In the second half of intelligent cleaning appliances, the back waves of technology sent to accelerate the sprint

Author: Yang Xue

Produced by: Bright Company

If there is one word to describe the current intelligent cleaning track, it is the moment when it seems that we are moving towards prosperity together, and a new round of competition is kicking off.

In the fall of 2022, the market value of the two domestic giants Ecovacs and Stone Technology was only a quarter of the highest point a year ago, while the foreign iRobot sold to Amazon for a total price of 1.7 billion US dollars, a hard landing. The fall in capital market prices, on the one hand, is a normal contraction after the disenchantment of technology, and on the other hand, it also reflects that the market is gradually crowded.

At present, in addition to Ecovacs, Stone Technology and other leading companies in China, there are also industry leaders from across the border, such as Midea, Haier, and Xiaomi. From vacuum cleaners to sweeping robots to washing machines and other emerging categories, the smart cleaning electrical industry has fully tapped the market demand, and constantly iterates technologies and products to meet the needs of emerging groups.

However, the rapid development is not without hidden worries. Product homogeneity, price wars, and industry introversion are all problems faced by the smart cleaning track. The expansion of the market also means that consumers buying sweeping robots are no longer a “big toy” under the hunting experience, but have more choices and more critical requirements for cleaning power.

Compared with the market penetration rate of washing machines, it achieved explosive growth after reaching 5%. At present, the penetration rate of the sweeping robot market is at an inflection point. Senior industry researchers said, “At the end of 2022, the industry will usher in a reshuffle, with more serious differentiation, and the remaining top companies will account for a more balanced ratio, and those with low competitiveness will definitely be washed out.”

The smart cleaning track is no longer quiet and has reached the knockout stage. There is a high probability that there will no longer be strong newcomers, but CR3 (the top three share concentration indicators in the industry), which occupies nearly 80% of the sweeper industry: Ecovacs , Stone Technology, Chasing Technology, the market share of each company is also ups and downs.

Data from Aowei Cloud Network shows that starting from 2021, the market share of Ecovacs has declined, and the growth rate of Stone Technology and Chasing Technology is much higher than that of Ecovacs. CR3 has also adjusted its business plan. For example, Ecovacs adjusted the commercial cleaning robot team, Roborock Technology began to touch the car-making business, and ZMI Technology officially established an innovation research institute to expand the field of generalized robots.

“Bright Company” observed and found that the former dark horse and new player Chasing Technology have steadfastly held the top three positions in the industry this year, and have achieved corner overtaking on the track full of heroes. According to the comprehensive data of Tmall Business Advisor, JD Business Intelligence, and Douyin Chanmother, the market share of the online channel of Chasing Technology floor washing machine has increased by nearly 10 times within 6 months this year, ranking second in market share and increasing Significant speed. This year, 618’s omni-channel sales record exceeded 400 million yuan, a year-on-year increase of 900%, making it the fastest growing clean home appliance brand in one fell swoop.

From the perspective of Chasing Technology, based on core technology, while achieving profitability earlier, it has broadened its category layout, embraced omni-channel, and accumulated brand barriers. The future of smart and clean home appliances is mass consumer goods, which will be promoted to the goal of “national consumer brand”.

Multi-category matrix development, entering a new stage of comprehensive competition

Household cleaning has changed from a single-track competition to a comprehensive competition: sweeping robots and washing machines are driven by two categories, the proportion of high-end products continues to increase, and the industry’s product structure is upgraded, and leading brands have entered a new stage of multi-category matrix development.

According to GfK data, in the first half of this year, in the sluggish environment of the overall home appliance market, the retail sales of the cleaning robot market still maintained a year-on-year growth rate of 15%. Online sales of sweeping robots still rank first, and scrubbers, as a new category, overtake hand-held push rod vacuum cleaners to become the second largest category of smart cleaning appliances, becoming the key to driving industry growth.

The washing machine product was originally created by the overseas brand Bisheng, because the characteristics of the product itself are more in line with the cleaning habit of the Chinese people “combining sweeping and mopping”, and subsequent domestic brands such as Timke and Chasing Technology have also launched washing machine products. , and continue to innovate in function and technology, opening up new development space.

