Some Trends are Here to Stay: COVID-19 and the Consumer Appliance Industry 

By Carmel Dibner

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to sweeping lifestyle changes in terms of how Americans are living, working, and relaxing. With recent stay-at-home orders and safer-at-home advisories across the country, Americans are becoming increasingly reliant on their household appliances.  

Affectionately considered the center of the home, Americans are congregating in the kitchen. The kitchen has become the make-shift office, the virtual classroom, and the source of comforting meals. Consumers are relying on common kitchen appliances with greater frequency than ever before, including refrigerators, dishwashers, toasters, microwaves, and ovens. In fact35-40% of consumers are turning to home-cooked meals for the first time as a result of the pandemic1. 

Furthermore, the NPD Group reports that in the week of March 14, 2020, sales of household appliances increased almost 8% compared to the prior year period2 Even less frequently used appliances are suddenly being dusted off. Remember those wedding gifts that you never unboxed? The bread maker, sandwich maker, electric pasta maker, citrus juicer, rice cooker, and waffle makeare finally seeing the light of day 

With everyone at home, other household appliances outside of the kitchen are also being used with much greater frequency. Laundry machines, water heatersexercise equipment, barbequesfood processorsand even lawn mowers are more important than everLowes CEO Marvin Ellison has noted that refrigerator, freezer, and water heater sales are up as students return home from college3 

Some of the short-term spikes in sales and usage patterns may be short-lived. However, we fully expect the experience of living through a pandemic to have lasting impacts on certain aspects of consumer behaviorAs a result of the crisis, it will be important to question long standing assumptions about the needs consumers have related to their household appliances as well as their behaviors and attitudes.  

The pandemic has likely changed how customers think about and prioritize their needs around these products. Reliability has become even more paramount as consumers try to avoid in-home service calls to maintain social distance. Furthermore, individuals are increasingly looking for devices that they can trouble-shoot themselves as the pandemic has intensified the attractiveness of “do-it-yourself” repair to maintain social distance.  

While some of the emerging new needs are short-term and are likely to disappear when the pandemic wanes, other new needs will likely persist for the long term as people develop new attitudes and habits during this period. For example, a consumer who previously used his Instant Pot to make just a few items might now use it to cook a wider variety of meals. As a result of the pandemic, the versatility of the device may have become a more important consideration for a segment of consumers. Companies that recognize how the importance of various customer needs has shifted and acknowledge that new needs have emerged have the greatest chance of success when the crisis ends.  

Crisis creates an opportunity to innovate. Don’t wait until the dust settles. Now is the time to invest in understanding customer insights, as those who are in touch with their customers’ shifting needs will benefit from a head-start on innovation.  

There are several ways to update your customer understanding in these times:  

  1. Machine Learning – Use machine learning or AI to collect customer needs from user-generated content. Customers are home and onlinetalking about your products and services now. Learn how you can use this technique to stay ahead here 
  2. Virtual Ethnographies Use online techniques and platforms to conduct virtual ethnographies to connect with your customers remotely during this period. Traditional ethnographic research involves observing users engaging with a product or service. Virtual ethnography involves watching or tracking individuals using products or services remotely. This technique is a great way to begin to understand how needs have shifted. It’s also a great way to strengthen your internal team’s customer empathy skills.  
  3. Telephone Interviews Conduct telephone interviews with a select group of customers to dive into customers’ experiences one-on-one. Learn more about this technique and best practices here 

Whatever method you choose, know that your customers will appreciate and remember any outreach at this time. It’s a win-win, building loyalty and helping you to develop relevant offerings.  

Your customers are home and standing by. Are you prepared to engage with them?  

Don’t miss this opportunity. Set up a free virtual consultation with one of our experts today







Tags: Consumer Durables , Ethnography , Machine Learning/AI , Voice of the Customer

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