Anton Kryukov, iRobot Ukraine: “We are not Apple, we have models for any wallet”

Despite the symbolic "i" in the name of the company that manufactures robot vacuum cleaners and others

Although it is something of an icon in its segment – top-of-the-line solutions in the present, military and space technology in DNA, 15% of the entire global vacuum cleaner market, and the most expensive robot vacuum cleaner model in the portfolio.

Recently, the official distributor of iRobot in Ukraine has seriously taken up the Ukrainian market. Editorialggtook the opportunity and talked to the directoron the development of iRobot in Ukraine, Anton Kryukov about what the market for robotic vacuum cleaners is, what Ukrainians can expect from the brand, and what iRobot’s confidence in technological superiority in the market is based on.

Ukrainian market of robotic vacuum cleaners: Xiaomi is the most massive, iRobot is the most expensive of all bought

gg: How do you assess the Ukrainian market for robotic vacuum cleaners? Does anyone actually “count” him yet?

Anton Kryukov:Like most manufacturers, weWe focus on GfK data. Unfortunately, they do not account for about 20%-25% of the market; these are sales of small dealers who do not submit sales results to Gfk, and the unofficial “gray” market. But this is quite enough to track trends. This year we expect at least 30,000 devices. In 2018 there were around 20,000 units, that is, the market is growing, and at a good pace.

gg: When did the growth start?

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Anton Kryukov:A year ago, sales went up.At the beginning of 2018, 500-600 pieces were sold per month, at the end of the year - 2500-3000. Demand rose and fell, this is due to the quantity of goods in the country and promotional activities. Plus, robots are subject to the same seasonality as other electronics. The high season is November-December, inertial sales are January and February, March 8, then sales begin to fall and pick up again by the fall. It is during these periods that price promotional activities work especially well. The most interesting thing is that in March of this year, for some reason, sales of manual vacuum cleaners, and not robots, increased. Probably, Ukrainians still trust their woman more than algorithms. Although the average price of Hand-stick vacuum cleaners is comparable to robots (but not iRobot).

For now we work exclusively throughonline channel. There's a reason for this. The fact is that for chains, investing in a new brand is a risk, so we don’t even suggest that they put the product on the shelf. It is very difficult for them to forecast sales of new product categories. Cleaning robots are not like smartphones, where the market has settled at around 6 million devices per year and players are realizing how much of that pie they can get. Here it’s different. The category is new, so the quantity for purchase is not entirely clear. Turnover times and product quality are significant unknowns for retail. Here's an example: you supply goods worth 0.5 million UAH to a national chain. If the chain cannot sell it within three months, it begins to reduce the price, that is, it organizes a sale. This leads to a decrease in the earnings of other partners, as they do the same in competition. Earnings on your product tend to 0, or even minus. Partners unanimously return most of the investment and never work with your product again. The story is sad, but there are many examples of how this happened with other brands. But I won’t list them.

Different brands in Ukraine have 2-4 models available, and we have 12. No brand of robotic vacuum cleaners boasts such a model range.

iRobot focuses exclusively oncleaning robots, so it’s easier for us to navigate the market. Different brands in Ukraine have 2-4 models available, and we have 12. No brand of robotic vacuum cleaners boasts such a model range.

Our company is currently engaged in the formationdemand - reviews, articles, interviews. As soon as the networks see analytics on our brand, they will be able to plan money for the purchase of the product, and we will be able to work with them. As soon as we appear on the shelves, you will see our demonstration areas.

Now a very good environment for such a development. The market begins to grow, people are interested, iRobot has a very good history of work in other countries and positive feedback from Ukrainian customers.

gg: What market share does iRobot have in Ukraine?

Anton Kryukov: According to our data, the share fluctuates within10%-15%. But we are just starting to enter the network, so we are just appearing in the Gfk report. We have already started working with Foxtrot, Rozetka, and Citrus, but for our goods, they still mostly go to partners who focus on trading robotic cleaners. Our partners in Ukraine are narrowly focused companies such as: YouTech, Robotech. These partners have several websites, but they all specialize in selling robots. Unfortunately, sales from such partners are not included in the Gfk report.

The mass market has not yet rocked. Go to our dealers, in the case when this is a deliberate purchase, models sold for less than $ 600 are worse. But if we take large partners as “Rosette” for example, then our most budget models are sold there, then as an audience of “Rosettes” it is wider, respectively, the average consumer income level will be lower.

gg: What is the average price of a robot vacuum cleaner in Ukraine and in your country?

