The Future Home: The Incremental Value Gains Offered by “Robot Friendly Rooms”

July 2021

Robot vacuum cleaners emerge from niche penetration and are worth consideration as part of furniture selection priorities for a growing number of households. Furniture specifications can prevent robots from achieving 100% floor coverage, with critical factors such as clearance height below, gap widths, and more subtle aspects such as use of tassels being a particular nemesis. There are incremental basket size gains and wider monetised value in furniture retail promoting “Robot Friendly Rooms”.

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Key findings

Robot cleaner penetration is starting to exceed “niche” in multiple large furniture markets, reaching far beyond early adopters

Robot cleaners have particular needs in a room in order to provide the best cleaning performance for users. All too often, a robot owner will choose new furniture only to find post-purchase that this item fails to help the robot’s mission, leaving a degree of dissatisfaction in results. This is evident in efforts and online commentary going into room preparation and room modification once someone brings a robot cleaner into their home.

The discrimination for being “robot friendly” as an item of furniture is something that can be defined as a checklist

There are clear parameters visible for how furniture helps or hinders the 100% coverage mission of a robot cleaner. Height factors allow robots to clean beneath, width factors between legs and barriers define where the robot can access, and climbing heights for carpets, rugs or sills between rooms either help a transition or block the way. The bane of robots is the use of tassels or other loose fibres and cables robots can get tangled in.

The upside for furniture retail promoting “Robot Friendly Rooms” manifests in cross-sell and up-sell revenue opportunities

The user enters to buy an item of furniture as usual, but they are a robot owner, familiar with the challenges and limitations of the technology today. The shopping journey provides a gamified mechanism of chasing 100% coverage performance in a room, and subsequently all rooms. They already want and pursue this…the limitation is that legacy rooms and robot brands are not able to fundamentally remove the barriers, but furniture retail and brands can.

One of the levers foreseen in the implementation of “Robot Friendly Rooms” is AR technology expanding in use supporting furniture sales

This is all about the experience. In a store, the execution and merchandising is straightforward. Online the augmented reality tools already in development and improving in service to the furniture industry are also the means for this value reaching out as a scaled app-based service to guide users on how to upgrade their rooms to be robot friendly. This is how extra furniture and high-margin peripherals are added to the basket, and it is also how the relationship is grown and monetised over time.

Introduction

Scope
Key findings in “Robot Friendly Rooms”

Future Home

Overview of the Home and Technology strategic themes for 2021
An overview of the strategic theme: The Future Home
Aspects that give insight into how the future home will work
Companies are meeting consumer needs using various strategies
Robot Friendly Rooms a story of Future Home Automation

An Introduction to Robot Cleaners

Current technology is based on floor cleaning robots with brushes
The size and shape of the domestic robot vacuum cleaner market
The maturing appeal beyond early adopters towards family homes
A robot sales boom in 2020 was not just about lockdown hygiene
Leading companies in domestic vacuuming robots globally
Countries where robot cleaners are most popular
Two factors define cleaning performance - efficacy and efficiency
Robots compete with human results in terms of dedicated time on task
Robot performance is only part of this; home preparation matters
The robot journey has many gaps versus “Rosie” from the Jetsons
How robot cleaners fit into the Hygienic Home consumer system
There is a timely aspect to this topic implying “low hanging fruit”
What does robot cleaner growth imply for home and garden retail?

Barriers to 100% Coverage

An uncluttered room still poses barriers for robot cleaning coverage
We need to view rooms and furniture from the robot’s perspective
“Going under” is one of the key robot benefits; height really matters
Getting stuck 1: Height clearance issues in the “middle ground”
Getting stuck 2: The chair leg prison of doom
Getting stuck 3: Tangled up hard cords and cables
Getting stuck 4: Choking on soft fabrics and rug/carpet fibres
“Fails” can sometimes be quite artistic…but it is never a good thing
Getting stuck 5: Loose items (socks, screws, LEGO and jewelry)
Dust traps 1: Physical barriers that still let dust bunnies accumulate
Dust traps 2: Not all furniture leg shapes are easy to clean around
Dust traps 3: Stair steps and cliffs limit this as a “one floor” solution
Dust traps 4: Furniture legs need to be robot friendly from all sides
Dust traps 5: A rug’s height differential can make it a robot barrier
Contrast affects navigation technology for the majority of robots
The dirty little euphemism called “secondary contamination”
Some user stories fall inside the “marketing unspeakables ” bracket

Relevance in Home and Garden

What furnishings and flooring products impact robot coverage?
Relative spend in-scope from home furnishings
Relative spend in-scope from home improvement
Around 25% of robot spend is premium spending over USD500
Room planning services using augmented reality and furniture tools
Accessory bundles that can come out of such a service relationship
Basket impacts when boosting a sofa sale into a “robot friendly room”
Big price decisions made in the kitchen will also clearly be impacted
No one can demonstrate a robot at 100% peak performance better
Biggest cross-over markets for spend on both furniture and robots

Vetting What is “Robot Friendly”

The height clearance that needs to be avoided beneath furniture
The widths between legs and obstacles that are best avoided
Room transitions and cable protections impact robot climbing limits
Only low pile rugs and carpets are friendly to best-seller robots
Anything with tassels or loose fibres is decidedly robot “unfriendly”
Checklist for furniture viable as part of “Robot Friendly Rooms”
Value to be had from home accessories not usually linked to robots

Conclusion and Recommendations

“Robot Friendly Rooms” takes existing behaviour and extrapolates
The value placed in clean homes will be abnormally high for years
Basket size and expected gains from selling “robot friendly” rooms
Partnership and merchandising opportunities in furniture/robot retail
Gains from co-development of future furniture and robot designs
Incremental revenue opportunities in “robot friendly” room planning
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