Global shipments of smart vacuums reached 4,5-million units – a YoY increase of 11,1% – according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker for Q1 2024.

The following Chinese manufacturers made it into the top 10 (arranged alphabetically): Anker Innovations, Dreame, ECOVACS, ILIFE, Lefant, Narwal, Roborock, and Xiaomi experiencing a YoY increase in their combined share. Despite the progress, iRobot remained dominant in the US, Japan, the UK and Canada, leveraging its brand influence.

Competition in the high-end market, encompassing models priced above $600 intensified in 2024 which was driven by manufacturers introducing new products with improved features ahead of schedule.

While all-round models saw strong pricing, the average unit price of other smart vacuum types has fallen – reflecting a price-for-volume strategy in mid-to-low-end products.

In 2024, the evolution of smart vacuum capabilities will centre on two key areas, according to IDC:

Cleaning capability

The penetration rate of all-round models featuring self-cleaning and self-dust collection functionalities continues to rise. Chinese brands have excelled in this area leveraging their product capabilities.

Vacuum features are upgraded in an all-round way including mechanical arms for corner cleaning, dual-spiral roller brushes to combat pet hair entanglement, maintenance-free dust collection systems, high suction power exceeding 10 000pa, hot air drying, automatic disinfectant addition, and other disinfection and sterilisation capabilities.

Those upgrades are transforming vacuums into comprehensive cleaning appliances.

Algorithmic capability

Intelligent dirt recognition, all-environment dynamic navigation and AI binocular 3D obstacle avoidance capabilities are important features to enable hands-free operation. In China’s first-tier cities there are residents with high purchasing power who choose other cleaning appliances such as floor scrubbers for their smaller apartments.

However, the mapping and obstacle avoidance capabilities based on advances in algorithms will accelerate product upgrades among those same consumers and helping vacuums gain traction in smaller households.

The US remains the largest market for smart vacuums. While Chinese manufacturers possess superior product capabilities and faster iterative cycles, they hold a relatively low market share in the US market due to factors such as long-standing channel resources and brand influence enjoyed by local brands.

In the Latin American market, Chinese products face lower acceptance because of relatively high prices. Globally, leading Chinese manufacturers witnessed rapid growth in their overseas business last year – particularly in Asia/Pacific (AP) and Central and Eastern Europe.

The worldwide smart vacuum market exhibits distinct characteristics in terms of products, marketing, and distribution channels:

Distribution channels show significant regional differences.

Affected by logistics infrastructure and consumption habits, large shopping malls, supermarkets and online marketplaces dominate the distribution landscape in Europe – while brands’ physical stores also play an important role in sales and brand building. Conversely, regions with mature e-commerce channels such as China and the US rely heavily on e-commerce platforms for product distribution.

Regional configuration needs for robot vacuums vary due to diverse habits, climates, and housing characteristics.

Consumers across countries have different preferences for the sweeping and mopping features, and obstacle avoidance capabilities of cleaning appliances as a result of differences in climate, humidity, housing structure, carpet habits, and cleaning requirements.

European and American markets have higher requirements for dust collection, lifting capacity, and multi-pet cleaning capabilities. The Japanese market, however, demonstrates a low demand for mopping functions. Therefore, manufacturers should tailor products for different regions.

Manufacturers need to strengthen promotion and marketing through new types of e-commerce channels.

Celebrity endorsements and key opinion leaders’ recommendations on social platforms are important avenues for enhancing brand influence. Pet bloggers, tech reviewers and home-related influencers can help vendors enhance brand visibility and accelerate the penetration of smart vacuums into global households.

Claire Zhao, senior research analyst at IDC China, notes that the smart vacuum industry is still in its rapid growth phase and that product penetration rates remain low across global regions, indicating significant market potential.

Chinese manufacturers possess strong product capabilities, excellent cost control capabilities, a long-standing market presence, and expertise in integrating software and hardware. This positions them favourably for global expansion in the smart home hardware market.

Zhao says they should be encouraged to build upon their product foundations, intensify e-commerce marketing and promotion across regions, and accelerate offline channel development to capitalise on the current window of opportunity.