Anton Kryukov: About $ 250. But we are twice as high. Take-off at iRobot price from 7 thousand to 40 thousand UAH

gg: Which of the competitors are monitoring?

Anton Kryukov:Xiaomi, Ecovacs, Samsung, Philips.

Room map vs quality of cleaning

gg: Which models sell best?

Anton Kryukov:Models in the price category from 6000 UAH. But this is if we take the market on average. And if we talk about the brandiRobotthen here the bar starts from 14,000 UAH.More expensive robots are more technologically advanced. And as I said, our client consciously makes a decision and chooses a robot for several years. On average, iRobot robots last more than 5 years with regular maintenance. The thing is expensive and good, that’s why people take care of it.

gg: To what extent are Ukrainians in brand-oriented vacuum cleaners? How are you enjoying iRobot brand knowledge?

Anton Kryukov:According to our research, brand knowledge is 3rdplace. On the second Samsung and Philips, they are put in one place. The first one is from Xiaomi. They have approximately 60% of the market. This is a strong brand, we recognize that. Ukrainians are very brand-oriented in robot vacuum cleaners. At one of our focus groups, the phrase was: “We know iRobot, but they have very little advertising, so we won’t buy.” It turns out that advertising is needed to make you buy a good product? Otherwise you will buy a bad one?

At one time, after a wave of first cheap purchasesChinese robots began to refuse them. The quality of the cleaning is disgusting. But the situation has changed, this always happens, in any markets of electronics and technology, there are already a lot of branded robots and they really clean. But iRobot cleans best of all - this is an indisputable fact, since everyone else lags behind in technology for a couple of generations. Now they are buying a robot vacuum cleaner, because it is a real vacuum cleaner, and they carefully look at the brand.

At one time, after a wave of purchases of the first cheap Chinese robots, they began to refuse them. The quality of the cleaning is disgusting. Now they are buying a robot vacuum cleaner, because it's a real vacuum cleaner


gg: For what “chips" in the robot are Ukrainians willing to pay extra, what are they dreaming of?

Anton Kryukov:About the car wash. They want him to vacuum and wash.But as practice shows, those who bought such a device do not use a sink. In addition, in this particular case there is a substitution of concepts. This robot has a rag and water. Can this already be called a sink? Actually no, it's a wipe that collects what didn't get into the vacuum cleaner. Washing is a purposeful action that removes dirt. IRobot Braava Jet 240 (this is the cheapest floor polisher in the iRobot line, costs 5999 UAH, see video below) splashes water in front of it like a spray, rides in a herringbone pattern and rubs. The head with the cloth vibrates and scrubs well. If you spill wine in the evening, you can run this robot the next day and it will wipe everything off, by the way, it doesn’t have to be the floor! You can run it on a table, it's smart, it doesn't crash.

Combined models that are now onmarket, they can wipe with a wet rag in the hallway and go to the carpet with the same dirt. Only now are devices that do not call on the carpet. How effective is it? Time will tell.

We're going on sale soon with a robotic washer.which knows how to avoid getting on carpets and works in tandem with other models. That is, when starting the vacuum cleaner, the owner will be asked to wash the floor, and when the vacuum cleaner finishes, the washer will turn on and carry out wet cleaning. This will keep the apartment clean and fresh at all times. The model is called -Braava Jet M6. Perhaps at the time of publication of the interview he will already be on sale. That is, very soon.

gg: Besides washing, what else? Maybe a map of the premises?

Anton Kryukov:A consumer whose apartment is 45 square meters does not need a card. Let's figure out what the card is for.

First of all, the card is needed by a robot, not a person.It is needed in order to find the way to the charging base in an apartment or house with an area of ​​more than 80 m2 and, if necessary, continue cleaning from the same place. The map will be convenient for a person because you can direct the robot to a specific room. Let's say you're watching football in the living room with friends, you send it to the nursery to clean it, it works, but doesn't bother you. This is a major benefit for people. Another advantage of the map is that you can see where the robot has already cleaned and whether it had problems with it. More polluted places. Also, in some models, you can configure zones on the map where the robot is prohibited from entering. These are the main advantages of cards. The presence of a card does not affect the quality of cleaning.

For lack of quality, manufacturers beginadd extra chips, so-called “imposed values”. For example, the ability to see in real time where the robot is. Well, let's say it's interesting. But if, after cleaning, half of the garbage was still there, then was it worth paying for such technology? Or if the robot cleaned the kitchen, living room, but for some reason didn’t go to the nursery. I got up to charge and didn’t continue working, what’s the use of the card?

