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[IFA 2019] Samsung CEO bets on Bespoke to expand presence in European built-in market

Key to opening new markets ‘desirable products,’ not minute specs

BERLIN -- Samsung Electronics CEO Kim Hyun-suk highlighted the rapid sales growth of the firm’s latest built-in refrigerator brand, called “Bespoke,” saying the company’s focus is not on product specifications but on developing products that people desire in their hearts.

“We believe Bespoke can change the dynamics of European built-in market,” Kim said on the eve of IFA 2019, stressing that Europe accounts for 40 percent of the world’s built-in market.

Samsung Electronics CEO Kim Hyun-suk (Samsung Electronics)
Samsung Electronics CEO Kim Hyun-suk (Samsung Electronics)

“If you look at fridge market in Europe, there are 20 major brands from Germany alone and they all pit their products against each other for minute technological specifics. What we want to do is sell experience. To lay it bare, we don’t want to make something that is needed (that market is saturated with big players), but something that is desirable,” he said.

Bespoke is a customizable refrigerator line that allows for 22,000 possible combinations of styles, colors and compartment sizes. The hip, vibrant colors transform the fridges into interior decor items that reflect the owners’ tastes and personalities. Another significant benefit is that consumers can freely add compartments as their families grow and their lifestyles change.

Bespoke launched in South Korea in June and already accounts for 65 percent of Samsung’s fridge sales.

“People only replace home appliances when they go out of order. For a new model to replace a market 100 percent it would require over a year’s time,” Kim said. 

But in the case of the Bespoke brand, that change is taking place at four times the usual speed. 

A Bespoke refrigerator (Samsung Electronics)
A Bespoke refrigerator (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung is currently researching the popularity of different colors in different countries, with plans to launch Bespoke in Europe in the first half of 2020 and eventually in the US at an unspecified time.

All Samsung Electronics home appliances are connected through internet of things technology.

Because Samsung sells 500 million gadgets annually, Kim said the company is well positioned to craft an original platform based on Samsung appliances.

With this IoT platform at its core and with increased use of artificial intelligence, Samsung could truly innovate the smart home industry and people’s futures, Kim said.

Kim currently has 63 connected devices at his home, including lights that he controls remotely with his smartphone.

But the company has had difficulty recruiting AI specialists, he added.

“AI is a very old field of academia that has not been commercially valuable until recently,” Kim said. “Therefore, only the schools with deep financial availability and history were able to invest in the research for AI.”

The Samsung AI Center Cambridge has yet to reach its target of 1,000 researchers, and the company has no plans to launch more AI centers.

Kim predicted that with time, more students would go into AI and more experts would become available.

Samsung’s Bespoke refrigerators, as well as its 8K TVs and foldable Galaxy smartphones, are displayed at the CityCube Berlin building within the IFA 2019 exhibition space.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (