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Christine RobinsPresident and CEOChar-Broil
As more home products become internet-connected and easily track customer behaviors, appliance brands are transforming into data companies. However, it’s no small task to make sense of the data collected in a way that enables marketers to create better customer experiences. Christine Robins, president and CEO of grill manufacturer Char-Broil, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about the challenge presented by the influx of data, and how Char-Broil is putting it to work for the brand.
eMarketer: How did Char-Broil enter the connected home space?
Christine Robins: Based on what consumers were telling us, long-duration cooking products have the most valuable potential for connectivity. If someone is just cooking a steak, which only takes seven minutes, it might take longer to get the mobile app set up than to just cook the steak. For a piece of meat that takes four to six hours, a connected device has real value. We offer smokers and roasters, so that’s where we decided to focus first.
eMarketer: How does the technology work?
Robins: It connects through the home Wi-Fi system, but it’s also cloud-based. Users don’t have to be in their backyard or within the 15-foot range that a Bluetooth connection requires to monitor it. The user could be at the coffee shop or grocery store and still monitor what’s going on at home.
We also wanted the technology to be smart, not just report data from the product to the phone. There’s intelligence to predict or alter the cook time, for example.
eMarketer: Has it been difficult to get a handle on all of the data being generated by the devices?
Robins: Making a gas grill requires mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and hard steel manufacturing capabilities. We don’t have data analysts and software developers. The skill set needed to develop these types of products is very different from what traditional appliance companies have inside their organizations.
We decided to partner with Dado Labs for the infrastructure that we needed. They designed the electronic module, all of the firmware, the cloud-based capabilities, the storage and the analytics components. They also helped us develop the mobile app.
eMarketer: How are marketers leveraging the data from these cookers to deliver better product experiences?
Robins: The app serves up recipes and generates recommended cooking times. Users can also make notes in it, and the device will remember that cooking a 4-pound roast takes 2.5 hours, so that next time it remembers and projects the same time estimate. There are intelligence, memory and social usability elements as well.
eMarketer: Do you envision any upselling or cross-selling campaigns that recommend accessories for the grill or coupons for related products?
Robins: We have the capability, but we’re not going to do that initially. We just want people to have a great brand experience without feeling bombarded.
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