How Fisher & Paykel is building a direct channel to consumers

We explore the recalibration of digital marketing and commitment to data that's driving this appliance producer's ambitions

As a retail-focused home appliance maker, Fisher & Paykel has had to be satisfied with having only limited connections to its customers. But in a world where relationships are critical, and first-party data is key, such a hands-off approach is bringing diminishing value.

The solution? Make the devices part of the customer communication channel.

Thanks to the rapid decline in costs for digital connected device technology, Fisher & Paykel expects to have made most of its range connectable within two years. According to general manager of digital, Sarah Lukins, this connected appliance journey is going to be a very important one.

“If you imagine the benefit of connecting your product, and the data that we then get when you connect the product, it is a whole new boardgame for us in terms of knowing the customer,” she tells CMO.

That data can be used for a variety of purposes, many of which will assist customers to better manage their devices. This includes assisting them to reduce energy consumption, while also extending the life of devices and the items that pass through them, such as clothes cleaned or food stored.

While this fully connected vision is not far away, Lukins says Fisher & Paykel is acting now to strengthen its customer connections, starting with working harder to ensure that customers register their products.

“If we can get a customer to register their product, then it is just like having sales information, and there is a lot we can do post-purchase with that information in terms of communications,” she says. “Let's say you purchase a fridge. We know you have to replace your water filter in six months' time, so we can automate that, and we are implementing a subscription service to make that more attractive.

“We then have an automatic connection to you, and we can talk to you about other products and other things that might be of interest.”

The goal is to establish an ongoing relationship with customers that ensures they are thinking about Fisher & Paykel more often than simply when their devices are reaching end-of-life.

“Registration will be critical for us going forward, but we will also be offering different digital experiential tools on our site,” Lukins continues. “There will be these things we are building in the background that will make it more appealing to come to the Fisher & Paykel website outside of just getting product information - digital tools that will help you understand the way that you live and cook and do your laundry. The connected piece will really support that.”

Read more: IoT marketing: When things become customers

Recalibrating digital marketing

In preparation, Fisher & Paykel has already made changes to how it organises its digital marketing activity.

“We are really focused now on where we can gather first-party customer data,” Lukins says. “We have let that go all these years and outsourced that to our retailers. Now, we have in-housed a lot of our digital marketing into our global team in Auckland and turned off our agency activity. We had five or six agencies around the world that weren't returning enough benefits to us. In-housing has given us a lot of success.”

According to Fisher & Paykel executive vice-president for marketing and digital transformation, Rudi Khoury, the connected device story is equally important for the company’s sustainability ambitions.

“Sustainability is a really important pillar in our organisation, and we are focused on reducing the in-use component of our product,” he says. “We are going after the big prize, which is scope 3, which is 95 per cent of the emissions from appliances. We think with the connected strategy, and the software and hardware coming together, we can help optimise that.

“As grids becoming greener, we hope using software through connected appliances, we can help with reducing and optimising energy usage in appliances over time."

One simple example is how often clothes are washed. If a device can understand washing patterns, it can make recommendations to its user on how to wash clothes in ways that are gentler to the fabrics, and hence able to extend the life of garments.

Khoury says one critical element in this vision is Fisher & Paykel’s relationship with Salesforce, which already forms the backbone of the company's digital sales, service, marketing and commerce services, and will play a key role in bringing different datasets together.

Read more: Fisher & Paykel: We want to be the most human-centred appliance company

Another key element in bringing the connected story to life however is ensuring that customers are ready for it. Lukins says that while Fisher & Paykel's brand activity has been quiet of late, this will change in 2023.

“The brand direction is really clear - we all know what we are working towards – a luxury premium brand shift,” Lukins says. “What you will see is quite a big difference in terms of our communications. We have been building out the product portfolio, but the stories haven’t been there for the consumer.

“It will probably be a surprise to consumers when suddenly it is all there, because we are building it all in the background.”

  • Brad Howarth travelled to Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

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