Compared with the sweeper that requires a higher technical threshold, the industrial R&D technology and manufacturing supply chain process of the washing machine itself are more mature, and the market demand is strong. Therefore, in the past two years, a large number of new brands have appeared in the field of washing machines. The increase also continued to 618 this year. The overall shipments of the washing machine category have soared this year. The first new product, the M12 series of washing machines, was sold out immediately. The overall data of Q2 also increased by 3 to 4 times, which “greatly exceeded sales expectations”.

The new brand has gained a firm foothold with its subdivided functions, and the washing machine has also embarked on the development track of sweeping robots. Micro-innovation has become the intelligent direction chosen by some brands, from a single product form to diversified subdivision functions. develop. The market technology is also moving towards differentiation, and the main line of cleaning ability has extended to subdivided tracks such as antibacterial, double roller brush, water dust, and no roller cloth.

Take the wireless steam scrubber T12, which was just launched in September, as an example. It is the first floor scrubber on the market to be equipped with “high temperature steam” and be “wireless” at the same time. The flagship equipment integrates suction, mopping, washing, drying, and elimination. It uses high temperature to melt stubborn stains, and uses steam to sterilize. It breaks through the cleaning radius and flexibility, and upgrades household cleaning methods again.

 

The demand for high-end products represented by this is strong, driving the sales scale of the smart cleaning electrical appliance industry to rise rapidly. In the past two years, the low-price market for smart cleaning appliances has shrunk, the low-end products with a large base have been eliminated rapidly, and new high-end models have started rapidly. The most intuitive thing for consumers is that the prices of online and offline products have generally risen this year, and the market for core items such as sweepers and washing machines with prices above 3,500 yuan continues to expand, driving the upgrade of the industry’s product structure.

In addition to the upgrade of the product itself, the pioneers are also expanding the category matrix to consolidate the top position of the industry: Ecovacs chose to enter the upstream of the industry and enter the commercial field, Stone Technology bet on automobiles, and Tianke deployed smart homes, Yunjing carried out A structural adjustment, the pursuit of technology is to improve the four major product lines, and explore in frontier fields such as generalized robots.

Specifically, Ecovacs acquired a 10% stake in Kaihang Motor, and its subsidiary plans to invest in a 2GWH polymer lithium-ion battery project with an annual output of 2GWH, and released the first intelligent lawn mowing robot and the first Ecovacs robot rental platform. Luoke Automobile, the car-building project of the founder and CEO of Roborock Technology, has recruited Yan Feng, the CTO of WM Motor, and has successively obtained multiple rounds of financing.

Pursuit Technology has formed four product lines of cordless vacuum cleaners, sweeping robots, washing machines, and high-speed hair dryers. These categories can not only drive growth with each other, but also help improve the company’s ability to resist risks. In fact, Chasing Technology does not limit itself to the category of smart cleaning appliances, but is positioned as a generalized robot company. In October last year, Chasing Technology released the first bionic quadruped robot dog Eame One, which can perform difficult movements such as climbing, climbing stairs, and crossing obstacles, and accurately judges various terrains and adapts to complex environments.

With the increasing number of brands entering the game on the clean track, the product matrix of major brands has been gradually improved, and systematic and fierce competition has been formed. At present, the sweeping robot is already in the Red Sea competition area, and the market price is polarized. The washing machine has great uncertainty in terms of brand structure and market price, and there is more room for development.

In 2022, the underrated sweeping robot is still strong, it just raises the threshold for brands to enter the market, and ruthlessly eliminates enterprises with serious homogeneity and no core competitiveness, but still insists on differentiated development and core self Brands with R&D capabilities cast an olive branch. A group of brands chose to withdraw, and more Chinese brands are still moving towards new goals and new stages.

The competition of smart cleaning appliances is essentially a contest of technology

Throughout the world, clean home appliances are a market that is obviously driven by technological innovation. The first thing to consider is the underlying technological advantages of enterprises. In the final analysis, sweeping robots and washing machines are high-tech products, so the underlying technology accumulation is the enterprise An important moat has always been the cornerstone of the development of the industry.

