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Meet the 2022 Audience Award winners of top CE products today, submitted by top manufacturers and selected by our readers. Also in this issue, get ready for the upcoming busy season with our forecast for Black Friday and our roundup of webcams and the best home office products.

A WORD FROM OUR PUBLISHER

What A Busy September
It Will Be!

I am writing this while at our TV Shootout in Midtown NYC, and I am so taken by all the new 4K and 8K models that are being showcased. They are beautiful and amazing. I want to say to Robert Zohn and Value Electronics a huge “thank you” for being a great partner. In September, we will be doing our Second Annual Projector Shootout, with one full day devoted to Ultra Short Throw, and one full day to Long Throw. I am looking forward to seeing all these cool projectors a week before we leave for CEDIA. Now please allow me to give you a tour of some highlights of what’s inside the Dealerscope September issue.

We are featuring the annual Dealerscope Audience Awards this month. These products have been selected as winners by votes from our readership. We congratulate all who were chosen. Our contributing editor, Nancy Klosek, is covering the latest strategies offered by warranty companies in response to market trends. We also look at Black Friday, which, in line with recent years, may have already started as you read this. We survey the newest products in home office tech, and offer a separate look at webcams, about which I am excited. We also unbox the new Airselfie NEO drone and describe a great Panasonic grooming device that may change a lot of morning routines. We all want to make sure our consumers are well rested, and to that end, we cover the latest in sleep machines, including the new Mophee wellness device. In the world of appliances, we look at the cutting edge in refrigerator tech and new products that we will see in future.

Of course, as previously mentioned, I am at the 2022 TV Shootout for 4K and 8K TV, and we plan full coverage of the events as well as of the winners. Also, please look for the special IFA 2022 digimag that will be emailed to you, showing all the great innovations and products from this year’s show in Berlin.

As a teaser for our upcoming October issue, I’ll mention here the 2022 Powerful Women in Consumer Tech program. This is one of my favorites, and I am proud of our well-deserving group this year.

As always, I want to hear from you – please contact me at tmonteleone@ctlab.media with any feedback you may like to share.

Best always,

Tony Monteleone,
Group Publisher of CT Lab Global Media

A WORD FROM OUR EDITOR IN CHIEF

The Busy Season Begins

Right now I am writing this from what is arguably our first big event of the travel season, which typically starts in the late summer or early fall. After this — at least for the Dealerscope staff — business picks up at a breakneck speed until the holidays. You all can probably relate. Kids are getting ready to go back to school, and planning has already begun for many of the big retail days in our industry.

While many are returning to the office, there is a still a prevalence of the hybrid work model, and getting the home office ready for this busy season is crucial. Upwork estimates that 22 percent of the American workforce will be remote by 2025. At the same time, a survey of 10,000 employees done by the Becker Friedman Institute of Economics at the University of Chicago showed that only 30 percent of respondents feel they are more productive and engaged while working from home. A report by Owl Labs found that globally, 16 percent of companies are fully remote, although 62 percent of workers aged 22 to 65 claim to work remotely at least occasionally.

While working from home is arguably convenient and sometimes more productive, I am one of many remote employees that sees the model’s downfalls quite regularly. I have two large dogs that very loudly greet all delivery people. I have a toddler — enough said there — and my husband works from home as well and is one of those loud-phone-talkers.

My office tends to float around the house with me to wherever is quietest. As I’ve slowly gathered the best tools to make my work more effective, I think we’ve all found that certain tech products — like decent headphones, webcams and monitors — make us both more productive and less stressed about working from home. In this issue, you will not only find a round up of several home office essentials for both you and your CE customers, but also insider’s info on the best webcams out there, the top audio products for wellness and how to make the most of current industry challenges. Our 2022 Audience Awards will also give you an excellent foundation for knowing what products to stock and what to look out for.

Hopefully you will find yourself well prepared for this season ahead, no matter what is in store for you and our very busy industry.

Erinn Loucks Signature

Erinn Loucks

Editor in Chief

CE RETAIL TECHNOLOGY

September 2022 CE News

Rivian

A Rivian Vehicle May Be Delivering Your Next Amazon Package | Amazon has just announced that Rivian vehicles are now delivering packages in cities across the country. While the company hasnt released the number of vehicles currently in operation, it has said that the EV delivery trucks will be operating in 100 cities by the end of 2022. In the second fiscal quarter of the year, the company rolled out 4,401 vehicles and is on track to produce 25,000 cars in 2022.

Backlogs Hit Ports Up and Down the East Coast | Backlogs are building on East Coast ports as shippers try to circumvent bringing goods in through the West Coast. According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an average of 22 ships per day have been waiting to offload at Ambrose Anchorage, the main port serving NYC. Flexport, a supply chain management company, expects the delays to continue throughout the Summer.

"Bayonne, New Jersey,Cape Liberty Cruise port looking over New York City and the Statue of Liberty.Click here for a vertical version:"
Hand is turning a dice and changes the word "full-time" to "part-time" (or vice versa).

Businesses Turn More to Full-Time Job Offerings to Attract Talent | With the economy still experiencing an immense job surplus — there are currently twice as many job openings as unemployed members of the workforce — many companies have turned to offering full-time positions instead of part-time options in order to attract more applicants. Since 2019, the economy has 2.4 million less part-time workers and 1.8 million more full-time workers.

Instagram Unleashes New Shop-in-Chat Feature | With Instagrams new shop-in-chat feature, social commerce has entered a new dimension of convenience. Users can now connect directly with small businesses on Instagrams platform to ask questions, get product details, and make purchases all without having to close their DMs. The feature already exists on WhatsApp, a different Meta-owned chat platform that is highly popular in other parts of the world. Unsurprisingly, the checkout process operates in-house via Meta Pay.

Paris: Man holding Barack Obama Instagram photos feed on the new Apple iPhone X 10 Display while seating in couch with Retina Display screen
Young social media influencer recording his podcast on mobile phone - concept of vlogging, content creation from home office

Shopify and YouTube Team Up to Personalize eCommerce | Shopify and YouTube announced that they are joining forces to allow content creators to sell products on the social media platform. Via the partnership, businesses can tag products in YouTube livestream videos and add a store tab to their content page. The goal of the partnership is to make online shopping more of a personal experience accentuating the process instead of just the purchase.

Out of Control Swipe Fees Plague Retailers and Consumers Alike | For retailers, credit card swipe fees, a roughly are nothing new. However, according to Merchants Payments Coalition, these fees could equate to a whopping $2.5 billion during the peak of the 2022 back-to-school shopping season, which is expected to rake in $37 billion in spending. In 2021, the amount of money brought in by swipe fees jumped 25 percent and totaled $137.8 billion.

Smiling and friendly florist holding card reader machine at counter with customer paying with credit card. Young african american florist shop assistant holding payment machine while buyer purchase a bunch flower. Woman using bank credit card to make payment by NFC machine.

IFA NEWS

Previewing IFA 2022

The international consumer electronics trade show
is back and buzzing

By Alec Paige

After a three-year-long hiatus, IFA is back at the Messe Berlin Exhibition Grounds September 2-6 presenting the latest products and innovations in the consumer electronics industry. Dealerscope spoke with five North American exhibitors showcasing products at IFA to find out what to expect and what to look forward to.

Why is it important to your company to exhibit at IFA?

“We are thrilled to launch this innovative product at IFA 2022. IFA is Europe’s premier show for home and housewares, connecting product to lifestyle and the industry to the consumer mindset. Our patented, new technology has never been used before in an at-home carbonator, and IFA is the ideal place for Carbon8 to debut and showcase our innovation. We’ve taken a great idea and made it that much better.” – Andreas Hansen, CEO and Founder of Carbon8

“This past year, Aiper has successfully expanded its market share in the North American pool cleaner market, becoming the number one go-to brand for cordless robotic pool cleaners. With the gradual improvement and expansion of the company’s supply chain and sales channels, we believe it’s time to start our journey into the European pool cleaning market – and IFA is the perfect place to do that. As one of the most influential consumer electronic trade shows in the world, we feel this is the best way to demonstrate Aiper’s products to customers and retailers, all while introducing the brand to the entirety of the pool cleaning industry.” – Richard Wang, Founder and CEO of Aiper Global

“JLab is the #2 headphone brand in the U.S. and we’re excited to continue share the JLab story of real innovation and surprising value with consumers globally. Since launching JLab internationally five years ago, the brand has been one of the fastest growing in the UK, Germany and Nordics, and we’re excited to see consumers connect with JLab’s products — from true wireless to kids headphones and microphones.” – Terra Teat, Chief Marketing Officer, JLab

“IFA is the ‘Global Stage’ for all appliances/CE/IT product introductions. We want to educate end users as well as meeting with current and potential global distribution partners on Made in the USA MetroVac products.” – Ken Stern, Vice President – National Sales, Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner Co., Inc.

