ECOVACS plans to introduce seven new home cleaning robots in the US in 2016: five clean bare-floors and carpets, and two wipe glass doors and clean windows while the owner enjoys a coffee with a newspaper in hand, practices a yoga pose or takes a nap.
"I believe floor and window cleaning robots will one day be a necessity for every household, just like washing machines," said Qian Dongqi, chairman of ECOVACS Robotics, headquartered in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.
Despite being a new name to a competitive market, the company has had triple-digit growth in the past two years thanks to people's growing demand for free time while the robots do the cleanings, said Michael Hecht, executive director of the North America division.
"The [in-home robotics] category is experiencing very good growth. Retailers are it to their selection, whether it's online or in-store," he said. "We have a lot of retail partners who want to be in business with us."
The company's robots are sold through retailers, including Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon and eBay.
ECOVACS started as an original equipment manufacturer of traditional vacuum cleaners in 1998, but Qian wanted something more challenging. For seven years, the company researched and experimented with home robotics, and its first floor robot that was introduced in 2007 proved to be a success in China.
The company says it is now the No 1 brand in China's in-home robotics category, with more than 54 percent market share. The company sold $47 million in robots in 24 hours during the last Singles' Day online shopping spree.
The robot maker decided to move beyond China in 2012, opening two international offices in Canton, Ohio, and Dusseldorf, Germany.
"The US is a large market. We wanted to establish the brand here, and then expand to Canada, Mexico and Central America," Hecht said.
Facing strong competitors such as American brands, iRobot and Neato, ECOVACS finds its competitive advantage in product diversity, affordable price range and longer warranty, he said.
Different from its main US competitors who outsource the manufacturing of their products, ECOVACS is a vertically-integrated company. It does it all: research and design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and support. The company has more than 5,000 employees globally and owns a factory in Suzhou.
The company broke into the US market with its window-cleaning robot, called a WINBOT and remains the only brand selling such a product. A WINBOT automatically navigates its way on glass to clean it.
Mike said its floor robot line called DEEBOT - the Chinese word for floor is "di", pronounced as "dee" - is also experiencing fast growth since its introduction in the US 18 months ago. The robotic vacuum can be maneuvered via smartphones and tablets.
"After it cleans the living room, you can draw on your phone and order it to go to the kitchen or bedroom," said Hecht.
ECOVACS' floor and window robots cost between $150 to $700, whereas its competitors mostly target the $300 to $900 range. The cheapest WINBOT costs $179.99 and a DEEBOT that cleans bare floor sells for 199.99.
The company has two other in-home robotic lines that it may introduce in the US: ATMOBOT, the world's first mobile air purifier that travels in a home, and FAMIBOT, a home entertainment and security robot that tells news and weather, reads audiobook, patrols home with live video-streaming and detects potential danger, such as smoke or suspicious movement.
Hecht said that the product development team in China often reaches out to him for suggestion, and every product is tested in China and each of the global markets.
By Hezi Jiang in New York(China Daily USA)
Updated: 2016-06-28 10:55