What sorts of external trends should iRobot pay attention to? Why? Also, would they have been better off working with an established vacuum cleaner manufacturer? Why or why not? Support your opinions.
iRobot and its product, Roomba, is an interesting case study. A few trends from the article resonate with me as important to iRobot to pay attention to. The article mentions the tolerance for consumer learning curve as needing to be low, or none. As a consumer product that is entirely new, Roomba had a high barrier to enter the market as it had to overcome consumer reaction to first purchasing a robot and also a device that would clean the home. The decision to make the device extremely simple was smart and it allowed people to become familiar to both elements. Thinking back 10 years, this product was initially purchased by baby-boomers and Gen-X who I would not consider technology-natives. Roomba now has a consumer recognition amongst millennials who just “get it” and as iRobot unveils new technology, the learning curve for the millennial consumer will continue to be low, despite it being much more complex than the first product. Another trend that is important to this product is integration with both mobile control and interaction with other home technologies. There are an increasing number of products that can be controlled by mobile phone such as thermostat, security systems, cable TV, etc., and this trend would be important for iRobot to capture in order to stay relevant. Additionally, iRobot and Roomba in specific would also be a stronger product if it interacted with other home technologies (both created by iRobot and otherwise). The article mentioned iRobot releasing home robots of varying kinds but no interaction between them as one portfolio.
As for the decision not work with existing vacuum cleaner manufactures, I agree with iRobot’s decision. The paragraph that mentions iRobot’s desire for consumers to know that a robot company made their vacuum rather than a company like Hoover making their vacuum, seems very important for long-term growth. iRobot would have a hard time attempting to enter the market with subsequent products (especially after Roomba’s success) if Roomba was called Hoover Robot, etc. The classification as a robot is important and this could not have been achieved by selling the patent to Electrolux or Hoover. The only disadvantage I could see is that a partnership with one of these companies would have accelerated their distribution incredibly. While they were able to secure floor demos at Sharper Image and Brookstone, a multi-billion-dollar company like Hoover might have been able to pressure companies like Target to follow suit. This would be much harder to accomplish as iRobot alone. In retrospect, I do not think they made a mistake by manufacturing, marketing, and distributing the product on their own.
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