A recurring topic at this week’s SKS North America event has been around what is and isn’t working right now in the smart kitchen. As more devices come to market and product categories emerge, today’s home cook has seemingly limitless choice around how to make their cooking more connected. But as has been discussed at length this week, not all kitchen devices are actually useful, and the challenge for smart kitchen companies now is to make solutions potential customers would actually find useful for their lives. I use the word “solutions” intentionally, because a major takeaway from this year’s conference is that the smart kitchen is no longer just about devices.
The Spoon’s Mike Wolf discussed just that onstage today with Nick Holzherr, head of Whisk for Samsung, Mario Pieper, Chief Digital Officer for BSH Appliances, and Joe Ray of Wired. One of the major takeaways from the panel was the need for companies, whether they’re making hardware or software, to focus on creating and selling an experience, not a product or service.
BSH has been tackling this issue for a few years now, evolving from a company that sells appliances to one combining hardware and software. Onstage at SKS, Pieper suggested that companies pay particular attention to which appliances tend to bring out a strong emotional response from the user. For example, people are much more likely to be attached to the experience of making coffee versus loading a dishwasher, which is one of the reasons, Pieper said, BHS’s attempts to sell a connected version of a dishwasher didn’t take off.
For Whisk, improving the connected kitchen experience means competing companies need to work together more. In other words, to make the connected kitchen a more seamless experience, the industry players need to be more connected to one another, offering consumers recipes from multiple providers cooked on a mix of devices that are all compatible with one another. This approach, says Holzherr, is what can truly improve the customer journey from recipe to meal and increase the amount of time a user spends with any given device. Hypothetically, that means a Samsung device or recipe platform would be compatible with ones from LG or Whirlpool, creating a completely connected ecosystem. It’s a compelling vision, though the likelihood of major appliance-makers working side-by-side in perfect harmony seems doubtful at the moment.
In the meantime, one issue the smart kitchen continues to battle is too much tech actually making the home-cooking process more complicated, not less. Moving forward, smart kitchen solutions need to be solving actual problems in home cooking — food waste, for example — as opposed to being just tech for the sake of tech. Designing concepts around an experience rather than a gadget is one more step towards making the smart kitchen truly useful for the average consumer.