“IFA is the largest consumer electronic show in the world, and we would like to benchmark our products with the best of the best! It is an uncertain time in the world at present due to the war in Europe, uncertain recovery from Covid, global supply chain issues etc, and one could argue that it is not a perfect time to be doing a new show. But there is never a perfect time to seek new opportunities. In fact, during Covid, we have come out with many new products in the health and wellness segment. We believe that Europe is a great opportunity for our innovative space-saving and multifunctional products and will be looking for ways to distribute them in different countries. – Atul Air, President, Equator Advanced Appliances

“IFA is a great opportunity for UAG to catch up with our partners and industry friends from all across EMEA and for them to meet some of our senior management who also love to attend in order to meet customers.” – Shannon Pelot, Channel Marketing Manager, Urban Armor Gear

What are you most looking forward to this year at IFA?

“JLab and our team members across Europe, APAC and globally focus on building our retail and trade partnerships together with our brand, and IFA is a key destination for building these important partnerships. We love utilizing these face-to-face meetings to learn how we can help our partners grow, while sharing JLab’s new innovations, products and growth plans.” – Teat, JLab

“It’s been three years since our last appearance at IFA. Hopefully, tired of the pandemic restrictions imposed on us globally, anxious consumers as well as potential partners will be eager to explore new technology exhibited at IFA 2022.” – Stern, Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner Co., Inc.

“We are looking to showcase representative products from different segments of our appliance line — Laundry, Refrigeration, Cooking, Climate control, Floorcare, Outdoor and Lifestyle. Many of these products have come out in the last few years as a result of Covid restrictions and the reality of needing to live safely. We have more 100 products available for the American market. The 12 showcased products at IFA have been successful, and Equator will project American innovation in an international environment.” – Air, Equator Advanced Appliances

“After three years of a gap, it’s going to be especially exciting this year to enjoy the buzz of inviting and meeting our partners at the UAG booth once again, reviewing and planning together and building even stronger relationships for the future.” – Pelot, Channel Marketing Manager, Urban Armor Gear

The multi-purpose DataVac Electric Duster is designed to blast dust, dirt and debris off of expensive tech equipment. It now comes with variable speeds: low for sensitive electronics/applications, or high for maximum cleaning output.

The Equator AnySpot clothes washer features a capacity of 0.65 cu. ft, which is about 10 shirts. It has an internal water heater to sanitize clothes, 800 rpm spin speed, Auto balance, Auto water level, LED display, Child lock and Delay Start. It weighs 37 lbs and can be hung on a wall in order to save floor space.

JLab is announcing the launch of a new generation of true wireless. Both the JBuds and Epic Air true wireless families are getting major upgrades – now offering Find with Tile, new Bluetooth Multipoint connections, longer playtime and access to the JLab Sound App.

UAG will be showing off their latest range of protective cases for iPhone 13 and the new iPhone launching in September. This year they will have some exciting new series designs to show off and a huge focus on the fast growing Magsafe category.

Carbon8 is the first countertop water carbonator that creates, self-sanitizes and dispenses sparkling water. Instead of the 4-step process that many popular carbonators on the market require, Carbon8 functions with one simple touch of the top control button, allowing consumers to easily click and sip.

SMART HOME

Making an Entrance Smarter

Expanding value beyond secure entry to services

By Jennifer Kent, Vice President, Research, Parks Associates

Safety and security remain the leading purchase drivers of smart home devices. Smart door locks and smart access control systems provide a foundation of security by helping consumers and building owners/operators monitor and secure the primary access points.

A Future of Services

In addition to these secure entry capabilities, smart door locks and smart access control systems also double as points of access for a future world of services. Companies are vying for control of access points into homes and buildings that enable service opportunities, such as in-home, in-unit, and in-garage delivery, health and wellness solutions, cleaning and pet care services, home and unit rental solutions, and much more. Alignments and partnerships are also helping expand the market beyond safety and security use cases. For example, door lock manufacturers have established integrations with Airbnb and HomeAway reservation systems to enable home hosts to grant access to guests. OEMs are working with real estate developers (single-family and multifamily) to include smart access solutions as a standard part of smart home packages and home control platforms. Parcel delivery services are integrating smart door locks and cameras to offer secure package delivery.

The Benefits to Multi-Dwelling Units

MDU (multi-dwelling unit) owners/operators value smart access control for security, convenience, and OPEX savings. Properties want to grant access to units remotely for unaccompanied viewing, assist with package delivery, control who had access to units, and make key replacement more efficient. The research firm reports that 73 percent of MDU properties with smart door locks use the devices to grant access to units remotely for unaccompanied viewings, package delivery, or third-party services. Additionally, 65 percent use the locks to track who enters and leaves the property using temporary, unique access codes. Further, one-third of MDU property managers report that their residents are demanding the ability to enable remote access to apartment units.

Typical use cases for smart door lock and access control systems include:

  • Granting entrance access remotely
  • Receiving electronic notifications of who is entering and leaving in real-time
  • Assigning permanent and temporary virtual key with access schedules for specific days and times
  • Changing or revoking access privileges at any time
  • Triggering tamper and forced entry alarms that warn of a possible break-in

Smart door lock solutions have seen steady growth in the past few years, but barriers impede wider and faster adoption. Among them is the current fragmented nature of the space and a supply chain that may not be conducive to future scale. Smart access companies are constantly looking for incremental innovation, progress and technology development that make products better year over year. A new market structure, relying on third-party suppliers, can help realize this progress without these companies having to heavily invest in their own resources or take on the risks.

Companies are capturing new value through innovative technology creating new applications with a clear and quantifiable ROI. Adequate funding for investment in technology often requires companies to think more broadly about their value than for one particular segment of the business. The demands of new tech on processing, power, memory, security and latency for real-time applications are driving companies to look for new ways to build products. Suppliers have an opportunity to better serve manufacturers by operating on a Tier-1 structure, which could provide a more systematic and cost-efficient approach for the development and release of the next generation of products.

Download Parks Associates’ new whitepaper “Smart Locks and Access Control Supply Chain: Scaling Innovation,” in collaboration with Passivebolt, to examine how manufacturers, including those in the smart door lock and smart access control markets, are undergoing organizational transformation to deliver on the promises—and requirements—of making and supporting connected solutions.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Companies are vying for control of access points into homes and buildings that enable service opportunities.
  • MDU owners/operators value smart access control for security, convenience and OPEX savings.
  • The demands of new tech on processing, power, memory, security and latency for real-time applications are driving companies to look for new ways to build products.

DIGITAL HEALTH & WELLNESS

Self Care with Audio
Wellness Tech

Sound solutions to
sleeping and meditating

By Mike Kobrin

(Left: Muse S (Gen 2)
($399.99, choosemuse.com)

The Muse S headband senses your brainwaves via its built-in EEG and gives you biofeedback to help you improve your waking focus and your sleep quality. By monitoring your brain, heart rate, and body position, the device gives you a ton of personalized insights. It also connects to your phone using Bluetooth and gives you access to soothing soundscapes called Digital Sleeping Pills that respond to your brainwaves and guide your brain to sleep. The company offers a bundle with a premium subscription via the included app that has over 500 guided meditations and lets you pipe in audio from your favorite apps on top of the Muse content.

The science is clear: Deep sleep is one of the most important ways we can positively impact our physical and mental well-being. But according to a Phillips international survey[1] conducted in 2021, just 32 percent of people reported feeling rested most mornings. That’s helping fuel interest in audio devices that help you fall/stay asleep as well as meditation aids that ease anxiety and stress when we’re awake — with the goal of improving sleep.

Sleep earbuds and headbands must be low-profile and fit securely enough to let you sleep in whatever position you normally use without causing an ounce of discomfort and without falling out in the middle of the night. The reason these devices often lack active noise cancellation is because that would both add bulk and be less effective at mitigating higher-frequency sounds like voices and traffic than masking (obscuring unwanted sounds with a wash of noise). Also, in a nod to the ample scientific evidence that phones are terrible pre-sleep companions, some sleep earbuds don’t require a smartphone connection to function.

