But what is interesting with these long-cycle products is the progress in the digital technology embedded in them.
In fact, an entirely new category appeared around five years ago. While none of us were watching too closely, a number of companies, including Bosch in Germany, Husqvarna in Sweden, John Deere in the USA and Honda in Japan, launched autonomous mowers. A quick search on Amazon France (this is for my sister, remember) shows that the online retailer offers just under 1,700 models of lawnmower, of which about 200 are autonomous robots, or just under 12% of the total. Priced in the €750 to €2,500 range, they are positioned below the ride-on category and above the models you push by hand (yes, she is getting one of these).
The cut certainly isn’t perfect, as users and consumer magazine Which? report. However, the on-board technology is pretty impressive as this video shows – from battery to sensors, computing power (to work out the most logical path around the garden) to security (a PIN code prevents unauthorized use) and safety (the engine stops if the machine is lifted off the ground). Unsurprisingly, some models are even controlled by a smartphone app. So, as John Deere says on its website, one of these robots means “you can enjoy the more important aspects of life”.
What is remarkable is how quickly this industry has built upon its traditional focus of mechanics and engineering to embrace a digital strategy, one that accounts for just under 12% of its product portfolio (at least on Amazon France).
Perhaps we should not be overly surprised, given that the leading players in this market come from some of the countries best prepared for the new digital economy. The World Economic Forum (WEF), in a survey on digital readiness published last year, ranked Sweden third, the USA fifth and Japan tenth. Surprisingly, Germany is not in the top 10, yet Bosch, headquartered near Stuttgart, has a strong record in IoT and digital innovation, driven by its dedicated unit Bosch Software Innovations.
No wonder, then, that the business is firmly on the radar of many analyst firms tracking best practices in digital maturity. Analysys Mason is one such company: its Digital Economy Readiness Index (DERI) has been running for about five years. In 2015, it was already tracking 479 digital economy initiatives by 35 of the largest telecom operators worldwide. In 2016, Analysys Mason launched its Digital eXperience Index (DXI) in acknowledgment that digital maturity could succeed only if the user experience was central to the operator’s strategy.
However digital the product might be, what counts is the benefit to the user – that’s just as true for communications services as it is for a well-mown lawn.
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Author: Vincent Rousselet
Vincent is founder and MD of V Rousselet & Associates. With more than 20 years of strategic and operational marketing experience, predominantly in IT and telecommunications, he is an experienced global marketer and strategist who has worked with some of the world’s most recognizable organizations and brands in Europe, America and Asia. Vincent is passionate about customers, who must be at the heart of strategy and transformation.