Samsung switches focus to booming robot market with NaviBot S model

The popular technology in Samsung Galaxy-branded tablets and smartphones is now enhancing one of the most boring chores in the house — vacuuming, according to marketing director — corporate, Arno Lenior.

In an uncharacteristically lavish display for this category – but not for Samsung – Lenior and his colleague, head of home appliances Mike Lilly, unveiled the NaviBot S, the latest iteration in its robotic robot vacuum range.

Speaking broadly about Samsung’s progress, Lenior said the Korean company was focused on technology improvements in all categories and not just in the glamorous mobile categories.

“Samsung is doing great at the moment: last year we had $143 billion in sales globally and we’ve got 220,000 people, and many thousands of those people are actually in our research and development department in Korea,” Lenior said.

“It’s easy when you look at Samsung to look at our tablets or our phones — to look at that technology and say, ‘wow, that’s amazing’ — but tonight is actually a different take on that technology.

“A lot of that technology that these ‘R and D’ guys are thinking of is in products like this, and this is probably a bit of a glimpse into the future.”

Samsung’s foray into robot vacuuming has been transformative for this nascent subcategory. While brands such as iRobot have been established players for decades, the introduction of the first NaviBot range was largely responsible for a dramatic spike in unit and value increases in this category.

According to GfK Retail and Technology, over the 12 months to July 2011, which roughly matches Samsung’s first year in this category, robot vacuum unit sales increased by a phenomenal 275 per cent, from 5,146 to 19,267, while the value leap was almost as steep: up 229 per cent, from $2.8 million to $9.1 million.

Curiously, considering Samsung has affixed extremely high RRPs to the NaviBot range, making them amongst the most expensive vacuum cleaners on the market, the average sales price (ASP) of robot vacuums has been declining, from $541 to $475 in the 12 months to July 2011, which implies a move to the bottom end by rivals as they compete with Samsung’s highly featured range.

In the most recent survey period, the 12 months to March 2012, ASPs have plateaued, and now sit at $481.  There has been continued growth in both unit sales and sales value, with just over 30,000 units sold in that period (up 140 per cent), totalling almost $14.5 million.

Overall, the total value of robot vacuums has grown by almost 420 per cent over the 21 months to March 2012.

“In 2010 we launched our first two NaviBot products — since then we’ve seen the market grow considerably, but also our own sales have grown by more than 350 per cent in that robot area of the vacuum cleaner market,” said Mike Lilly. “So while it’s still very much in its infancy, we’re predicting that that segment of the market will continue to grow.

“It’s a very important one in a home appliance market that generally, year-on-year, is quite static, which is a good and bad thing.”

Samsung has two new NaviBot S models, the premium SR8980 (RRP $1,299) and the SR8950 (RRP $1,099). The major difference between these models is the presence of an Auto Dust Emptying feature on the SR8980, which increases the overall capacity of the unit from 0.6 litres to 2 litres.

The new Samsung NaviBot S.

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