Guided meditations can help calm an anxious mind whether in the middle of the day or just before we drift off at night. While the popularity of apps like Calm and HeadSpace has skyrocketed, phones are often the very thing we need to escape for at least a few minutes while we clear our heads. Audio devices like those covered below offer a moment’s peace through meditations and soundscapes, with the aim of easing anxiety so your brain will let your body fall asleep. Some require a Bluetooth connection to your phone, but all have the ability to let you avoid having to interact with the phone for basic operation.

SLEEP EARBUDS

Bose SleepBuds II
($249, bose.com)

Lacking any noise cancellation or music streaming, the SleepBuds II are meant for one thing only: Masking sounds that might keep you up with soft soothing sonic washes. A smartphone app lets you choose a growing collection of sounds as well as set an alarm, and the battery lasts for 10 hours (plus another 30 from the case). Flexible wings keep them in place, and reviewers across the board find them extremely comfortable.

QuietOn SleepBuds 3
($269, quieton.com)

These compact earbuds’ active noise cancellation is their only feature. They’re effective at eliminating a wide range of low-frequency sounds to let you sleep in peace while letting higher-frequency sounds like alarms and voices through. The earbuds are held in place by memory foam tips – no fins or wings here. And with no Bluetooth to drain the battery, they work for an impressive 28 hours on a single charge (plus three extra full charges from the case).

Amazfit ZenBuds
($149.99, us.amazfit.com)

The ZenBuds eschew media streaming, but they do connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can use the Zepp app to track your sleep quality (powered by a built-in heart rate monitor), set alarms, and choose from a wide variety of soothing sleep sounds. They’re small and light, held in by U-shaped wings that sit comfortably in your outer ear. Bonus feature: The earbuds detect when you’re asleep and stop playing sounds to conserve battery life.

SLEEP HEADGEAR

AcousticSheep SleepPhones Wireless
($99.95, sleepphones.com)

Consisting of a pair of flat speaker panels in a hypoallergenic machine-washable headband, the SleepPhones Wireless bluetooth stream music, audiobooks, meditation sounds, and more from your smartphone. It doesn’t block out ambient sounds, though you can choose a noise-masking sound to listen to. The headband comes in two different fabrics, one fleece for normal indoor use and one breathable for exercising or hot climates. Battery life is admirable at 24 hours.

Sleep Band Pro
($49.99, sleepband.com)

This headband is actually a sleep mask with thin Bluetooth headphones built-in, so you can completely block out light and stream everything from music and podcasts to white noise and meditation sounds from your phone. The electronics are removable so you can wash it, and the battery lasts for 24 hours on a charge. Buttons on the front let you control volume and play/pause.

LIVLAB Hoomband Headband
($79.90, hoomsleep.com)

The Hoomband’s washable elastic fabric holds a pair of very flat Bluetooth headphones that can stream any content from your phone for up to 10 hours per charge. But the real power of this headband lies in the app, which gives you access to over 100 hours of free audio content (updated regularly) ranging from hypnotic stories and documentaries to binaural soundscapes and white noise, as well as guided meditations.

MEDITATION DEVICES

Morphée
($99.99, us.morphee.co)

Morphée is like an old-fashioned egg timer that plays soothing sounds and guided meditations so you can calm your body and mind and fall asleep. The device is all analog; it lacks any sort of screen, and it has a built-in speaker and a jack for wired headphones. You turn the three metal keys on Morphée’s face to access audio sessions that range from binaural nature sounds and relaxing music to breathing and visualization exercises. The beechwood shell adds a nice rustic touch, and the battery lasts for about a week!

Zenimal Kids+ 2.0
($69.99, zenimals.com)

Kids can participate in the mindfulness revolution too, with the turtle-shaped Zenimal Kids+ 2.0. It’s a simple device with a speaker, on-board controls and memory, and it’s pre-loaded with nine kid-friendly guided meditations and three sleep-inducing sounds. The most exciting part is that it has a built-in microSD card reader, and you can purchase Zenimal cards with extra meditations, music or sounds on them.

GADGETS

Rebooting the
Home Office Technology

Technology that makes connecting,
communicating and working more efficient and fun

By Egon Sanders

With remote and hybrid work opportunities becoming both more common and sought after, a great home office set-up is a necessity for an increasing number of workers. And while remote jobs provide for a smoother and less mobile day-to-day experience, they do not come without their own collection of hiccups. From struggling with video conference calls to tuning out rambunctious pets or children, a quality home office can help alleviate a number of stresses afflicting the remote worker. That’s why we have put together a collection of products designed for a streamlined and distraction-free home workspace.

1. Poly Studio P21 Display Monitor

These days, mobility is key for any student — namely, the option to The award-winning Poly Studio P21 is a 21.5-in. display monitor entirely designed with video calls in mind. It packs several features in one streamlined package: a high- definition camera, hi-fidelity speakers, a microphone and even adjustable ambient lighting that allows for a personalized touch to a home office’s appearance. The P21 connects via USB to any PC or Mac product, functioning as a pro-grade video conference system or simply as a high-end second display. Its camera records at 1080p, is capable of four times the electronic zoom and comes with a privacy shutter. The microphone included in the display is uni-directional, intended for a focused pickup pattern with outside noise rejection. On top of all of the P21’s features, consumers have the option to add on Poly+, the company’s support plan that includes unlimited 24/7 tech and cloud support, advance hardware replacement and upgraded access to premium software. The Poly Studio P21 is available for $599.

2. Blue Tiger Solare Headset

The Solare headset’s selling point is that you’ll never have to charge it — it’s entirely solar-powered. It constantly charges while in either indoor or outdoor sunlight, providing for an interruption-free and eco-friendly listening experience. Designed for both home office workers and drivers — as well as commuters — the Solare is a one-ear headset, so the user can have a quality sound set-up in one ear and be open to the outside world with the other. The great part about the Solare is the fact that its speaker is 97 percent noise-cancelling, making for a distinct split between headset and non-headset on each side of the user’s head. It has an IPX4 rating of water resistance, meets military grade specifications for extreme environments, and its charging can be monitored in real time with Blue Tiger’s app. The Solare is available for $219.99.

3. Logitech’s Logi Dock

The Logi Dock is Logitech’s docking station designed for home workers who want to reduce clutter. It connects everything a remote worker could need all into one small cube-shaped unit: Bluetooth-enabled speakers for video conferences and music, noise-reducing microphones, charging capabilities for laptops and connection to display monitors. Using a combination of USB-A, USB-C and HDMI inputs and outputs, the Logi Dock makes it easy to connect whatever necessary. The dock can also work in conjunction with the Logi Tune app, where they can sync their calendar to be able to join a meeting with the tap of a button. Logitech’s Logi Dock comes in at $399.99.

4. Jabra Evolve2 75 Headset

The Jabra Evolve2 75 headset has an ergonomic earcup design with a leatherette cushion pattern for improved ventilation. It has a hard foam exterior and soft foam interior to allow for lasting comfort. Clearly, comfort was at the forefront of Jabra’s interests when creating this new design, but the Evolve2 75 also has access to adjustable Active Noise Cancellation technology, making for a high- quality listening experience all around. Using the Sound+ app, the user can select the desired amount of noise cancellation depending on the circumstances they are currently working in. The headset has access to eight microphones with beamforming technology and a triple digital chipset which Jabra says differentiates voice and background noise. That’s on top of the Evolve2 75’s boom arm, which can be lowered for video calls or hidden away in the headset’s “Discreet Mode.” All that tech comes together for a flexible listening and calling experience, with the Evolve2 75 starting at $384.

5. ViewSonic’s VX2418C Monitor

The VX2418C monitor from ViewSonic was built for work and play alike. It has a 24-in. curved screen that runs in 1080p. Features include a 165Hz refresh rate, a one millisecond response time and AMD FreeSync Premium technology, which all combine to make for a great gaming or home office display. ViewSonic also included exclusive ViewMode presets with the monitor, making for optimized screen settings depending on the task at hand. The VX2418C comes with two HDMI (2.0) inputs and one DisplayPort (1.2) input for flexible connectivity, as well as a vesa-compatible mount and dual integrated stereo speakers. All in all, the VX2418C is a lot of quality tech packed into an affordable $159.99 package.

