Subscribing to cars, appliances via smartphone takes off

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Honda ON website allows users to choose a car via their smartphone.

Taking out a subscription to use valuable items such as cars, furniture and home appliances can be easily done via smartphone these days, a trend that fits the needs of changing lifestyles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In autumn last year, Honda Motor Co. launched an online store called Honda ON in Tokyo.

It used to be common to test-drive a vehicle at a dealership before making a decision to buy such an expensive item. However, it is now possible to purchase one simply by tapping a smartphone.

The store currently offers five models, including the N-Box minicar, Vezel sport-utility vehicle and Freed minivan. All are popular Honda products so that they are recognizable on a small smartphone screen.

Would-be buyers go to Honda ON’s website to choose colors and options. Equipment such as a navigation system and basic safety functions are standard. Most procedures, including signing a contract and buying insurance, can be done online with the help of chat support, anytime, 365 days a year.

Honda ON has since added a subscription system. The monthly fee includes the use of a navigation system and maintenance such as inspections and parts replacement. As an example, subscriptions start from ¥30,000 per month on a contract to drive an N-Box for five years.

Courtesy of Panasonic Corp.
Panasonic cooking appliances and foods that can be used with them via the foodable service

The website has a section called “Diagnosis of a perfect plan for you,” which asks users to answer three questions, including, “Do you use a car for your daily life such as commuting and shopping?” and “Do you enjoy active hobbies such as outdoor activities?” before suggesting a model that suits them.

Appliances come with food

Panasonic Corp. has launched foodable, an online subscription service which pairs food with cooking appliances such as rice cookers, bread makers and low-speed juicers. For example, the company delivers rice carefully selected by a rice sommelier along with a Panasonic rice cooker that changes the cooking method depending on which brand of rice is used.

Foods including rice and seasonal fruits are delivered every month depending on the type of appliance selected.

Many people wonder if they can use cutting-edge cooking appliances well enough to justify buying them. For them, the price of ¥3,980 a month, including tax, may be affordable and they can cancel the subscription anytime. Panasonic says the service is popular among people aged 35 and below, who are younger than the company’s average buyers.

Panasonic has a food-themed social media account where its customers post their recipes and their failures, allowing foodable users to get tips.

“We hope people will enjoy cooking, which tends to be done alone,” a spokesperson said.

Adapting to lifestyle change

When it comes to furniture and home appliances, customers can subscribe through a service called Clas. Once again, all the steps from ordering to returning can be done via smartphone.

Clas offers everything users need from the day they start their life in a new home, and allows them to select items according to changes in their lifestyle, such as children growing up and job transfers.

The subscription market has grown as a range of items have become more accessible at reasonable prices. At the same time, some complain that it is complicated to change subscription plans or cancel, or that subscribers end up using the items less frequently than they thought. It is necessary not to jump on the bandwagon before understanding the terms and how to cancel.