Out & About: Whirlpool’s Washer/Dryer Touchscreen

I had Daddy’s Day Out this weekend, so the kids and I journeyed to Lowe’s to check out some tile for a back-portch-tiling-project.  I think that home improvement stores like this are ripe with interactive out-of-home opportunities, with all the DIY’ers and supplies and possibilities…there are only so many employees walking around who have expertise in your desired improvement area.  Here, technology could help bridge the gap and influence buying decisions in a sound, effective way.  I’ve played around with the “pick-your-paint” program on the computer in the paint section, but I haven’t seen anything else on the interactive front.  Until now.  Enter Whirlpool’s washer/dryer attempt at interactivity via this touchscreen (Yes, that is one of my sons saying “dad” over and over again – disregard that.):

So, let’s put it up against the scorecard and see how she does.

Purpose – as with any of these installations in retail environments, the purpose is to sell products and a clear way to sell products is to highlight all of the its benefits.  This particular touchscreen solution highlights clear benefits of the washer and dryer and ended up driving me deeper into the brand.  But quite honestly, I left more confused than educated.  It looked cool, but it really didn’t give me the information I wanted.  I believe products like washers and dryers need comparisons (against like products) to really make the most informed buying decision.  Without the help of a sales associate, I have no idea how this product rates against the others.  I only know that this is the best product on the floor, which I assumed of course, given that it was the only one that got special space-age, touchscreen love.

Drama – if I weren’t looking for it, I would have easily missed it.  And by “it,” I mean anything that looks touchable and interactable via touchscreen, because, well, that’s what I do.  If I were to watch 5 random people stop by this washer/dryer, I guarantee at least half would not know they could interact with the screen.  This small, little screen that hung over the washer/dryer.  Physical placement on the floor didn’t help matters either, because two washer/dryers over, there was a non-interactive, digital screen touting how great that one was.  I assumed since I couldn’t touch the other one that I couldn’t touch this one, but low and behold, I was wrong.  After realizing that this one was interactive, I thought the use of video avatars and the spacey animations were catchy, although I can’t find whether or not they’re on brand.  I have a feeling they were just catchy elements that they used to theme the experience.  For me, it seemed out of left field and after interacting with it, I found those elements distracting.

Usability – maybe it was my kids distracting me, but I had no idea where to begin and where to end in this experience.  While the content seemed to be bucketed in a logical manner, the content itself seemed very nebulous.  Once I got into one of the buckets of information, I didn’t know how much I could experience.  When I felt like each piece of content was “finished,” it wasn’t, and when when I wanted it to be finished, it kept going.  The spacey animations worked into the actual functionality of the experience, too, and it just made it more difficult to me than I felt like it needed to be.  I walked away from the experience thinking that they did this just to be cool.  And while I appreciate that, I don’t know how useful it really is to the intended audience.

Interactivity – everything was based on touch in this experience.  The screen itself was fairly responsive, but I think the content in the application slowed everything down, including responsiveness.  The content was probably a processor suck with rich graphics, video, and spacey animations.  As you can see in the demo, I pressed a couple of times without any immediate response.  I also didn’t know what all was “hot” (pressable) and not.

Information – the struggle with any “advertisement” in this open day and age is how in-your-face it is.  Brands are being recognized more and more by providing utility to consumers.  How useful is the information brought to me by brand X?  Does it make my life easier?  Is it helping me out?  Questions like this are dictating purchasing decisions.  Brands are getting credit without stuffing advertisements down your face.  Here, as a consumer, I recognized what Whirlpool is trying to do.  They’re trying to influence my purchasing decision.  But instead of telling me how great this product is, I want to know how it compares to similar products.  A comparison tool would be useful to me.  It would help my decision-making.  I appreciated “consumer reviews” in this experience, but I can’t tell whether they come from real people or from actors.  The production of the piece makes it seem like actors, which in turn, takes credibility away from what they’re saying.  If it were up to me, I would have gone a much simpler route (still maintaining quality production value) with real people and real problems and real comparisons.  I think that in-store experiences like this are going to hinge on reviews, thus making the experience inherently social, so brands will have to know what consumers are saying about them before-hand, good or bad.  This would just help frame how to present the content.  If Whirlpool thinks these are the best products ever and their audiences either disagree or don’t know about them, then those two insights should drive the content in the experience (and they might have – in fairness, I don’t know what drove their decisions to make any part of this experience.)  I checked out their Facebook page and they’re engaging with their fans on a customer-service basis only.  Sentiment seems to be mixed among the fraction of the community of 2,000+ who engages with them.  If I’m sitting in the room with the CMO, I’m telling him to get his social in order before embarking on an interactive out-of-home experience.  At least, set a strategy for social so you know how it plays into the entire brand experience, this included.

Personalization – this is a single-touch, single-user experience so there is a sense of personalization that comes along with this type of experience.  Beyond that, the experience had no other level of personalization.  This is a great opportunity for the brand to offer up some sort of discount to the user who interacts, either from the touchscreen itself or to the user’s mobile phone.  If, after seeing the information here, I wanted to buy one of these products, I should have a little incentive.  My personal golden ticket.

I’ve taken the grades out of this scorecard.  I just don’t think I have enough information to make responsible judgements.  That said, I wished for more in this experience.  I would not have made a decision to buy this product based on this experience, and if you go back to the original purpose that I believe drove this solution, it failed.  I’d love to see metrics on this and if it really impacted the bottom line.

I can’t say enough about creating toward objectives.  If the objective is to create awareness, go ahead, get crazy, you can do wild things if you want.  If the objective is to convert shoppers into buyers, laser-focus in on the best way to do that in today’s ecosystem-driven world.

2 thoughts on “Out & About: Whirlpool’s Washer/Dryer Touchscreen

  1. Dan Hagen

    Ok, I loved this Blog the best and yes, your son was by far the highlight!!!! HA. Nicely done!

  2. Thomas Dockter

    For me It looks like an interactive animation made for the web or CD distribution reused as a kiosk solution. It’s one of the bad examples where the content was not tailored to the medium.

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