HEALTH & WELLNESS

A Grooming Gadget
that Does It All

Panasonic MULTISHAPE
makes the cut

By Brenda Thelusca

Grooming is a necessary process that everyone does, but owning grooming products can take up space in the bathroom. From your trimmer to your toothbrush to your electric razor, all of these necessary products can become costly to constantly replace as well. For those who get their grooming done professionally, it starts to get costly as you constantly return for the same service. To solve this problem, Panasonic created the MULTISHAPE Modular Personal Care System — the first integrated grooming system that can handle any type of grooming.

The first feature that caught my attention with the Panasonic MULTISHAPE is its compact size and range of interchangeable tops. This is perfect for those who need to travel but can’t bring their entire range of grooming products. That’s where MULTISHAPE shines, because it has five interchangeable attachments to fit consumers’ needs at that moment. Now consumers can do their grooming routine with one device. Consumers don’t have to constantly change or store multiple grooming tools, making this is a more sustainable solution for grooming.

The integrated grooming kit comes with two hair trimmers, the beard/hair trimmer and a body trimmer. The beard and hair trimmer head has a dial with 39 length options which makes it easier for consumers that know the length of their hair. It also takes out the guesswork of how to get your hair to the desired length. This head also comes with two combs to help achieve lengths as short as .04 inches. If you want a shorter length, the beard, hair and body trimmer head has a dedicated body attachment that can trim as close as .02 inches. This attachment is meant for more sensitive areas like the underarms and trims the area gently to prevent any harm or irritation.

For those who enjoy that nice close shave on the first stroke, the three-bladed shaver head attachment will probably be your favorite. Each blade moves on its own and gently follows the contour of the face and neck. This can help decrease the chances of getting cut by the blade or finding a small patch missed by regular blades. Thanks to the special positioning of the blades, the thickest stubble will be cut at the root, leaving users stubble free for up to eight hours.

Another head attachment is the nose, ear and facial trimmer. This attachment is designed with a double-edged cutting blade, so users can trim nose and ear hair without any pulling. When trimming, there is a vacuum function to suction away any hair residue around the ear or nose. Having the vacuum in the device makes clean-up easier and prevents stray hair pieces from creating a mess.

The last interchangeable head is not a razor of any kind, it’s an Electric Toothbrush. The toothbrush uses Sonic Vibration Technology to achieve a deep clean and thoroughly clean in between teeth. This comes in handy because people sometimes forget to pack a toothbrush with the rest of their toiletries.

Another great feature about the MULTISHAPE is that it comes with two batteries, so if one dies you have a backup battery. The Li-ion battery can last up to 90 minutes on one hour of charge and has an anti-slip coating for a firm grip. The backup Ni-MH Battery can last up to 50 minutes on an hour of charge and has a matte coating for a firm grip.

All heads and main units for the MULTISHAPE are waterproof and users have the choice to build their custom kit with the desired attachments. If consumers don’t know which attachment to pick, there will be pre-selected kits based on what type of grooming is needed.

The 3-Blade Shaver, Facial Trimmer, Electric Toothbrush and main unit come with a protective cap to keep them clean. Also for better organization, each head attachment comes with a travel pouch so all pieces can be kept together. This can help save space, and users can keep all pieces in the bag so they aren’t misplaced.

As grooming preferences evolve, when someone purchases the MULTISHAPE, they can purchase a new attachment to satisfy their grooming needs. Sustainability is one of the goals the MULTISHAPE system wishes to achieve by helping users reduce the number of grooming products that get thrown out. Now with technology, grooming can be a less painful and more eco-friendly process. The Panasonic MULTISHAPE will be available for purchase on PanasonicMultiShape.com in August 2022 and will range from $120-$175 depending on what attachments consumers buy.

WARRANTY ROUNDUP

The Art of Fine-Tuning
Extended Service Plans

A canvass of warranty companies reveals how ESP providers have remained agile and responsive to retailers’ and consumers’ continuing challenges in yet another year of a pandemic-shaped marketplace

COMPILED BY NANCY KLOSEK

Dealerscope Q&A Feature

The consumer tech industry and its retailers are fending off headwinds to business that include persistent supply-chain disruption, inflation and consumer buying patterns that have been altered by the unrelenting effects of the pandemic. In light of all this, in what ways are you adjusting your retail programs and business strategies to fine-tune them to adequately meet the needs of your dealers?

DS0922_Warranty_AfterInc_Dawn Taylor

AFTER, INC.
Dawn Taylor, CRO

There are two overarching trends impacting our consumer technology and appliance clients – manufacturers, retailers, and dealers – due to the pandemic: one [is] the need to move their majority of their product sales online, which is where today’s consumer wants to shop; and two [is] the realization that they must own the entire post-sale customer experience to drive higher customer satisfaction, lifetime value and loyalty.

The pandemic not only forced our clients to shift their business models and resources online, but also to implement systems to drive a cohesive customer experience for their online customers. Seeing this trend evolve, we began to invest heavily in our QuickSuite – a modular set of SaaS platforms, designed to work together at each stage of the post-sale lifecycle. The suite – which includes QuickReg, QuickCover, QuickClaim, QuickInsight and QuickRenew — has won numerous awards, including IMA’s “Best of SaaS Innovation 2021,” Dealerscope’s IMPACT Award 2022, and THE SAMMY Award for Customer Relationship Management 2022.

DS0922_Warranty_AllState_Wini Hebalkar SVP Operations Allstate Protection Plans

ALLSTATE PROTECTION PLANS/
SQUARETRADE, AN ALLSTATE COMPANY
Wini Hebalkar, Chief Services Officer

In times of uncertainty, our philosophy is to empower customers with choice, offering them service how and when they prefer it so that they can select the best resolution to fit their needs. To do this, we invest in proprietary, technology-enabled operations that helps us create alternate service solutions for customers when supply chain constraints come into play.

This customer-centric approach improves overall satisfaction while reducing escalations for our retailer partners, allowing them to adjust their business practices in response to their own supply constraints and evolving consumer buying patterns.

By providing choice and clear customer communication, Allstate Protection Plans continues to deliver industry-leading satisfaction rates and NPS scores, resulting in continued growth for our business and our partners.

DS0922_Warranty_Arch Insurance_ NEW PHOTO BrianOlson

ARCH INSURANCE GROUP
Brian Olson, Vice President,
Warranty and Lender Solutions

As retail sales have been challenged, protection plan sales have as well. All of this is affecting retailer profitability. In our eyes, this created enhanced opportunities for us to work closer with our partners on data analysis, trends, and predictive market models on the factors that affect their business — especially when it comes to their back-end profit models. Whether or not our partners are on simple retros, complex reinsurance schemes, varying investment strategies, etc., our risk management model and advanced analytic capabilities have allowed us to spend this time wisely looking for data-driven solutions to maximize partner and retailer profitability.

DS0922_WarrantyRdup_Assurant_Jeff Unterreiner-

ASSURANT
Jeff Unterreiner, President, US Connected Living

As retail sales have been challenged, protection plan sales have as well. All of this is affecting retailer profitability. In our eyes, this created enhanced opportunities for us to work closer with our partners on data analysis, trends, and predictive market models on the factors that affect their business — especially when it comes to their back-end profit models. Whether or not our partners are on simple retros, complex reinsurance schemes, varying investment strategies, etc., our risk management model and advanced analytic capabilities have allowed us to spend this time wisely looking for data-driven solutions to maximize partner and retailer profitability.

DS0922_Warranty_Centricity_Chris Penn

CENTRICITY
Chris Penn, Vice President – Client Services

Centricity always seeks to exceed our dealers’ expectations by developing innovative product protection solutions that create loyal, happy customers. During the past few months, we’ve been extremely creative with our customers providing short-term offerings while they wait for longer term repairs impacted by supply chain issues or delays.

We have also increased communication with our customers, maintaining transparency and setting realistic expectations. In addition, Centricity has expanded our service network with new sources of technicians to increase options for service events, overcoming technician shortages. Working as true partners with our dealers, Centricity continues to build consumer trust and improve customer satisfaction even during the pandemic and post-pandemic era.

DS0922_Warranty_Clyde_Brandon Gell Headshot (1)

CLYDE
Brandon Gell, Founder & CEO

During the pandemic, demand for consumer electronics soared as people sought to make being at home as convenient and comfortable as possible. Consumer choice skyrocketed as brands and search engines responded to the demand, making it easier to find anything online. Manufacturers that once relied mainly on third-party channels are expanding their DTC [direct-to-consumer] presence so they can eliminate supply chain issues, increase revenue and margin, and strengthen customer loyalty.

