While consumers may be focused on value and practicality, that doesn’t mean they only want the most basic appliance features. Rather, they are looking for a variety of features that help them use their appliances better and that add convenience to their lives.
In refrigeration, that means products that keep food fresh longer. This is especially important, Mass notes, because the average American household wastes $500 annually on spoiled food.
In ranges and cooktops, Elkin says, consumers are looking for features that aid in cooking high-quality, home-cooked meals, while making the clean-up process as easy as possible.
For range hoods, another important consideration is the sound it makes – or doesn’t make. “A powerful range hood in the kitchen is attractive as long as you don’t have to shout to be heard while it’s running,” says Woodall.
Lack of noise is important for dishwashers as well, according to Micaela Shaw, brand manager for Bosch home appliances in Huntington Beach, CA. Shaw cites the Bosch 800 Plus dishwasher as a virtually silent appliance that appeals to designers and consumers.
“Kitchen designers have seen a shift. As homes get smaller, kitchens get bigger, often serving as a place for the family to gather. While the Great Room is not necessarily a new concept, consumers are demanding appliances that enhance their kitchen experience,” she says. This includes a dishwasher that allows the user to get the dishes done without disrupting the enjoyment of the busiest room in the house, she adds.
Brian Wellnitz, marketing manager for kitchen ventilation at Broan-NuTone LLC, in Hartford, WI, notes that while quiet operation is essential for range hoods, customers are also looking for great lighting, and a product that fits their lifestyle.
“With range hoods, this means that the demand for integrated products continues to grow, allowing the kitchen space design to be very personalized. When consumers are using focal point products, they want options that fit within their kitchen parameters such as flue extensions, which allow consumers to fit chimney hoods into various ceiling height applications. There has also been more interest in remote operation options to address reach limitations for aging in place,” he says.
As modern technology advances, appliances can be programmed to do more tasks than ever, and these features are more readily available at many price points. As Wellnitz notes, “Current technology is making more features/designs accessible to manufacturers and consumers, taking ideas that once seemed a luxury and making them more practical.”
Popular high-tech features may include LCD and LED displays on control panels in kitchen appliances, quieter operation of the appliance and innovations that help with troubleshooting, such as LG’s SmartDiagnosis, which allows appliances to “talk” to customer service experts on the telephone using a series of diagnostic tones, limiting the need for costly service calls. While this feature is currently only available on laundry products, LG anticipates expanding to other categories, such as dishwashers, in late 2011/early 2012.
Indeed, appliances are getting smarter and more interactive and Maas believes that “eventually, these products will incorporate Wi-Fi capability so each appliance can be part of a home network. Consumers will be able to download recipes or other updates directly to the appliance. We’ve also included interactivity with smart phones and tablets so, for example, a consumer can check the remaining cooking time for what’s in the oven, or see how old their milk is when they’re at the grocery store. In the next iteration of SmartDiagnosis, consumers will be able to have a message sent to their phone or tablet in the event an appliance is having a problem.”
Lara Snyder, brand manager at U-Line in Milwaukee, WI, finds controls becoming more intuitive and user friendly. “The screen resolution is similar to what is used on smart phones due to the multiple options that are now available in the controls,” she says. These controls help the appliance function more effectively as well.