Many people are interested in control from a smartphone.This is indeed convenient, but there may be nuances. Not all Chinese robot vacuum cleaners can exchange data via a cloud service as happens with iRobot. What's the point if I can't start cleaning remotely? If I'm on the same Wi-Fi network, then it's easier for me to press the button.

I’m generally silent about the adequacy of connecting to a smartphone through special applications. Unlike its competitors, the iRobot HOME app syncs easily with the press of a couple of buttons.

gg: What are the most popular iRobot models in Ukraine?

Anton Kryukov:Roomba 980 (Roomba R980, editor's note).It has been a top seller since 2016 and has received the largest number of awards around the world. Now the i7 and i7+ models have replaced them with automatic container cleaning technology. But iRobot didn't stop there. The i7 is a transition model from the R980 to the S9.

S9 is the most expensive robot vacuum cleaner in the worldthis moment. There is no model in Ukraine yet, but it will cost about 40,000 UAH. It has features that no other model has. For example, adjusting the suction power.

gg: Why is that even necessary?

Anton Kryukov:If you need more thorough cleaning, turn on maximum power. But there is no point in constantly working at the maximum - this is exhaustion. It is enough to do this once a month.

Also on this model, brushes are 30% longer thanall robots in the lineup. Improved side brush for sweeping. Her shape has changed and the number of blades has increased, the speed of rotation has increased. This model is the best in the world to clean from the corners along the walls and baseboards. From the first approach, it cleans 95% of the sand from the carpet (according to the test results).

Typical story for Ukraine: bought by accident, but very happy

gg: Are there any differences between Ukrainian and Western consumers?

Anton Kryukov:In the West, the consumer is more conscious.Unfortunately, there are still a small number of conscious buyers in Ukraine. We have clients who bought a robot by accident, when they were drunk, for example. But they have already been serviced by us for more than 5-7 years and are very happy with their spontaneous purchase. In the West, they buy it because they want a robot vacuum cleaner. And they know exactly what kind of robot they need, they are looking for quality. This is probably why iRobot has such a high share in the world.

gg: Why do you think Ukrainian customers choose you?

Anton Kryukov:Because we are not a Chinese brand, but an American one.Assembly in China, like everyone else, but development entirely in the USA. Many of our clients bought a robot in the USA a long time ago, and now they update it with us, have it serviced, or bought a new model here.

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Best selling iRobot &#8211; Roomba R980

Many people buy according to the principle - the same as with friends. If a friend has iRobot, then I do not look at other brands.

gg: What is the main obstacle to the development of the Ukrainian market?

Anton Kryukov:Low awareness. But she is being treated.Each of the vendors in Ukraine will do something to promote their products. Accordingly, people will learn more about robots. Different brands began to focus on the Ukrainian market. The same iRobot. We are trying to increase the amount of information about robotic vacuum cleaners on our own. In addition, the solvency of the population. If the standard of living in Ukraine increases, no one will deny themselves the automation of household processes. And until there is not enough money to pay for gas, people mop the floors.

gg: &#8230;and buy an iPhone on credit?

Anton Kryukov:Speaking of loans.After our product appeared in national retail, it became more accessible to customers. “Citrus”, “Rozetka”, “Foxtrot” provide installment plans and loans for iRobot. Our partners have done something similar before. But no one has done it on a massive scale, as national retail can do.

When we made the first shipment to Rozetka, 10units of goods, as soon as the car drove off, the first robot was already sold. The next day two more. These were inexpensive models up to 10,000 UAH and top-end models for 30,000 UAH. In just three days, five robots were sold. And this is without any premium content, reviews, or beautiful descriptions. This shows that people know iRobot and trust the brand.

gg: When will robotic vacuum cleaners become widespread in Ukraine? Will it be possible within 3-5 years?

Anton Kryukov:Possibly, but I'm not sure, for two reasons:conservatism and solvency. People have their own habits, cleaning and giving on weekends, etc. They are accustomed to washing dishes, sweeping and mopping floors with their own hands. Robots for Ukrainians are more like a dishwasher. Not everyone is sure that it is needed, and only those who have it will be able to appreciate its advantages or disadvantages.

iRobot for experienced and beginners

gg: Have you come across cases of undocumented use?

Anton Kryukov:There were several requests from clients, they say,I just bought it, used it for a week - the brushes wore out. It turned out that the man was cleaning up construction waste with a robot! The robot is not designed for this. Construction debris is like sandpaper for brushes. And also the filter gets clogged very quickly and becomes dull, air stops passing through it and the engine fails.

gg: What about flashing and all that?

