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Top five trends driving future business operations of home care companies

Laundry washing is an everyday household activity that will change in the near future due to emerging mega-global trends. Companies across the globe have been working on new trends in the laundry industry and making technological breakthroughs to demonstrate their leadership in this sector. They are focusing on products with better performance in areas of smart digital technology and washing efficiency while also promoting healthy laundry practices.

Some of the global megatrends impacting the future of the laundry industry are population growth rate, demographic variation, change in consumer preference, urbanization, rapid technological advancements, natural resources depletion, climate change, and pollution, pandemics, and epidemics.

One of the core elements of laundry – “washing performance” is dependent upon mechanical operation, chemical action, power-energy output, and temperature variations. Various innovations are also driven by the environmental policies formulated by various countries with an aim to make the overall laundry cleaning process more pollution-free. Governmental and regulatory bodies have defined energy and eco-design labeling regulations under various products and consumer policies to guide these technology advancements. This translates to washing machines having to meet certain efficiency criteria.

FutureBridge has identified 5 top global trends and technologies which are going to shape the laundry industry in the future.

Sustainable solutions

The laundry segment includes detergents in liquid and powder form, detergent pod/tablets, fabric softeners, fragrance enhancers, and other washing additives. Detergents containing micro-organisms have gained importance to prevent the formation of biofilm and hygiene problems.

Impact

It is a conscious effort to make laundry practices as well as design the process of washing clothes, more sustainable and environmental-friendly. The stringent governmental norms for climate change and eco-conscious customers have encouraged the institutions to develop greener alternatives. But at the same time, many detergent intermediates are derived from petroleum products today which are active carbon contributors. In response to the growing regulatory and consumer pressure, major players have started launching products with biodegradable ingredients such as natural washing soda, coconut oil & mineral-based surfactants, zeolites, and plant-based enzymes. This trend is expected to grow big in the near and mid-term due to increased technological activities, wider access to raw materials, and higher investment.

Areas under development

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production of microbial detergents such as enzyme-based has increased such as Xpress detergent disinfectant, which is an auto-chlor ready to use solution that is EPA qualified for emerging viral pathogens. Future washing machines will have “hygiene” labeling on them to define their efficacy to remove micro-organisms. Researchers have found few prospective ingredients for surfactants such as algal oil, glycolipids, microbial surfactants from the sea and ocean. Sugar-based ingredients from crop residue in the bio-refinery process such as glutamic acid, aspartic acid, succinic acid, and itaconic acid, are also gaining importance as an additive in detergents. Raw materials such as silicones and ter-polymers are also used for the cross-functionality of detergent to enhance its performance. As per the new strict regulations by REACH, maintaining the efficacy of cleaning products based on natural ingredients has become more relevant. The liquid detergent space has turned its attention to a new ingredient – rapeseed oil (non-GMO) that offers low foaming properties.

Businesses

Major global brands such as Unilever, Procter, and Gamble, Kao International, Henkel, E.U.G group, and Clorox are working towards advancing the technology in renewable sources for detergents to create opportunities for vertical integration across the value chain (raw material producers, formulators, and marketers).

Major players are increasing the share of recycled material across their entire product portfolio and many packaging solutions include recycled plastics. Henkel used almost 700 million bottles made of 100 percent recycled plastics for Laundry & Home Care products in Europe. P&G aims to re-invent its detergent brand Ariel to consume 50% fewer resources such as energy and water. With that, the company is also taking on more bio-based content such as tide PURCLEAN to build trust among consumers.

Conclusion

Future consumers will be more aware and well-informed about conducting laundry in a sustainable way keeping hygiene factors in mind. Industry players are expected to continually increase their efforts in the coming years towards commercializing natural, safe and sustainable solutions which provide complete transparency to customers and regulators at the same time.

Smart/digital laundry

Digital technologies are poised to play the role of a key enabler towards the future of customer-centricity. Innovative washing machines are equipped to sterilize the clothes and kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Increased penetration of automation has given the opportunity to the consumer to control the appliances using remote or smartphone remotely. A user can schedule the cleaning phase even without being in the house. This leads to the introduction of sensors incorporated in the machine for identifying fabric type, load size, soil level and type, temperature among other factors.

Impact

Efficient washing machines are the need of the hour which should have low electricity and water consumption rate per wash cycle. Consumers prefer washing machines that can work on ‘’autopilot’’ mode that lets the machine decide how to do the wash and adjust with variations without any operator intervention.

Areas under development

Future washing machine is going to have a self-cleaning program to prevent biofilm formation after cleaning. Internet of things is also coming into the picture as future clothing is going to be tagged with GPS tags which will have certain computational powers and will record the details of the location where it is worn. Then, during laundry treatment with the help of radiofrequency identifications (RFID) sensors, the washing machine will program itself to which particular type of wash should be given. For example, if a garment has been worn during jogging or trekking, the machine identifies the type of soil on it and will allow the machine to predict what kind of treatment is needed.

Businesses

Some of the major global brands active in the digital journey include Samsung, Haier, IFB, LG, GE, Panasonic, and whirlpool. Samsung has launched an artificial intelligence-equipped washing machine customized with 2000 combination wash for consumers using machine learning. It is compatible with Samsung’s smart things application for smartphones. It has hygiene steam technology to remove allergens and bacteria. Samsung also launched a 2-in-1 washing machine named FlexWash with front and top load (hybrid model) in which a large drum is used for heavily soiled clothes and a small one for delicate clothes. LG too launched a product on a similar concept named TwinWash. Whirlpool launched a top load washing machine with a removable agitator which consumers can fix as per their convenience and choice of fabric. LG, Haier, and Whirlpool have introduced heat pump dryers in the washing machine which is 30% more energy-efficient than conventional electricity and gas dryers.

