Identifying business opportunities to increase an international home appliance player’s popularity within a younger customer segment
|Shai Salustri, Luisa
|Within the household appliance sector, Miele has always been a brand name linked to quality and reliability. The last years, new competitors have entered the market and Miele has seen its position as preferred brand dwindle among younger consumer groups. The history of the brand is also noticed in their sales structure, where there is still a big focus on offline sales, often with long lasting partnerships with independent retailers. In the last decade, the importance of these offline sales channels have been wavering, and new online channels have taken the lead. Competing with new entrants in these channels is not always easy, as they can focus their attention on these new channels without the responsibility of providing a future for historic partnerships, of which Miele has plenty. With the changing competitive landscape and a possible change in customer behaviors and preferences, Miele Belgium, commissioner of this study, decided to study the upcoming generation of appliance customers in more detail. By gaining information on this new generation and their consumer preferences, Miele hopes to evoke the same feelings of loyalty and favoritism the brand has been known to evoke among its older customers. To contribute to this goal, the objective of this ICP is to discover how Miele can reach the mind and the heart of the 25-35 y/o customer. In order to formulate a structured and thorough answer to this question, three themes have been identified. In the first theme the target group is further analyzed. The average customer journey and the customer needs and expectations were researched by reading the generational researches already available on these topics. In a second phase, focus groups with local household appliance consumers belonging to the target group were organized. In the second theme, the AS-IS situation of Miele Belgium was analyzed. To gain insights in Miele’s current way of doing business, semi-structured interviews with employees from all departments were conducted. In a second phase, many internal documents describing Miele’s current values , sales & marketing strategy and upcoming business projects were investigated, using the information present on the companies shared drive. In a last phase, Miele’s brand positioning and the positions of their main local competitors were analyzed. This was done using the PESO-framework, which consisted of a number of anonymous store visits combined with a content analysis, which focused on the brands’ websites, social media channels and press messages. In the last theme the insights gathered in theme one and theme two were combined to create several recommendations. For each of these recommendations, the insights from the first two themes that led to the recommendation are reported as well as a detailed description of how the change could be implemented operationally. During the research many trends and characteristics were described as being specific to this generation. The urbanization trend, the experience economy and the disappearance of gender roles were all world trends linked to this upcoming generation. The target group also has some globally identified expectations. They are known to like brands that help them define their own identity, engage with them and to assist them in living their lives. Next to that, the target group has the tendency to be information addicts and to influence the consumer choices of their peers by reverberating. When delving deeper into the local consumer expectations when buying household appliances, six main purchase drivers were discovered. Within the target group, reliability was seen as the most important aspects of the machine. Price and convenience came in on a close second place. The other three purchase drives: design, sustainability and connectivity were considered but of a lesser importance compared to the three previously mentioned purchase drivers. Concerning the customer journey, it was discovered that almost everyone within the target group started their journey with an online research phase. Within this generation of research addicts, sites which allowed them to compare were heavily preferred. Consequently, the importance of being clearly visible on the online dealer web shops, such as Coolblue, was mentioned by many of participants within the target group. The need for independent information is also high within this generation. Many tend to search for reviews by independent consumer organizations or previous purchasers to help them make their decision. After this phase, around half of the target group still liked to touch the product physically in a store before the final decision was made. When finally ready to make the purchase, a majority of the target group saw no difference in buying it online or offline. Rather, they focused on aspects such as price and quality of the after-sales service. Regarding the AS-IS situation, a first insight gathered is the importance Miele attributes to their values, recently redefined in the ‘Creators of Quality’ framework. The values immer besser for customers, employees, planet and performance were mentioned in many of the conversations. References to these values can also be found when parsing their current sales and marketing strategy. Throughout their product portfolio, Miele very clearly state that they focus on offering premium looking appliances of indisputable quality. These same values are communicated to their customers. Miele always uses their channels to publish articles with a luxurious and traditional look and feel. The information they share on social media is often related to a high-end lifestyle, such as cooking multiple course dinners. When comparing this to the competition, the difference in focus on a premium look and feel is even more noticeable. Many competitors communicate about other relevant topics, such as the convenient lifestyle their machines can generate, the sustainability aspect inherent to the appliances or the low prices and high quality they offer. In the end, there were two main reasons identified that prevented Miele to obtain a higher percentage of consideration within the target group. A first reason is their strong focus on communicating about the premium quality of the their products. This communication was very well remembered and internalized with the target group. The target group described the brand as being very desirable, but due to their sole focus on evoking a premium feeling, the perceived affordability of these products was quite low. A second reason the brand is not being considered is its price. Although this might seem very similar to the first reason, the difference lies in the nature of both barriers. Where the first reason is a psychological barrier, describing the product as unobtainable for the consumer, the second is a real financial barrier. To lower both barriers five recommendation have been put forward. The first recommendation concerns an extension and change in branding of the existing Miele Outlet. By leveraging the trust consumers have in Miele’s quality, Miele can start offering heavily used, refurbished products to lower significantly the financial barrier for entry. The second recommendation describes a change in the offline sales strategy. By introducing a more varied and customer centric array of reasons to buy Miele, the ‘not meant for me’ feeling can be lowered. Sales employees could talk about the low lifetime cost of the appliance, the convenience the machine is built to introduce into the lives of the target group or the longevity promised by Miele. The Miele Experience Centers could also change their offer to include more activities that are tailor made to the interest of the target group. The third recommendation concerns the possible entry of Miele on the rental/lease market. Within this research a low enthusiasm in the target group was discovered. The segments within the target group that were interested had a combination of high service expectations and a low willingness to pay. The possibility of a failed entry should be considered, thus local quantitative studies are strongly recommended before investing too many resources in this project. The fourth recommendation covers the Miele reputation of being a traditional brand. During the research, a big threat of the new entrants, such as Samsung, was discovered. Already many customers within the target group felt the connectivity features Samsung was adding to their appliance were attracting them to move away from traditional brands, such as Miele. The unproven reputation of these new entrants is the only reason why the traditional brands have not lost too much market share yet. In order to prevent this from happening Miele should focus R&D on creating technology, such as embedding IOT in their appliances. Accompanied with this, is the recommendation to already communicate about the current technology inside their appliances. Changing both the content and way of communicating this message should help Miele to shed their reputation of being traditional and help them to gain consideration among this digital-native generation. The last recommendation describes complementary communication angles Miele could introduce to lower the feeling of unreachability within the target group. The communication on quality could be complemented with topics of equal importance within the target group such as convenience, their future and sustainability. Lastly, it’s important to notice that the insights within the documents are mainly qualitative in nature. The insights in the customer group as well as the recommendation given can thus be described as been explorative. It is strongly advised that Miele validates all the findings and strategic recommendations they wish to implement in a large, representative post study.
|Identifying business opportunities to increase an international home appliance player’s popularity within a younger customer segment
|Marketing & Sales
|de Bolle, Kristof