Samsung aims to be a disruptor in built-in appliances for kitchen showrooms. Philippa Turrell discovers the brand is introducing a back-to-basics service, with a technological edge, for independent retailers “hungry for a new journey.”
Electrical giant Samsung has entered the built-in appliance market, targeting kitchen showrooms, with the aim of becoming the number one brand in terms of value.
It seems a bold ambition; particularly as the sector is dominated by German brands entrenched in cooking.
But head of digital appliances Mark Seaman reports Samsung is already the leader in freestanding refrigeration, with a 17% market share.
It is also number one in washing appliances, with built-in appliances set to follow suit, as Seaman explains: “We want to be the UK’s most loved home appliance brand.
“And in doing that we’ll probably be the number one home appliance brand. It’s not a statement for vanity.
“As we see it, if we’re doing our job right and delivering products and services in a way both our trade partners and consumers appreciate, then that’s logically where we should end up.”
The fact Samsung focuses on digital appliances rather than major domestic appliances already marks a differentiation in the marketplace.
Channel manager for Kitchens at Samsung Jonathan Hartley comments: “What we are trying to create is a multi-device experience.
“It could be through TV, it could be through AV, it could be through cooking, or laundry, but either way, it is overarched by the Samsung brand.”
Hartley says they have little choice as it will be driven by consumers: “Some kitchen retailers are very much on board and some don’t believe its par for the course.
“What we’ve got to do is engage them but they need to want to be engaged as well. They will feel a push from the consumer. That will come.”
He continues: “There will be those retailers on board with it, understand it and leading it. There will be those driven to it and there will be those that fall by the wayside because they’ve not wanted to.
“We’ve got to make sure retailers don’t feel confused and are confident in the way they can present it.”
Mark Seaman explains: “I think the industry as a whole is still at the nascent stage of ‘what does it actually mean in a home?’ and we would be the first to admit that.
“Therefore, the work we have been doing with Magnet is trying to demonstrate to people why it could be relevant in their lives.”
He continues: “One of the ever-present challenges is that my smart world – by the nature of it – is going to be different to yours.
“So what we are trying to do in Magnet is find simple things, that we are calling ‘micro moments’.
“For instance, someone rings a doorbell using Ring and it comes up on your FamilyHub fridge or, on the way home, you can switch on your oven so it’s up to full heat when you get in to put your dinner in – another micro moment.
“It’s trying to spark the imagination of people.” And the fact that all Samsung appliances will become connected by 2020, shows just the way the market is moving.
However, to attain its target of being the number one appliance brand, Samsung is not only selling through Magnet but is focused on the independent kitchen specialist.
The company is now present in 110 of the 122 postcodes in the UK.
Samsung asks retailers for a minimum commitment of four appliances, however channel manager for built-in appliances Jonathan Hartley reports its average display features five appliances. He says the success has been based upon “retailers hungry for a new journey.”
And, although Samsung is keen not to saturate the market, Hartley is emphatic when he states: “Within the next 12 months, we WILL create destination studios across the UK.
“It will be a studio that offers a full selection of our key selling lines and a demonstration on connected living.
“We will work with existing dealers and/or new kitchen retailers. We haven’t put a number on that yet, but I would suggest across the UK you need circa 15-20 of those, in addition to the dealer network that we already have.”
A significant part of the retail journey is the way Samsung is servicing its independent showrooms, with this technology giant going back to basics.
“Whilst we are a big brand globally – sixth biggest in the world – we still want to have a personal touch. We think that is something the retailer wants.
“They want to still have engagement, a point of contact, regular engagement and feedback. They want to have access to stock and also technical data.
“It’s about getting close to the retailer – making them feel wanted, thanking them for the business and being there when they need you,” explains Jonathan Hartley.
In fact, the company has invested a six figure sum into a dedicated support line for kitchen specialists, which operates six days a week.
It is designed to serve retailers both pre and post-sales queries, as well as kitchen fitters on site, as Seaman explains: “The ambition is the person who answers the phone will handle it end to end – whether on the phone or if it requires further work after the call.
“Inevitably, the kitchen specialist has their own way of doing things and we at Samsung – as a big corporation – have our own way of doing things.
“Part of the skill this line will do is take what is described by the kitchen specialist, translate it into Samsung language –and go back to the kitchen specialist with the solution.
“It is so the kitchen specialist is having things dealt with in their way, on their own terms.”
Samsung is key to ensure it communicates with its retailers, as Hartley says: “Retailers get frustrated not because they are given bad news but because they are given no news at all.
“If you underpin your service post and pre, then the rest of it from a brand point of view opens the door.”
Displaying retailers are supported by regional development managers who provide a one-to-one demo of the appliances. This is followed by monthly areas sales manager visits to assist with developing sales.
In addition, the company has a training team covering the UK, which can provide livestream videos for interactive courses. “So we are really engaging and very different to what everyone else is doing at the moment,” says Hartley.
However, Seaman is keen to point out: “We approach things with a great deal of humility, knowing we are in the infancy.
“We know we are going to make mistakes and we are always here to learn. I’m sure our competitors are looking for us to make mistakes, and we will make mistakes.
“But the only thing I can promise and charge the team to do is then learn from that and do it better next time.”
As part of its continuing development, Samsung is realistic about where it works well, and that is delivering in large quantities to the likes of John Lewis, AO and Currys.
But the brand is more than aware of the differences between the requirements of a multiple and an independent kitchen retailer. It is why it has chosen to partner with Waterline as its national distributor, with all its appliances in stock.
Of ensuring stock supply, Hartley comments: “We will support the retailer by making sure the product is available when you order, with our distributor delivering three times a week and we are feeding into that distributor on a monthly basis.”
Samsung originally sold its appliances through PJH but, as Hartley comments: “Sometimes what you expect to get when you set your objectives, goals and measures isn’t meant to be – you have to re-evaluate and start again and that’s what we did with Waterline.
“Within seven months we have surpassed what we were doing before, so it just shows we were the right product in the wrong place”.
And the sales have been supported by three campaigns – a multi-buy promotion from Waterline, as well two loyalty schemes for retailers.
Samsung Rewards sees retailers earn points for selling products, which are transferred to cash purchases for the high street.
And completing the trio of campaigns, the winter campaign sees retailers who spend money in Q3 and Q4, based on a set target, earn marketing support from Samsung in the New Year.
But has Samsung got enough product to satisfy the independent kitchen retailer?
Seaman states it hasn’t prevented the company gaining sales from Magnet, independent kitchen showrooms and influencing the new-build market with specification of Samsung appliances in 5,000 apartments in Wembley.
While Hartley adds: “I don’t think we need to defend our SKUs because we are getting feedback from the retailers they want a simplistic good, better, best premium range.
“So, we are covering all bases, and how many dishwashers is a customer buying?”
Samsung realises the challenge is from the established appliance brands. Seaman states: “There’s a lot of people who have been doing very well for a lot of years and we have been doing it well for the last seven months. Our challenge is how do we make ourself the best?”
And channel manager for built-in appliances Jonathan Hartley is adamant: “We are going to change the way the market looks at appliances.
“It’s been a long time since the market has been challenged on the appliance front and we believe the time now is for change.
“It’s about being different and it’s about evolving – and if any brand can evolve it’s a technology company.”