Appliance makers want customers to try before buying

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Appliance makers want customers to try before buying


Left, customers examine LG appliances at the LG Tromm Styler Lounge in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. Right, chefs host cooking classes with appliances like rice cookers at the Cuchen Experience Center also in Gangnam. [JOONGANG ILBO, YONHAP]

The days of relying on online reviews for home appliance purchases are disappearing as Korean companies are ramping up their efforts to get consumers to try out their products before buying.

Domestic appliance makers are now adopting the marketing strategy of consumer engagement from television and smartphone makers. By offering shoppers the opportunity to use their ovens, vacuum cleaners and sewing machines before purchasing them, appliance makers are hoping consumer confidence in their brands will increase and translate into higher sales.

Rice cooker manufacturer Cuchen recently opened its Cuchen Experience Center in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, where it invites consumers to make rice using its rice cookers or prepare simple dishes using microwaves. Cuchen, which also sells products from U.S. coffee machine maker Keurig, also allows consumers to use Keurig’s machines and espresso capsules to brew their own coffee at the center.

Brother, which specializes in sewing machines, operates 44 so-called sewing factories. At these centers, customers can pay as little as 5,000 won ($4.46) to attend classes on sewing clothes, pet apparel and embroidered handkerchiefs using the company’s products. The sewing factories, which are also stocked with Brother products that are available for purchase, often sell machines and fabric at a discount on days when they host classes.

Smeg, an Italian home appliance manufacturer, offers baking classes with its ovens at its Korean headquarters in Songpa District, southern Seoul. The classes are taught by professional bakers who teach students how to make pastries ranging from black sesame macaroons to New York-style bagels using their own recipes. Fees range from 70,000 to 100,000 won per class for non-members who don’t own Smeg products. Smeg owners receive discounts of up to 30 percent on the classes.

Yujin Robot allows customers to try out its iClebo smart cleaning robots at eight appliance stores, including Electro Mart, Emart’s electronics chain, which offer spacious areas for customers to try out products from different brands.

“We could set up cameras on the robots to film them as they go around cleaning,” said a Yujin spokesman. “But showing recorded footage has limitations in demonstrating the full extent of the robots’ functions to customers. Because consumers often purchase our products after witnessing the robots’ low-noise, suction and spatial mapping capabilities for themselves, we plan to expand our experience zones.”

LG Electronics, one of Korea’s largest home appliance makers, is another eager adopter of engagement marketing.

LG is currently showcasing its Tromm Styler, a hi-tech steam closet that keeps clothes wrinkle-free and clean, at Hi-Mart and other major electronics stores. The electronics giant will also run the LG Tromm Styler Lounge in Gangnam District for one month beginning on Sep. 17. There it will invite customers to try out the closet as well as other LG appliances like washing machines and dryers.

“We will continue providing various opportunities for consumers to experience new concepts and culture,” said Ryu Jae-cheol, head of LG’s home appliance business.

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