Connected Robot Vacuums Sweep into Leading Spot Among Small Appliance Growth

In a nod to the future, new research shows consumers value cordless, rechargeable and robotic vacuum models, as evidenced by the traction gained by RoboVac apps.

Robot VacuumWhen global market researcher GfK revealed its top six growth categories in the small appliances at an IFA Global Press Conference in Lisbon last week, two floor-care products topped the list in first and second places: rechargeable ‘handstick’ vacuum cleaners and robotic vacuums. GfK estimated the global small appliance market grew 5% to €60 billion. Here’s how they assessed the top six fastest growing categories in the market:

  • Rechargeable handstick vacuum cleaners: up by 40% to €2.3 billion
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners: up by 20% to €1.2 billion
  • Air cleaners: up by 20% to €1.9 billion
  • Fully automatic espresso machines: up by 12% to €1.2 billion
  • Water kettles: up by 11% to €1.4 billion
  • Hair dryers: up by 18% to €1.35 billion

The convenience afforded by the cordless and rechargeable vacuum models showed strong growth in all regions that GfK tracks, which includes 100 countries. Supporting the GfK findings, in a recent report by Persistence Market Research entitled, “Global Market Study on Residential Robotic Vacuum Cleaner,” the residential robotic vacuum cleaner market was valued at $1.3 billion dollars by the end of 2015 with anticipated expansion at a CAGR of 12% from 2015 to 2021. By 2021, this segment is estimated to account for $2.5 billion dollars. In terms of volume, production of residential robotic vacuum cleaners was expected to be 1.9 million units by the end of 2015 and is projected to reach 4.8 million units by 2021, a CAGR of 16.5%. On the basis of regional adoption, GfK’s research projected that Europe would dominate the market with a 45% market share by the end of 2015 and would remain dominant through 2021. One interesting touchpoint is that on China’s ‘Singles Day’ last November, Ecovacs’ top selling robot vacuum outsold TVs and all other home electronic appliances on Alibaba’s Tmall, netting $29 million dollars in one day.

Many analysts believe the autonomous, intelligent robo-vacs—like many smart home products—have been held back by their high cost versus perceived value. Priced from $200 to $1,200 but with sales predominantly coming from mid to high-end models, most purchases are still being made by tech-savvy buyers.

The category is currently led by iRobot’s Roomba brand that claims it represents 20 percent of the worldwide vacuum market. By its own account, Roomba models have earned a 70 percent market share of robot vacuums since their commercial debut in 2002. Last fall, iRobot’s CEO disclosed sales of more than 14 million Roomba robo-vacs. iRobot’s latest model, the $899 Roomba 980, has been judged to deliver excellent performance at a mid-level price point. Its companion smartphone app lets you set its cleaning schedule, see where it is, where it has already cleaned, and how long it has been running. With its most recent enhancement, you can also control Roomba by voice using Amazon Alexa.

But as the robotic vacuum landscape has grown hotter, iRobot’s dominance and higher price points are being seriously challenged. For example, Neato Robotics has been a serious challenger in independent product reviews for the last several years, consistently outpacing Roomba in tech press price/value roundups. Neato’s impressive smart navigation, smartphone app and Alexa voice control have seen the $700 connected Neato Botvac ranked best in category by CNET and Top Ten Reviews.

Meanwhile, other vacuum and appliance heavyweights like Samsung and Dyson continue to battle for market share. Samsung recently introduced its POWERbot VR7000, also controllable by Amazon Alexa. Dyson’s entered a formidable competitor, the 360 Eye, which also has a formidable $1,000 price tag.

Google Play app downloads provide a different lens into the adoption of smart connected robot vacuums. In the first quarter of 2017, the Google Play app store showed in the neighborhood of 408,000 robot vacuum apps installed (presumably since 2016 when the apps began to appear). Indeed, industry watchers at goodrobotvacuum.com predict, “With wifi now part of almost every new robot vacuum cleaner model in the market, I think it is safe to say we are going to be looking at some creative features being made available in the coming years,”

Robot VacuumWe agree. It’s still the early days of using robots for home upkeep and their utility is only getting better. But as home robot vacuums and their apps get smarter and deliver better performance for lower prices, they may well prove to be a killer app for the smart home. Let’s just hope we can avoid Hollywood’s ‘rise of the machines’ in the search for the killer app.

Although there are no robotic vacuums on the following list, if you are curious to see just a few of the 70+ Arrayent-connected products that you can get for your own smart home, check out this post from last December.