We’re seeing that dealers want warranty programs that reinforce their loyalty efforts and give customers the features and term lengths they want. Brands with a monthly subscription for services or classes are bundling in product protection so customers stay with them month after month. And as omnichannel grows to include post-purchase, registration flows, and more, brands want to promote product protection everywhere their customers are.

DS0922_Warranty_Fortegra_Leigh Mascherin_headshot

FORTEGRA
Leigh Mascherin,
Vice President of Warranty Sales & Account Management

As the consumer tech industry is buffeted by persistent supply-chain disruption, inflation and altered consumer buying patterns due to the pandemic, we’ve continued to focus on supporting our dealer partners. While these issues remain problematic, they also serve as motivation to purchase a service contract. With inflation increasing prices and supply-chain disruption making repair and replacement challenging, consumers are looking for ways to protect their purchases.

The challenge for us is helping our partners optimize consumer value while retaining the much-needed revenue boost service contracts provide. We’re focused on aligning with our partners to meet their needs and specifically on ensuring all consumers have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with service contracts, whether they are online or in-store.

DS0322_Warranty_Guardsman_Kerry Lawless_Final

GUARDSMAN
Kerry Lawless, Vice President of Sales

At Guardsman, our goal is to understand our retail partners’ challenges and offer solutions to help maximize our partners’ profitability. With the current climate retailers face, Guardsman has created solutions that drive post-purchase programs, enhance cash flow, support expanded payment terms, and extended our current product offerings to give our retail partners more tools.

We offer protection plans covering furniture, mattresses, jewelry, sporting goods, electronics and appliances. In addition, we continue to innovate our repair and technician services and offer quick in-home appointments to ensure customers get their eligible products replaced or repaired. Our Number One priority is to support our retail partners and ensure consumer interaction as an opportunity to drive loyalty to our partners’ brand.

DS0322_Warranty_OnPoint CHRIS SMITH USE THIS IMAGE

ONPOINT WARRANTY SOLUTIONS
Chris Smith, Chief Service Avenger

Supply chain has loosened considerably, but we are still facing delays in shipping while demand is at an all-time high. In some cases, that means promoting scratch and dent and even selling displays to fill consumer needs.

OnPoint has provided programs to cover open, damaged, or floor samples that typically have no warranty at all. We have also accommodated mobile handsets new or used with our Bounce Mobile Handset Protection program which has no deductible and two screen replacements a year.

We also launched electronics service bundles that cover all the CE devices in your home, no matter the age, and this program can be added to monthly billing vehicles for a consistent revenue stream. The great thing about service products is they are never out of stock.

DS0922_Warranty_PersonalSafeguards_MikeFrosch1

PERSONAL SAFEGUARDS GROUP
Mike Frosch, President

PSG [Personal Safeguards Group] continues to focus on recovering lost margin and enhancing the customer experience for OEMs and retailers by eliminating unnecessary layers and costs. If the OEM or retailer is already managing the customer experience with a replacement or repair program, there is no need to insert a third-party for administration or for integration with the insurance carrier. These unnecessary layers can add as much as 40 percent to the cost of a program versus a direct model. It’s never been easier to take control of a service contract program, maximize the value to the customer and only use third parties for regulatory and insurance solutions.

DS0922_Warranty_ProtectALL_MicheleGloeckler NEWESTprofile2

PROTECTALL
Michele Gloeckler, Vice President of Sales

The first half of 2022 showed exponential growth for our retailers. However, as we move into the last half of 2022, inflation has hit a four-decade high and created a decrease in spending. Therefore, we are monitoring our partners’ performance, increasing our training efforts, and providing full transparency into data analytics surrounding the products being sold. By providing insight into the protection plan lifecycle, we can analyze top loss manufacturers, reduce parts delays, provide service updates, increase low-performing stores and create an exceptional customer journey. We know that no one can predict the future but at ProtectALL, we maximize every sale, monitor every protection plan product, and provide a happy claims experience which results in higher attachments, better product purchasing and repeat business.

AUDIENCE AWARDS 2022

This year’s winners showcase design, innovation and state-of-the-art technology

The votes have been tallied and the winners of the 2022 Dealerscope Awards have been decided. After compiling the nominations, we asked our readers to choose which products stand out in the consumer tech industry today. This year’s winners span a wide range of categories, from audio and video to smart home and accessories. Each and every device chosen by our readers is well-designed, state-of-the-art and practical for today’s consumer.

01 | Speck’s Presidio Perfect-Clear Compatible with MagSafe from Speck | Perfect-Clear Compatible with MagSafe is the clearest protective case that Speck has ever designed. This slim case protects phones against drops from up to 13 feet with clear impact technology and is designed with magnets that work reliably with all Apple MagSafe accessories. It also has a built-in antimicrobial treatment from Microban that delivers 99 percent reduction in stain and odor-causing bacteria on the case.

02 | Sleep Number Climate360 | This smart bed is the first-ever bed that uses advanced temperature technology to create a personalized and responsive microclimate while also actively responding to adjust your comfort and telling you exactly how long and how well you slept. It is designed with a reliance on science to help reduce core body temperature throughout the night and effortlessly work with your natural sleep cycles for deeper, more restful sleep.

03 | NeoBuds S | The NeoBuds S has a hybrid driver that’s complete with a Knowles balanced armature driver, equipped with patented digital crossovers which can control each sound unit for precise frequencies. Every note is clear and audible, and users can select their ideal mode based on different types of music and scenarios and can control settings via Edifier Connect App.

04 | FIBBR’s Ultra 8K II 56Gbps Fiber Optic HDMI Cable | The Ultra 8K II 56Gbps Fiber Optic HDMI Cable from FIBBER is the fastest HDMI cable available, which delivers 17 percent more bandwidth compared to the HDMI 2.1 protocol specification. Ultra 8K II blends FIBBR’s self-developed high-performance FH20t/FH20r chip and proprietary design technology to reliably deliver the highest quality picture and sound to the display and boasts a -20°C~70°C operating temperature range.

05 ARC Open-Ear True Wireless Earbuds | ARC is Cleer’s new open-ear true wireless earbud. Featuring an ear-hook design and a flexible hinge for a comfortable secure fit, these open-ear earbuds do not cover the ear canal; instead they channel audio directly into the ear. This unique design allows users to maintain spatial awareness and still enjoy your audio. The Arc also boasts 16.2mm neodymium drivers that beam audio toward the ears.

06 | GE Lighting’s Cync Recessed Smart LED Downlight Fixtures | Cync Full Color Smart LED ultra-slim downlight fixtures from GE Lighting, a Savant company, easily install in the ceiling and deliver the full-color spectrum, supporting a healthy sleep/wake cycle and enabling homeowners to create scenes for any event. Cync LED also offers control via the Cync app and by voice, using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

07 | The Beko DDT39434X | Part of the Series 39 model family, the Beko DDT39434X is one of nine dishwashers in a new line that features CornerIntense, a proprietary technology that replaces the customary circular-motion spray arm with a rectangular-motion spray arm that can deploy water and detergent to every spot in the washtub, even the corners. It also uses 50 percent less water and 25 percent less electricity than conventional dishwashers.

08 | Equator 14 cu.ft. Garage Convertible Refrigerator/Freezer | Serving as the ultimate appliance for all cooling needs, the Equator ConServ Garage Convertible Refrigerator/Freezer allows for flexible use as either a refrigerator or an upright freezer, which is useful in places like a garage. The exterior has a sleek stainless finish, as well as an external grip handle for comfort. Additional features include the frost-free design, digital door display, door ajar alarm, Fast Freeze mode, a 45dB sound cap and the four adjustable glass shelves..

09 | The Sharp SDW6767HS Smart Dishwasher | The Sharp SDW6767HS Smart Dishwasher brings smart home features to a versatile dishwashing experience. Along with six washing cycles, seven options, washing power and an adjustable third rack, the SDW6767HS includes responsive washing cycles work with smart sensors to optimize performance automatically. It’s Alexa-friendly and comes in at 45dBA for a lack of noise.

10 | Edifier Stax Spirit S3 | Combining Snapdragon audio, Bluetooth 5.2, three planar tech patents, one planar innovation and hi-res technology, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 offers users high fidelity, high resolution and lossless audio. The S3 features a foldable portable design with sturdy carbon fiber ear housings and replaceable earmuffs. It also weighs very little at around 329g, making for an easy wearing experience.