In the view of industry veterans, the development trend of small home appliances is the robotization of sensing processing and execution processes, and technological progress usually occurs across industries. For example, the key to the rise of vacuum cleaners and sweepers is high-speed motors, lithium batteries and VSLAM (visual instant The development of technologies such as positioning and map construction).

Competition is fierce, brand involution is not the purpose, what is really to be done is to provide users with products that solve problems. The urban middle-class people targeted by smart cleaning appliances have high requirements for brand, technology, service, and functional iteration. The market demand is fed back to the production side, forcing these companies to continuously develop new technologies and develop new functions.

The seemingly simple integrated design of cleaning appliances can solve multiple cleaning problems. The innovations and technologies that need to be solved behind it are not easy, and the brand needs to invest several times the cost and energy. For many startups, taking a year or two or more to research a project and build technical barriers is an extremely risky endeavor.

At present, there are more than 100 brands of domestic smart cleaning appliances, and the homogenization competition is fierce. However, the number of foundries in the country is limited, which is a great test for the life and risk of the machine itself. There are no more than 10 brands that really have independent research and production capabilities, and only the top players can develop software and hardware at the same time, with strong research and development strength.

The sweeping robots have successively used technologies such as LDS lidar, 3D structured light, dToF, and AI algorithms. In 2020 alone, the number of patent applications in the global sweeping robot industry will reach 4,906, and China’s patent applications account for more than 95%.

The most difficult part of the washing machine is the combination of motor and water. Not only must it have a strong motor, but also structurally ensure that water and motor coexist and do not meet. In addition, the washing machine has a high demand for software. For example, if the dirt sensor recognizes the instant noodles, it needs to increase the suction force, and if it recognizes the hair, it needs to reduce the suction force.

Based on high-speed motors as the core technical support, and combined with algorithms, Chasing Technology is the first to launch landing products into the market, and quickly achieve profitability, with a certain amount of cash flow to support further research and development. At present, the number of technicians among the employees of ZUMI Technology accounts for more than 70%, and the annual R&D investment accounts for 12%. It has built its own patent matrix and leads the innovation of the clean electrical appliance industry.

According to Yu Hao, founder and CEO of ZMI Technology, the technology stored in ZMI Technology is to prepare for the “generalized robot” in the future. The motor as the “heart” and the algorithm as the “brain”, from vacuum cleaners to sweepers to quadruped robots, there will be infinite combinations of technology in pursuit.

Just like the transition from traditional feature phones to smartphones 10 years ago, clean home appliances are also undergoing such a transition now, expanding from the earliest geek circle to a broader consumer circle, becoming a new home appliance, and at the same time fading the “robot” label , transformed into an ordinary household appliance that can replace manpower.

This is an inevitable process of technological disenchantment. All household appliances are subject to periodic adjustment. In the past few years, household sweepers have gone through a technology cycle and a product cycle, and completed a complete development cycle from “technology to product to consumption”.

In the long run, the industry will further expand with the maturity of technology, lower costs and consumption upgrades. Technological iteration is becoming more and more normalized, and has become the main driving force for high-end and intelligent products, and technological evolution has also upgraded product function experience, and consumers are willing to pay for the experience upgrade. For long-term brands, the quantifiable long-term market competitiveness is always R&D investment and product strength improvement. Competing traffic, customer unit price and conversion rate can only stay in short-term business.

China’s clean home appliances go to the world and seek broader growth space

At a time when the growth of the domestic market is facing uncertainty, going overseas to seek growth space has become a common action of leading players of smart cleaning appliances such as Ecovacs and ZMI Technology. At present, the growth of overseas revenue of many brands has shown a scale effect. How to use cross-border e-commerce to cut into the overseas competition has a very high industry reference value.

It is worth noting that the entire Chinese home appliance brand is different from the past. It has begun to focus on brand building, and is moving from “Made in China” to “Made in China”, from “cost-effectiveness” to “quality”. It can be said that the journey to the second half of the sea has begun, and it has entered a new turning point in the new cycle.

