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Bespoke home appliances

Bespoke home goods' evolution from color to function

By Apr 12, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung's bespoke home goods (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)
Samsung's bespoke home goods (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)

Refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners became known as white goods because originally they mainly came in white. Eventually, they were produced also in grey or black, made of metal or black steel, but were hardly differentiated in terms of shape.

But the look-alike home goods market has been giving way to alternatives in different colors and shapes, so-called bespoke products, which are luring millennials who now consider home appliances part of their decoration.

The emergence of bespoke home appliances has led to a shift away from the century-old mass-production of identical goods. Now Samsung Electronics is looking to upgrade its bespoke products by offering tailor-made functions depending on consumer's individual preferences, even beyond design.

"We are preparing to launch new products which allow consumers to choose by their lifestyles and values," said a Samsung Electronics source. "We will be able to provide several thousands of mixed sets of options, from design to internal function." 

This year, Samsung aims to lift the portion of bespoke products to 80% of its home appliance sales, including washing machines and microwave ovens.

"We are analyzing 1.9 million types of consumer preferences. We will differentiate not only what they see, but also the user experience," said Eric Wee, a Samsung Electronics home appliance division director. 

Samsung's bespoke refrigerator (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)
Samsung's bespoke refrigerator (Courtesy of Samsung Electronics)


Last year, bespoke products were the best-selling home appliance items. Amid the prolonged stay-at-home trend, they contributed to a sharp increase in first-quarter earnings at both Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics Inc. The world's two largest TV makers delivered above-consensus results in the first three months of the year.

Samsung first unveiled bespoke products with refrigerators in May 2019. It has now diversified into induction cookers and dishwashers. Accumulated shipments in these three categories topped 1 million units as of the end of December 2020.

According to Bucketplace Co., a South Korean home interior service app, bespoke refrigerators topped the list of its best-selling home appliance items.

Samsung's upcoming refrigerator models will be further tailored to the needs of meatarians and vegetarians, respectively. For non-meat eaters, a food storage section will be assigned to keep vegetables fresh, which can be replaced with a storage section to age beef or pork for meatarians. For the freezer compartment, buyers can choose how they want their ice to be shaped: cubed, crushed, or oval-shaped.

Now that the markets of four key home appliance items -- TVs, washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioners -- have reached their saturation points in major export countries, Samsung has begun to differentiate their products beyond price and quality.

"We had long prepared the bespoke product concept and waited for the right timing, which came around 2017 and 2018," Samsung's Wee noted. "We spotted the consumer need for products different from others."

EMERGE OF MILLENIALS, HOME DECORATION BOOM

Samsung targeted the consumption-oriented millennials, or those born between the early 1980s and 2000s, when they began to have buying power and start their own families. The IT giant also spotted a growing interest in home decorations.

To produce bespoke goods at affordable prices, Samsung has renovated its manufacturing process for electronic appliances as a whole.

It has adopted a two-track manufacturing system, under which it produces the main body and the panels in different places simultaneously. The half-made product is equipped with panels in a logistics center in 10 minutes, reflecting the buyer's choice. This system has kept manufacturing prices from rising sharply and has enabled swift delivery, within two weeks of an order placed.

It also switched to the digital printing method to print high-resolution images in as many as 360 colors with only four- to six-color ink. That resulted in a cut in the production time and cost. 

"The bespoke products we are unveiling will be tailor-made not only in terms of design, but also in their function and composition," Samsung's Wee added.

Write to Su-Bin Lee at lsb@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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