Consumer demands are changing… and home tech innovation must rise to the challenge, says Gtech's Nick Grey

The demand for home appliances during lockdown was unprecedented – a level we probably won’t see again, Gtech boss Nick Grey tells Technology Dispatch.

Home tech became a priority when people were stuck indoors and had little else to spend their money on. In times of crisis – in this case a global pandemic - a clean and orderly home and garden was one thing people could take control of.

The market for food processors, espresso machines, bread makers – sourdough bread, obviously – boomed, along with that for haircare and styling appliances.

When it came to cleaning, we saw consumers focus on time-saving helpers with the purchase of robotic vacuums gaining pace, outstripping traditional cylinder vacuum cleaners in sales for the first time. Handstick vacuums also proved a popular choice for customers with sales growing rapidly. 

We also saw a surge in demand for gardening equipment as those furloughed or forced to self-isolate had more time to spend mowing lawns or tending to their borders or allotments.

However, such appetite is unsustainable – commodity sales have dropped off sharply since the covid boom - and as we move into 2023, we need to be innovative to sustain growth.

Priorities have shifted and company strategies must reflect these challenges. Fortunately, I’ve always been a problem-solver; I like to tackle a challenge head-on and find solutions that make life’s complexities that little bit easier.

Quite understandably, the cost-of-living crisis is a top priority for consumers as many see their bills rise at never-seen-before rates. We must use our tech knowhow to help drive down household outgoings; we’ve already seen a boom for goods such as air fryers which are reputedly a cheaper way of cooking food than using an oven. Here at Gtech we are focussing on creating products with low running costs – cleaning your house must be as simple as it is cost-effective. Covid rendered people indoors as will the budget constraints of escalating prices, so maintaining a clean and healthy home will be paramount.

The term ‘cost saving’ should also apply when referring to the longevity and sustainability of appliances; efforts to reduce carbon footprint and environmental impact of goods is high on the agenda of many consumers.

Sustainability has long been one of our core values, and at Gtech we continue to explore materials and production methods which will create products that last. We are designing our products for a 20-year lifespan – a remarkable jump from the expected two to three-year lifespan for most home appliances. This is no easy task and we have expanded our research and development team to meet these demands. We believe short-lived, throwaway appliances should be a thing of the past – innovation must be used to increase endurance.

And while building cost-effective, sustainable products is a key priority for us, there’s also an increasing appetite for luxury home appliances. It’s a customer base that’s badly catered for, so we are developing a range of beautiful, aspirational appliances which will look at home in the world’s leading department stores. We’ve long created goods of functional simplicity and now we are adapting those values to produce breath-taking designs in high finish materials. They’ll be the kind of appliances that will top wedding lists all over the world, we hope.

Whatever the requirement or budget of a consumer, moving forward it will be even more necessary to exceed expectations of consumer experience. A wide-open market means that customers will vote with their wallets and their shared opinions.

We recognise that from point of purchase to delivery and beyond, we must give all our customers a ‘premium’ experience. With this in mind, we are exploring new and exciting ways to package our products to ensure a first-class ‘out of the box’ experience. Aftercare also remains a priority, as we know that repeat business only comes from complete customer satisfaction. While transactional online sales peaked in covid, there’s still a genuine demand for in-person aftercare and troubleshooting, which is why we are proud to have a considerable UK-based customer service team.

The landscape in home tech maybe shifting on from the one which was set during lockdown and beyond, but in terms of how innovation is used to tackle these challenges, I, for one am excited.

Read the article on Technology Dispatch here