Anton Kryukov:For such purposes, iRobot produces basic units withthe ability to program them yourself. Our colleagues in Latvia hold competitions every year - the battle of robots. They put several iRobot models in the ring and they fight like sumo. The one who pushes out wins. There are even grant stories, robots are given to polytechnic schools, students disassemble them and program them. iRobot are very geeky devices.

A video demonstrating the competition of sumo robots at the 2016 Robotex festival

gg: By the way, don’t newbies confuse you with Apple? The name is characteristic&#8230;

Anton Kryukov:Oddly enough, many people in focus groupscompared us to Apple. There were phrases that iRobot belongs to Apple. Of course this is not true. This can be seen even in the pricing policy. We are not expensive like Apple, we have devices for every wallet. There are robots from 6,000 UAH to 40,000 UAH. If you want to buy something like Apple, buy the most expensive model. This will be the perfect assistant. But as I already said, you shouldn’t overpay for technologies you don’t need. Try to determine for yourself which properties of the robot are necessary for your apartment.

gg: Why do you think Ukrainians should pay for your brand?

Anton Kryukov:When you buy iRobot, you're not just buying a device, you're buying25 years of robotics experience, a crazy number of patents and exclusive technologies, high-quality cleaning, simple and user-friendly application interfaceiRobot HOME, two years warranty, high-quality and fast service in Ukraine, the ability to buy supplies directly from the application for controlling the robot.

gg: What is the situation with gray imports in Ukraine?

Anton Kryukov:Unfortunately, there are gray imports.And this is very bad for the buyer. Firstly, the manufacturer does not cover the warranty for devices that were shipped outside of Ukraine; therefore, we cannot provide repairs for such devices. Secondly, 90% of gray imports are robots from American sales. And they break down 5-10 times more often than robots for Europe and Ukraine. In the USA, the standard power supply voltage is 110 volts. Plus another plug that requires an adapter.

The robot is set to 110 volts,the components are rated at 110 volts, the power controller is set to 110 volts. Why am I repeating all this? To make it clear that 110 volts is not 220 volts. And there is nothing surprising in the fact that a large percentage of American robots fail during the first year of operation, and there is no guarantee for them. Our service center does not accept such robots for repair.

The most expensive robot vacuum cleaner in the world iRobot Roomba S9

For example, if you buy a Roomba i7+ for 20%cheaper, the base may not work. It has protection against voltage surges. The robot will run on battery power, but the base components are rated for 110 volts. We have had a lot of requests about this. Does it make sense to save a few thousand, buy a robot not for 20 thousand UAH, but for 16 thousand UAH, and grieve that it broke in the first year of operation? There is no guarantee, no service, money went down the drain. But the decision is made by the buyer. We can only recommend.

gg: Are gray models being transported only from the USA?

Anton Kryukov:There is no point in bringing it from Poland.When we formulate pricing, we try to keep prices at European levels, we lower our earnings in order to fight smuggling from the EU, but, unfortunately, we cannot compete with the USA. There are a lot of fly-by-night companies. They brought one batch, sold it and looked for the wind in the field.

90% of gray imports are robots from US sales. And they break 5-10 times more often than robots for Europe and Ukraine

gg: What functions can appear in robots in the foreseeable future?

Anton Kryukov:Object identification.This is necessary for the robot to understand, for example, if a child or a dog is sitting somewhere, then it cannot be cleaned there now, but it will need to come back. It is also possible that in the future robots will be equipped with a basket into which they can throw objects from the floor. It would be amazing.

gg: What advice can you give to the person who decided to buy his first robot vacuum cleaner?

Anton Kryukov:To begin with, assess the need for functionsrobot and set expectations. How much to clean? 50 sq. m. or 200 sq. m.? Should I clean the carpet from wool or not? To clean wool from the carpet in an apartment of 45 square meters, you do not need to buy a robot vacuum cleaner that costs more than 15 thousand UAH. If you want to control the robot from a smartphone, then you initially need a model with Wi-Fi.

If Wi-Fi is not important, and the apartment is 45-50 m2, our line includes the Roomba 605 robot priced up to 8 thousand UAH. Why overpay?

If the room area is more than 80 m2, then you will need a robot with very good navigation, and this is technologyiAdapt 2AndiAdapt 3.

If you don’t want to clean the container, choose a model thatwho knows how to do it herself. If you need deeper cleaning, you need to choose from the 980 series, this is the most popular robot vacuum cleaner before the S9 and i7. Is there anyone in the apartment with long hair? If yes, you need to take a model with a brush with rollers. If not, you can go cheaper with a fluffy brush.

In general, as I already said, we have robots for any wallet.