If you haven’t Haier, you might be interested to know that they sell 15.7% of the home appliances world wide. There have been a series of acquisitions (GE Home Appliances in 2016 and then Candy, in 2018), the Chinese group has become the largest producer of large appliances in the world, with a share of market by 15.7%. So when they come out and make a statement that they want to connect your home and have a strategy, it’s worth listening.
Haier started connecting appliances in 2014 with the Candy brand. This wasn’t a perfect fit because connected appliances were premium and at this time Candy wasn’t in that market segment. Since them they’ve been iterating and evolving what it means to have a connected appliance. 6 years later they seem to have found a balanced approach to connected living.
Speaking with Gianpiero Morbello Head of Brand & IOT for Haier Europe, he explains to me that “It is important to sell experiences and services, not just connected technology. It’s not about being connected, it’s about being useful. If it’s useful, then it’s interesting. The point is not to force people into scenarios and use cases, but to find ones that truly add value.”
Is this platitudes or is there something to this? Looking at a few products in the Haier fall line up, there is a wine cooler that make suggestions based on what you drink. They’ve partnered with Vivino, an app I already use to remember what bottles I like and don’t like. Hoover is also owned by Haier and they have an ecosystem for cleaning and home wellness. The air purifier and robotic vacuum communicate with one another, the system knows when to clean more depending on the atmospheric conditions or the level of pollen in the air. Seamlessly useful.
The hOn app is the interface for the entire group, it’s available on Android and iOS. Taking a closer look at the Candy Nova smart washing machine the app lets you choose from 60 washing programs. It includes a “Snap & Wash” which figures out the ideal wash by taking a photo of the dirty clothes with your smartphone.
Through the hOn app you can see Haier’s overall brand strategy, it’s a hub for all the products and services of all their partner brands.
Everything is centralized under one roof, there is no internal ecosystem fragmentation. They’ve already let go of the idea that all you appliance will be from one manufacturer. This idea is a showroom reality not a real world reality. Through the hOn app you can connect with Google Home or Amazon Alexa to have voice control of most of the functions. The appliances need to exist in an ecosystem and that they all get regular security and feature updates along with AI that learns habits making the appliances even more useful over time.
If this all sounds too good to be true, it might be. Like any other company their goal is to sell more products. Thinking back on my parents house, a new stove or fridge was a once in a decade or two purchase. Haier sees this changing.
Gianpiero pointed out that phones have a high turn over because of their highly digital nature. The greater the digital infrastructure, the more you’ll need to upgrade your appliances. This doesn’t mean the cooking appliances won’t last, but that technology improves, not even digital technology, the basic product technology.
If you keep your 1000EUR washing machine for 10 years, it won’t clean your clothes as well as a 300EUR washing machine today. Haier also is embracing how people are using their tech and building upon it. 21% of the company’s smart washing machine users now use only their smartphone to select a program and start a wash: that’s three times more than 2018.
Fridge technology today actually increases the nutrient value of our food and keeps it fresher for longer. Sure we can keep our devices, but there is a need to upgrade that is better communicated in Asia than it seems to be in Europe.
Before moving to Berlin last year, I was based in Taipei, in Asia there is a higher degree of communication around how fridge technologies can add real value to your life. It seems to me that in Europe, the focus is on energy efficiency, not food shelf life and a higher sustained nutrient content in your food.
The true global nature of Haier’s product line means only good things for the European market.
With six years of connected home learning under their belt, Haier appears to have the right mindset to take on the connected home. Haier is ready to stop selling technology and has embraced the global trend of selling experiences that can be customized based on specific needs. This is on trend with how companies are pivoting their business models, where digital services will be just as or more important than the sale of the hardware.
It’s clear this will create a more useful product, we just have to be ready to make the purchase of household appliance a more regular occurrence in our lives.