Conclusion

Digital-powered smart technologies are going to be revolutionary in the coming years. These products could deliver more reliable, more effective, and quicker results. Fundamentally, a home appliance performing the task with minimal supervision and with minimal effort is needed. With the rapid population growth and increase in dispensable income, consumer preference has changed with time.

Business model

The laundry segment has become competitive with various technologies and every major brand wants to showcase its leadership in this sector. New business models are also emerging depending upon geography and consumer preference. Since the sector has been witnessing changes at a great pace, the companies realize the need to evolve and strategize their working model for going ahead.

Impact

The strategic partnership among various firms has helped in investment for new machinery, semi-automation, innovation, and Research and development. Manufacturers have been restructuring their supply chain and distribution network. As COVID-19 has increased the lead time and freight cost, they are looking for more automation and less human intervention.

Areas under development

Researchers have been trying to shift the washing machine industry from a linear economy to a circular economy model by increasing durability, reliability and postponing its replacement. Modifications are being worked out by major players such as inculcating environmental norms and recycling methods for the product-service model. Firms have to redesign their supply chain, in order to facilitate and encourage the return of products from the user to the manufacturer.

Businesses

With the strong presence of laundry products and machines over the eCommerce platforms and partnerships, companies now have the potential to reach every household. In some countries such as the USA, Canada, and European Union are offering a free wash or a discount on a laundry service to new customers through digital marketing platforms. Pick up and delivery services are on the rise, many laundromats such as Super Suds in Canada doing this. Few companies are using postcard marketing in which discount on free first service of laundry, easy bookings, referral program, and the free sample is delivered at home. Laundry service providers such as Wash club, Linux Cleaner, Hamperville, Next Cleaners have launched their own on-demand laundry app based on on-site and in-site/ laundromat services. Customers get push notifications from these applications to keep them up to date. Another model is aggregation/ marketplace laundry service in which a third party can have information about the business owners. The marketplace operator manages the payment that is sent out to the businesses.

Conclusion

The development of innovative on-demand apps is increasing at a drastic level. Companies are offering hassle-free services that can be managed with few clicks. In order to stand firm in the competition, employing the right marketing strategies for giving the business better visibility is inevitable. With the focus on the circular economy, competition can shift from a price-product model to more of a value-service-based model.

Waterless

Wet cleaning has traditionally been an important part of washing performance. With growing awareness of water scarcity and conservation, the need for minimal water-based washing is indeed going to be a reality in the years to come. The development of portable machines utilizing charged air particles for cleaning with electrostatic action and air-dried fabrics that can reduce the regular washing needs is increasing.

Impact

Water-less washing machine technology can cut down the amount of water used by up to 90%. A significant reduction in utilization of water, energy, and detergents occurs than the conventional washing machines. Water-less washing machine technology also saves the operational cost of water and electricity by 30% for consumers.

Areas under development

The waterless machine concept was introduced in 2008 by the University of Leeds, U.K. The proposed washing machine design uses about a cup of water per load. Researchers have shown that polymeric beads made up of nylon can effectively remove stain from the cloth as dirt is absorbed by these beads.

Businesses

Samsung launched a washing machine with the Ecobubble feature which harnesses the internal energy of bubbles generated from the detergent while treatment of clothes. This model can easily work with cold water. LG has unveiled the waterless washing machine model which works with polymeric beads. These machines were installed by laundry services in the UK. Similar washing machine technology was also launched by Xeros in 2018.

Conclusion

Companies are emphasizing value addition to customers through their innovations. The whole society can benefit from total savings in water and energy consumptions. Proper utilization of water by the washing machine is always a big challenge for manufacturers. The world water crisis and the tremendous increase in the proportion of carbon footprint have led this sector to adopt green practices.

Look-feel

Recent times have witnessed multidisciplinary research related to the textile sector. There is an extraordinary range of new possibilities for enhanced functionalities within textiles. There is a shift towards sustainable fashion and a focus on reducing waste generation. Companies like H&M have pledged to move towards sustainable fashion from fast fashion practices in the coming years. Consumers usually prefer those laundry products which make their clothes look good with minimal efforts like wrinkle-free, odorless, super-clean, and durability of the fabric.

Impact

Firms have launched laundry care products with unique packaging, fragrance, quality, and price which enable them to differentiate their products from their competitors. The fragrance is playing a vital role in household laundry products.

Areas under development

Future fabric with better functional characteristics with fiber-blending using nanotechnology and micro-processing, composite bio-materials in the textile industries will affect the laundry industry too. The development of 3D printing for fabric in the textile sector will also alter future garments.

Businesses

Designer Jung Seub Lee came up with a portable washing machine for traveling concept called Shaking Washer. A portable small luna washing ball prototype is submitted by Electrolux design lab with reduced time of washing and efficient performance. Haier has come up with a washing machine set up with an additional program to provide wrinkle-free clothes. Haier has also come up with an upgraded sanitization function and laser welding tech to reduce wear and tear to the cloth.

Conclusion

Companies have given predominance to an in-depth assessment of customer’s feedback about products and services, to understand their preferences. With this in mind, various studies have been conducted across the globe to have a thorough understanding of the market dynamics in the domain. All on-demand apps have a feedback interface once service is completed which helps the service providers to improvise.

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