Year 2018 marks a turning point for Chinese kitchen appliance market when the previous double-digit growth was no longer sustained. The market managed an overall growth but not as robust as before amid the influence of the real estate market in the past year. Hit by a sudden slump, kitchen appliance enterprises will overhaul both hardware and software in this year as they roll with the punches and adjust to market changes.
In 2018, sales was sluggish for the traditional "triumvirate" of kitchen appliances - kitchen hood, stove and disinfection cabinet. In terms of the contraction rate of sales value, disinfection cabinet contracted the most, with a year-on-year drop of 16.6%, which mainly attributed to a reduction of RMB960 million in sales in the brick-and-mortar market; kitchen hood followed, with a year-on-year drop of 16.4%, with hugely disappointing performance at brick-and-mortar market to blame; sales for stove slid by 11.6% compared to the previous year. From the composition of total sales, although turnover at physical stores still take up the lion's share, online sales of kitchen appliances have been booming, of which online sales of kitchen hoods rose by RMB90 million year-on-year, stove grew up by RMB340 million and disinfection cabinet notched an increase of RMB150 million.
Dishwasher, a rising star of kitchen appliance market in the past two years, maintained sales growth in 2018 but the momentum has slowed down compared with the previous few years. According to data from AVC, Chinese dishwasher market recorded RMB5.6 billion in sales in 2018, a year-on-year surge of 28.1% but clearly less emphatic than a year ago.
In 2018, market growth for built-in appliances including microwave ovens, electric steamers and electric ovens varied, although the total sales reached RMB7.12 billion, up by 6.7% relative to the year before. Combined sales of built-in electric steamers and electric ovens expanded by 7.6% to a total of RMB6.81 billion, while sales of built-in microwave ovens plunged by 10.3% year-on-year to RMB310 million.
In 2019, pricing for kitchen hood, stove and disinfection cabinet will submerge further, and other than product "hardware performance" enhancements such as "big suction," "big fire" or "big capacity," manufacturers will also explore "soft" improvements such as installation simplicity, ease of cleaning and product aesthetic. This is a survival of the fittest. The more lackluster the market is, the more an enterprise needs to polish its products and focus on genuine user needs in order to survive and ultimately rise from the ashes.
As the dishwasher emerged as a new star in home appliance consumption, consumer expectations for the appliance extend from strong cleaning capability, large load capacity and storage functionality to more sophisticated demands such as extreme cleanliness, health and sanitation, intelligence, user-friendliness, exquisite aesthetic and design. Therefore, dishwashers that can identify greasiness of utensils and automatically select the proper procedure, machines that can monitor cleaning situations in real-time during the cleaning process and correspondingly adjust the mode, and models that can complete steps including washing, disinfection, drying and storage all on its own will garner the interest of consumers. For instance, some manufacturers have employed state-of-the-art intelligent home interconnectivity technology to give users the power to remotely control dishwashers via smart phones or tablets anytime anywhere, along with a raft of other customizable and high-precision functions.
Many built-in smart kitchen appliances have also been decked out with next-generation technology. For example, even a green hand can make fuss-free, healthy and delicious meal at the push of a button to activate the set procedure for a certain menu.
As science and technology advances, consumers will also voice out more demands for upscale and intelligent functions. Some development directions include human-machine interaction (such as voice-controlled commands), application of internet technologies (like video entertainment, cooking lessons and community environment) and application of internet-of-things technologies (for example, real-time tracking, cloud-based services, automated call to repair service providers), as well as integration of intelligent household appliances and real-time online operation via mobile app, among other possibilities.
AVC monitoring data reveals that the overall development of Wi-Fi-enabled kitchen hoods was slow last year in online as well as offline channels. In terms of the intelligentization progress of kitchen hoods, stoves and disinfection cabinets, most Wi-Fi-enabled models emphasize monitoring and remote control functions. Some kitchen hoods and stoves can work in collaboration, though consumer acceptance is still up in the air. Although anyone can ride on the wave of intelligentization, kitchen appliance manufacturers still need to delve into pain points in consumer application scenarios to truly instill more approachability and friendliness in smart kitchen appliance products in today's highly homogenized market.