11 | The Edifier MP230 Tabletop Bluetooth Speaker | The Edifier MP230 Tabletop Bluetooth Speaker was carefully designed with no hard edges or corners and a weight of 850g. The MP230 is rigid and stable to avoid resonance in use. Also sounds from a wooden enclosure comply with the environmentally friendly and sustainable society values from Edifier.

12 | Sony 55-in. Class BRAVIA XR A95K Series OLED TV | Powered by the intelligent Cognitive Processor XR, the Bravia XRA5K’s OLED color performance features QD-OLED panel technology and XR Triluminos Max. The TV contains up to 200 percent as much color brightness of a conventional OLED TV, all being surrounded by the pure black and controlled shadows of XR OLED Contrast Pro.

12 | Sony 55-in. Class BRAVIA XR A95K Series OLED TV | Powered by the intelligent Cognitive Processor XR, the Bravia XRA5K’s OLED color performance features QD-OLED panel technology and XR Triluminos Max. The TV contains up to 200 percent as much color brightness of a conventional OLED TV, all being surrounded by the pure black and controlled shadows of XR OLED Contrast Pro.

13 | Sony 65-in. Class BRAVIA XR X95K Series Mini LED TV | XR65X95K | The Bravia XR X95K features a precisely controlled Mini LED display, powered by the intelligent Cognitive Processor XR. Driven by XR Backlight Master Drive, thousands of tiny, high-density Mini LEDs in precisely-controlled zones create dynamic range that allow for deep blacks, natural colors and phenomenal brightness.

14 | Sony WH-1000XM5 | The WH-1000XM5 headphones from Sony are designed with distraction-free listening in mind. Two processors control eight microphones for noise cancellation and call quality, and with a newly developed driver, DSEE Extreme, the WH-1000XM5 headphones provide an ideal audio experience.

CE RETAIL

Forecast for Black Friday

Chip shortages and economic
changes weigh into tech retail

By Egon Sanders

As we head into the fourth quarter of 2022, it seems clear that the global economy — and that of the U.S. in particular — remains on a fairly intense roller coaster ride. While the strain of the pandemic has eased somewhat, new waves of variants and mandates mean that its potential disruptions remain lurking in the shadows. The situation around the microchip shortage, while improving, remains not entirely resolved. The war in Ukraine has of course had massive ripple effects on the global economy, impacting oil prices and, thereby essentially every industry on the planet. With gas prices soaring earlier in the year, and rising inflation affecting prices on everything from groceries to health insurance, we’re still very much “in the thick of it,” so to speak.

The results so far have been a slower year for sales across many retail sectors, including technology. Sales numbers for consumer electronics in June 2022, for instance, show that revenue was 17 percent, below what it was in June 2021. “Under the weight of higher prices and slower demand, sales right now are not great,” said Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst at the NPD Group. He attributes this lessened demand to a number of factors: the recent history of higher costs and pricing pressure on consumers, consumers generally spending significantly more on tech over the past several years, and, of course, the myriad disruptions to the global economy.

Sony’s sleek answer to Apple’s popular AirPods, the LinkBuds S feature high-quality noise cancelling combined with natural ambient sound, and audio quality that adapts to whatever environment you’re in.

As such, Arnold expects there’s a good chance that this Black Friday, and the holiday season more broadly, will be one marked by more sales and promotions than in years past. “I think the way to drive volume, and to get some of these categories back into the black from the red, is through promotions — trying to eke out whatever demand is in the market right now,” he said. “I think we’ll see a bit more of a promotional environment this Black Friday, maybe more than what we’ve seen over the last two cycles. It just feels like a lot of these factors are all sort of coming to a head at the same time.” He points out that while supply constraints and the difficulty of getting products into the market haven’t been totally resolved, many of those challenges are on their way to getting better.

Of course, considering data points from the year to date can also be instructive when trying to predict what this year’s Black Friday will look like. A notable fact about this year’s Amazon Prime Day, for instance, was that discounts in the video game space were few and far between. While previous years saw strong discounts on hardware like the Nintendo Switch, this year’s Prime Day gaming discounts were relegated to a handful of games and refurbished console bundles. Likewise, the ongoing GPU shortage meant that PC gamers didn’t have much to write home about either. With the global chip supply shortage expected to abate somewhat as we draw closer to the end of the year, however, it seems likely that we’ll finally start to see more supply of both game consoles and GPUs, which could lead to solid discounts throughout the space.

“This is one of those categories … where the supply has been constrained, and so while I don’t know if we’ll see discounts on those products, I can definitely see a scenario where there’s high demand and people are buying those products this holiday because they’re a little more available,” said Arnold.

High-end television sets could be poised for a big year this Black Friday as well. Midrange sets have seen some solid discounts in 2022: in fact, from January through April 2022, 71 percent of TVs purchased in the U.S. were sold on promotion, according to The NPD Group, far exceeding the 18 percent of units sold on promotion for the same time period last year (as well as exceeding pre-pandemic levels, which saw 59 percent of unit sales discounted in 2019). Prices on high-end OLED and QLED sets have remained fairly stable throughout 2022 so far, however; with manufacturers having released 2022 flagship models around mid-year; especially given Black Friday’s historically strong emphasis on flatscreens, expect to see plenty of promotion around then.

LG’s G2 is one of the best OLED TVs on the market, with excellent display quality and gaming features, as well as razor-thin industrial design. A mid-2022 release, it’s possible that the first chance for consumers to get one on sale will be via a Black Friday discount.

“There’s a big portion of consumers who don’t yet own OLED sets, and we know that TVs drive a lot of sales and that people are looking for TV sales around Black Friday — so I still think that’s an area to watch,” said Arnold.

He also expects portable audio in general and headphones in particular to have a strong Black Friday as well, in part due to their lower price point: you can by a high-end pair of headphones for less than a high-end television set, and price conscious consumers who may be buying gifts for loved ones might tend towards product categories that are easier on their already over-strained wallets.

Still, while Arnold sees big potential for this Black Friday, he still believes there are too many unknowns to be sure just yet. “This Black Friday could be stronger than last year’s because of really compelling promotions; people are looking for deals at Black Friday, and the economic situation says that people are really looking for deals. I think it could certainly cut that way,” he said. “But if the promotions aren’t as attractive, or there’s a downturn in the economy, I think it makes that proposition a little bit more difficult.”

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is the highest-spec model in the Xbox lineup, and has been difficult to find since its release in November of 2020. With supply starting to finally catch up, it’s sure to be a hit this holiday season — whether it sees any significant discounts, however, remains to be seen.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • This Black Friday will be one marked by more sales and promotions than in years past.

  • An easing in the chip shortage will mean that there will be more discounts on both game consoles and GPUs.

  • Portable audio in general will have strong sales in part due to their lower price point.

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

Post-Pandemic Retail in Europe

The evolution of omnichannel —
according to Currys’ CEO Alex Baldock

By Richard Barnes

U.K.-based Currys is a leading omnichannel retailer of technology products and services, operating online and through 829 stores in seven countries. The group’s operations are supported by a sourcing office in Hong Kong, state-of-the-art repair facilities and an extensive distribution network to facilitate delivery to stores and homes.

According to the group’s mission statement, when Currys talks about “omnichannel,” it’s not just about customers having a choice of going into a store or buying online. It’s about everything in unison. For example, a customer in the store can now use an in-store tablet to access the group’s full range online then order a delivery to their home. This allows every store, whatever its size, to offer the full range to every customer. On the flip side, customers can order online and collect in store, often within an hour. And if a customer buys online, he or she can still use in-store services to help them installation, set up, repair, trade in and recycle their tech.

At the 2022 World Retail Congress in Italy, Currys CEO Alex Baldock outlined the group’s strategy and philosophy with regard to omnichannel in the post-Covid era.

Demand, Cost and Competition Headwinds

“We all know retail will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50,” said Baldock. According to the CEO, when it comes to retail post pandemic — particularly omnichannel retail — it’s windy out there. Store-based retail is facing into demand, cost and competition headwinds as consumers fundamentally change the way they shop. Retail is getting less of the consumer’s disposable dollars, and softening demand means there is als less to go around with many more mouths to feed.