In this context, domestic brands such as ZMI Technology rely on products to help brands go overseas, and continue to accelerate their globalization. At the same time, thanks to a sharper sense of smell and leading e-commerce operation experience, iRobot continues to squeeze market share and increase the penetration rate of domestic brands in overseas e-commerce.

Although iRobot still occupies a leading position in the global market due to its first-mover advantage, domestic brands benefit from the advantages of the domestic industrial chain, ecological and localized operation strategies, and industry accumulation in the home furnishing field, and the gap between them is constantly narrowing. Even the motor speed and iteration speed can surpass foreign competitors.

According to data from the General Administration of Customs of China, in 2021, the export volume of China’s vacuum cleaners (including sweeping robots) will be 160 million units, a year-on-year increase of 10%; the export value will be 43.16 billion yuan, an increase of 8.7% year-on-year. More than half of the top ten of Amazon’s cleaning robot sales list are domestic brands, and Ecovacs, Stone Technology and Zumi Technology have been on the list all year round.

Ecovacs chose to promote its products to developed regions from the very beginning, and entered mature developed countries such as the United States, Japan, and Germany, and achieved results in the market with fierce competition and high per capita consumption. Stone Technology has set up local offices in major overseas markets to provide better after-sales service, and the Japanese market has cooperated with Yamada Electric, a leading local electrical distributor.

On the other hand, ZMI Technology has gone overseas with a variety of explosive products, and has run through overseas markets by the end of 2020. The sales price is not much different between developed countries and international giant brands. This year’s overseas performance is still impressive, and related categories in Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and other regions are ranked in the top three.

ZMI Technology said that it has now entered the overseas 2.0 stage and is dismantling more key areas for layout. In the post-epidemic era, overseas brands need to strengthen the connection with consumers. In the process of connection, ZMI Technology mainly conducts layout and insight in the following three levels:

The first is to clarify the market classification at the strategic level, and to point to the surface. Clarify the strategic level of each region, and do the promotion of key products and the evolution of marketing. Chasing Technology selected Germany as its main market and gradually penetrated into the entire Western European region. The second is to set up an MI team and a localized marketing team at the organizational level. The MI team is responsible for user insights and market information collection in the front-end market, and the back-end localized regional marketing team handles marketing materials in different regions. Finally, at the tactical level, quantitative and qualitative analysis are combined, and the digital operation of social media is strengthened.

Chasing Technology not only attaches importance to Douyin’s marketing strategy in China, but also promotes grass-growing in live broadcast rooms overseas, including Amazon, AliExpress live broadcast and TikTok live broadcast. Among them, Chasing Technology has made an in-depth layout of TikTok marketing, building live broadcast rooms, cooperating with KOLs, trying to keep pace with the times, playing boards based on ecological content, and also doing scene-based grass planting, which is more intuitive to users. to prove the performance of the new product.

At the 61st International Consumer Electronics and Home Appliances Exhibition (hereinafter referred to as “IFA”), ZMI Technology debuted as a Chinese brand for the first time, displaying overseas flagship sweepers, scrubbers, vacuum cleaners and quadruped robots , motors and other products and technologies. At this year’s IFA, ZMI also released an overseas blockbuster new fully automatic sweeping and dragging robot-DreameBot L10s Ultra, which brought great surprises to local consumers.

 

Many brands believe that the essence of going overseas is to go overseas for products and supply chains. However, once it is found that overseas homogeneous competition is serious, it is necessary to avoid using products as a supply side to compete, but to break the circle through differentiated marketing. Pursuing technology is to distinguish areas with similar cultural backgrounds and conduct marketing according to categories. Only in this way can consumers truly accept products and brands, and then maintain long-term relationships.

What is clear is that the booming Chinese smart home appliance market has indeed given these players the confidence to go overseas to find treasures, and has also migrated the more innovative Chinese-made forms overseas. For those who have their own technological advantages, the ups and downs and replacement of traffic channels should not affect brand positioning. Linking target groups and building brand equity is the path to globalization.