color
– Retro vibe and sensibility
– Reduced bending
Conclusion / Wrap Up
– There are two types of people in this world: those who follow the status quo, and those who challenge it. Innovators rise up against the odds to create solutions. As professionals, we all have the responsibility to discover the solutions that positively impact our customers’ lives.
– It’s up to us, not them.
Steve Jobs: “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. … Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
The job of every innovator is to know the customers so well that we can identify what they need before they even communicate it to us.
Equator’s combo washer-dryer developed out of a clear need: my wife was spending too much time doing laundry, and not enough time with our family. A clear need revealed the perfect opportunity for a much-needed response. Because I know my wife, communicate with her regularly, and listen to her frustrations, I understand the things that would improve her life.
It’s the same with our customers; we must pay attention to their needs and present a solution, even if they don’t directly demand it from us.
If we as innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs are putting the most advanced products onto the market, but don’t meet customer needs, we have to ask, ‘What’s the point?’ because it’s not purely aesthetics and innovation that attract customers. We should be guided by empathy for the customer; that’s what truly breathes life into our products, and that’s what will position our industry for continued growth in the years to come.