“There’s still over capacity in retail – too much store space — and online has added to that capacity without adding to overall demand; it hasn’t been incremental,” said Baldock. “The pandemic has accelerated this already stark change. New players in the delivery sector have changed consumer expectations of convenience and immediate gratification: I want it, I want it now, I want it without any of the friction of delay. The customer is delighted; all this is great for them. Now they have loads more choices, convenience and value for money, with retailers kept on their toes and having to pull out their A-game. So, what’s an omnichannel retailer got to offer? It risks being an intermediary between supplier and consumer, a bland box shifter: that’s neither a secure nor a lucrative existence today.

“So, do we have to content ourselves with this diminished margin and precarious role? No. I am bullish on large omnichannel retail if done right. Big tech retailers like Best Buy, FNAC Darty and Currys have faced into the big question: ‘What is our purpose?’ The answer starts with the customer, as it must, and what do they value and what are they willing to pay for. If you overlay this with your strengths as a large omnichannel retailer, where these two things overlap, that’s where omnichannel can play and win.”

Making Tech Easy to Buy

All the big global tech retail players have boiled this down to one central consumer insight: customers find tech exciting, but they also find it confusing, as well as expensive.

Today, technology is a sustainably larger market than it was pre-pandemic. People’s attitudes towards tech have changed, as it’s become more central to their lives, keeping them connected, fed, clean, entertained and allowing them to work flexibly. However, tech customers still need help to choose the right tech, afford it and get the most out of it.

“At Currys we are building on this through our omnichannel model, making it easier for customers to shop and giving every customer, whether they’re shopping online or in-store, the benefits of both channels,” said Baldock.

Of course, it’s important to never be out of stock for the customer, to have the right product for the right customer somewhere in the network and to offer 24/7 help.

“Eight out of 10 of our customers cite employees as the reason for a great experience – making them our greatest advantage,” said Baldock. “And we don’t just offer this great colleague experience in-store. Customers love our ShopLive video calling solution, with 34,000 of them using it each week to speak to an instore colleague – accessing our expert help and advice from the comfort of their own sofa. Through stores and online working together, customers can also get their hands-on products faster.

Big tech retailers like Best Buy, FNAC Darty and Currys have faced into the big question, ‘What is our purpose?

Building Loyalty

Omnichannel shopping and frequency are key loyalty drivers, with customers who shop across both stores and online 27 percent more likely to return. However, services, and credit especially, are the strongest loyalty and frequency drivers of all, said Baldock.

The CEO says his group plans to go even further in this respect: “We plan to provide even more services that will help customers to afford and enjoy their technology for life and as the market leader, and the only remaining omnichannel specialist, we are uniquely positioned to do this. With over 9.5 million services customers in the U.K., we have a huge opportunity to build even stickier omnichannel propositions that build greater loyalty, and the possibilities seem endless.”

He concluded: “It’s fair to say, for all the headwinds out there, we love omnichannel. When you look at tech retail in every market, omni wins. At Currys, our omnichannel strategy to date has led to happier colleagues, happier customers (who are more likely to return) and a financially stronger business. And we’ve only just begun. There’s so much more yet to come.”

So who are going to be the winners and who are going be the next blockbusters in the next years? Some might think it’s going to be the big pure play gorillas, but according to Baldock, the evidence is pointing towards omnichannel retailers who give customers “the best of both the store and online worlds.”

According to Currys’ Research:

  • 51 percent of people in the U.K. say they prefer to shop both online and instore

  • 9 percent prefer to shop only in-store

  • 40 percent preferto shop only online

TV SHOOTOUT

Crowning the Kings of TV

The 2022 TV Shootout found
the best of 4K and 8K TV

By Alec Paige

The 2022 TV Shootout© took place on July 30 and 31, 2022, with judges granting awards for various settings and the coveted King of TV© prize for both 4K and 8K entries. These judges spent hours each day inspecting technical and visual details among the product displays, testing various modes such as SDR, HDR and different levels of room light. As they tested these modes and settings, the judges marked thoughts and critiques on their ballots, eventually passing them on to vote counters. The ballots were tallied, and the awards were announced.

The televisions involved in this year’s Shootout were from companies Sony, LG and Samsung, with each supplying new products in both the 4K and 8K competitions. In the 4K category — which took place on the first day of the Shootout — Samsung entered its QN65S95B and QN65QN95B, LG entered the OLED65G2PUA and Sony supplied its XR65A95K and XR65X95K. Each of those televisions were of 4K resolution but not all were built the same. The Samsung QN65S95B, Sony XR65A95K and LG OLED65G2PUA are all OLED televisions, but the Sony XR65X95K is Mini LED and the Samsung QN65QN95B is QLED. There is variation in cost as well, but the judges were looking specifically at the technology and visuals in their considerations.

LG wins the title of King of 8K TV from Zohn.

The Sony XR65A95K ended up taking home every prize for 4K, on the first day of the Shootout. As well as gaining accolades like Best 4K Living Room TV, the judges crowned the Sony XR65A95K as 2022’s King of 4K TVs. The race was very tight, but from the beginning the judges knew that would be the case. Robert Zohn of Value Electronics, the host of the event, said before the first day of competition started, “It’s hard to pick a winner. They’re all winners.” And while the LG and Samsung contenders were strong competitors, Sony was the big winner on the first day of the TV Shootout.

The second day was a fresh start of new televisions for consideration, but this time each product was 8K. Same as before, Sony, LG and Samsung were the companies putting forward TVs for inspection, but, due to the fact that 8K technology is not as presently widespread as 4K, there were less televisions. In the 4K category there were five TVs; in the 8K there were three. Those three were the LG OLED88Z2PUA, the Sony XR85Z9K and the Samsung QN85QN900B. The LG television is OLED, the Samsung is QLED and the Sony is Mini LED. That means that each 8K TV considered by the judges involves different technology in their displays.

The LG OLED88Z2PUA was the big winner on the second and final day of 2022’s TV Shootout, taking home the grand prize of King of 8K TVs. The television also won the subcategories of Best 8K Home Theater TV and Best 8K HDR TV, but it didn’t sweep like the Sony XR65A95K did the previous day in the 4K competition. Sony also managed to snag a subcategory prize, with its QLED XR85Z9K taking home the title of Best 8K HDR TV.

Sony accepts the title of the King of 4K TV from Robert Zohn of Value Electronics.

This demonstrates how tough the TV Shootout competition really is; on both days the margin of victory in various subcategories — and even the King of TVs award — was within decimal points. It also shows that even though there are winners among the competition’s televisions, each is capable of strong visual performance, especially in certain modes and settings. Among the products presented by LG, Sony and Samsung at this year’s TV Shootout, consumers searching for a great looking TV will certainly be able to find one that suits their personal taste and needs.

“TV Shootout” and “King of TVs” are registered trademarks of Robert Zohn.

Photography Courtesy of Mark Jessamy Photography

Thanks to our sponsors
LG, Sony, MetraAV and Austere

APPLIANCES

Chill Out with this Refrigerator Tech

Appliances that bolster efficiency
with connectivity, AI and more

By Erinn Loucks

Refrigerators might not look like they’ve undergone a revolution in recent years, but in fact technology has truly brought these essential appliances up to par. From interior tech that offers precise temperature control to appliances that can act as a whole home control hub, refrigerators are officially part of the smart home universe.

True Residential’s 36-in. Refrigerator
with Bottom Freezer

True Residential now offers a 36-in. refrigerator with a bottom freezer, in both solid and glass door options and an interior made from 300-series stainless steel. With 22.6 cubic feet of interior space, the new units can accommodate a full 18-in.-by-26-in. commercial sheet pan. There are four adjustable half-width glass shelves and one adjustable full-width glass shelf and one fixed full-width glass shelf, each framed with stainless steel. Three soft-close produce bins allow for more usable space, and the Intuitive True Precision Control and readout provides for digital accuracy. Dual compressors and evaporators provide dedicated systems for the refrigerator and freezer, and the more efficient and eco-friendly R600a refrigerant for consistent temperatures. In addition, the freezer’s built-in ice maker can produce up to three pound of prism-shaped ice per day with a storage capacity of more than five pounds. MSRP starts at $19,499.

Samsung French Door Family Hub Refrigerator

Now with Alexa built in, Samsung’s Family Hub combines the practicality of an efficient and powerful refrigerator with today’s technology. The Family Hub refrigerator ultimately acts as a control panel for Samsung smart appliances and devices, as well as a smart panel for sharing pictures and content, leaving notes and syncing calendars. This new 3-Door French Door model is redesigned with a nearly 27 cu. ft. interior and a large capacity ice maker that holds up to 4.2 lbs. of ice. Family Hub now boasts connectivity with Samsung’s SmartThings devices, more music and language content from Alexa and Samsung TV Plus in select Family Hub refrigerators. A recently announced feature is the art mode, which is accessed through an app called Art Gallery that turns the refrigerator’s screen into a work of art. Samsung also upgraded the fridge’s internal camera technology of the fridge, which can scan food labels to keep track of food and drink quantities and suggest recipes based on the ingredients available. This update not only enhances the camera coverage, but it also improves on the food recognition algorithm and food catalog to identify more items. The refrigerator begins at an MSRP of $3,059.

Dometic DrawBar

Loved by those with small kitchens or bars, the Dometic DrawBar is a refrigerated drawer that fits five wine bottles, including those with larger bodies or longer necks, and includes a user-friendly control panel offering five preset temperatures for red, white and sparkling wines. The DrawBar can be installed as a single element or in multiples and is designed to integrate with standard, 24-in. wide cabinets. This smart cooling drawer is also equipped with a humidity tray that maintains optimal humidity level inside the cabinet. The cooler also includes slide-out access with soft LED illumination, which fades in and out as the drawer is opened and closed. Recently made available in the U.S., the DrawBar is available for an MSRP of $900.

Sub-Zero Designer Undercounter Refrigeration

The newly expanded Sub-Zero Designer Undercounter Refrigeration Collection offers advanced preservation technology to perfectly preserve items at their optimal temperatures with precise control that keeps the interior temperature within one degree of its set-point. Wi-Fi enabled features allow for remote temperature control, door-ajar notifications and service diagnostics assistance – all from a mobile device. The recent expansion — now available in 15-in. and ADA height models — includes a beverage center, wine storage, refrigerator/freezer with ice maker, an indoor refrigerator and outdoor refrigerator. Intuitive touch controls offer ergonomic access and match the full-size Designer Series of Refrigeration for a consistent look. The MSRP starts at $2,690.

Signature Kitchen Suite 24-in.
Undercounter Wine Refrigerator

Signature Kitchen Suite’s new undercounter wine refrigerator is unique because of its Wine Cave technology, which minimizes vibration and temperature fluctuations, limits light exposure and optimizes humidity to better protect wines. With Signature Kitchen Suite‘s Signature Sommelier app, wine collectors can manage their personal wine collections with photos of labels. The app allows wine collectors to even note the shelf placement of a bottle in the new undercounter and full-sized wine column models. Powered by Wine Ring’s patented machine learning, this mobile app is the first smart software that learns preferences and makes recommendations, including food and wine pairings, for individuals and groups based on the wines stored in the user’s cellar. UMRP starts at $3,499.

UNBOXED

From Selfie Sticks
to Selfie Drones

A review of the Neo Air Selfie Drone

By Brenda Thelusca

Remember the selfie stick craze, and how people went a little overboard and got selfie sticks banned in most major amusement parks? It was a big social media boom, but people mostly went back to relying on their arms and front cameras on smartphones for a selfie. What if the next new selfie craze will be with drones instead of sticks? I had the opportunity to try out the Neo Air Selfie Drone to see.

Hands-On with the Neo Air

The first thing I noticed when I got this drone was how small it was. The Neo Air drone and the travel case are small enough to fit in my clutch purse so I didn’t have to carry a camera bag. It could easily fit in my hand, and I was impressed at how light the drone was. I could see myself traveling with the drone, because it won’t weigh me down and it doesn’t take up too much space. Setting it up wasn’t a problem because there was a QR code that took me straight to the app in the App Store. When I opened the app for the first time, I was given a quick tutorial on how to connect my device to the drone. After 10 minutes, I was ready to take my first drone selfie.

I was able to take pictures and record videos, but my experience with the app wasn’t the greatest. Sometimes it would crash when I’m trying to switch to different controls, and it was hard to tell if the picture was taken. I would click the camera button multiple times, but the app would freeze sometimes while taking the picture. Strangely, I didn’t have these issues when recording video footage, but when the drone was hovering, the footage started to get a little shaky. If you want to move around in your video, you can set the drone to a face detection feature and the drone will follow your face to keep you centered in the camera lens.

While using my phone to control the drone, I got a bit confused about why the drone would have a delay on certain commands. At times the drone would continue to fly in one direction even though I stopped moving the controls. Having this delay caused the drone to fly off on its own — and it almost crashed into me — but after moving out of the way, I quickly landed the drone. I assumed the lack of response to my controls was due to a low battery, because the drone was perfectly working a few minutes prior. The app would notify me of the battery status and not take any more commands until I charged the device. (Charging the Neo Air was no hassle since its travel case acts as a charger as well, and the drone can reach full charge in a matter of minutes.)

A Little Drone Fun

One feature I did have fun with was how the drone will easily land in the palm of your hand. I was a bit scared to try out this feature since the drone has moving blades, but after it landed in my hand for the first time I quickly got used to it. The drone gently landed in my hand and the blades stopped instantly. Thanks to the Neo Air’s fully-enclosed case design, the blades won’t hit your hand when it lands, and it makes the device safe to fly indoors. This feature is useful when you want to take a quick selfie in a crowded spot where a selfie stick would just become a bother.

All the pictures taken on the drone were saved to my device and the micro-SD card in the drone. I liked that the drone already came with a micro-SD card, because that saved me the extra hassle of having to buy my own if I wanted internal storage. The one downside is that I will still have to buy a card adapter if I want to save or view the pictures on my computer instead of my phone. But the Neo Air makes up for this by giving me the ability to share videos directly to social media from my phone. All pictures and videos were saved in the app and on my device, so if the file doesn’t save to my phone properly, I can always use the app as a backup.

If you want to record video for Reels or TikTok, this drone could help capture your subject — or you — without anyone having to be behind the camera. I could see social media influencers using this more often to film their TikToks or Reels out in public. If the small issues I had on the app could be fixed, the future for the Neo Air Selfie drone looks bright. Hopefully, this trend of selfie drones doesn’t cause the device to be banned from almost every amusement park like its predecessor. The Neo Air selfie drone can be purchased online and goes for $159.95.

Looking Ahead

As far as emerging trends, its safe to expect a continuation of what weve seen in recent years, particularly as it relates to the pandemic. One thing were seeing [at NPD] is that consumers are more focused on health and wellness than they have been historically, and with that in mind, Apple Watches and other fitness trackers have performed decently, and Id expect that to continue — especially with some new Google smartwatches potentially coming to market,” said Arnold. He points out that virtual reality had a stellar holiday in 2021, and that recent news about new headsets potentially coming to market could drive up interest for holiday VR sales in 2022. While gaming wasnt as big during 2021s holiday season as it was in 2020 — the real pandemic gaming surge year — he expects it will have another strong holiday season, should there be enough supply of the game consoles, which in recent years have struggled to keep up with demand.

While trend forecasting can be tricky business, and likely depends on how things pan out over the next few months, its worth remembering that were still in the collective consciousness of the pandemic era. If infection and hospitalization numbers continue to move in a positive direction, Arnold points to a possible lift in sales of things like home security cameras and other home security accessories, as people potentially make plans to do more traveling and spend more time outside the house than they have in recent years.

Weve spent a lot of time buying gadgets, but what are the products that add more value to our lives?” said Arnold. I think that will be one of the trends we see at the holidays.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The Neo Air Drone is faster than a selfie stick to use when trying to capture footage.

  • When using the Neo Air Selfie drone, I would suggest users plan out their shot before flying the drone in the air, since the estimated flight time is six minutes.

  • All pictures and videos were saved in the app and on the user’s smartphone.

STAT SHOT

CE Industry By The Numbers

COMPILED BY SAM HITT

10 million…

… foldable phones have been shipped globally by Samsung. This figure shows the immense rise in popularity of the eccentric devices, which are both cutting edge but reminiscent of the early 2000s flip phone trend.

$3.53 billion…

… evaluation was put on the global robotics market in 2020 with that figure expected to reach $30.05 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.

4.1 percent…

… is the average wage hike expected to be rolled out by employers in 2023. However, with CPI reaching above 9 percent consumer purchasing power will be unable to keep up.

4,500 EVs…

have been ordered by Walmart from EV manufacturer Canoo to be used in the last-mile delivery of online orders.

5.5 percent…

growth in spending is expected from the back-to-school sector in 2022. This is a dramatic decrease from the 13.1 percent growth experienced by the sector in 2021; however, it is to be expected considering high gas prices and rising inflation have dampened consumer spending.

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