Sonos Promising the Best of Both Worlds with Roam
The rapid growth of wireless speakers from giant tech vendors has been the hot trend in home audio over recent years, but Sonos remains unchallenged as the leading brand in the premium Wi-Fi speaker market. Officially announced yesterday, the new Sonos Roam is poised to both help Sonos maintain its position in-home and expand it further, outside of the home.
The Move, Sonos’s first portable speaker, has been a big success for it. However, weighing 3kg and retailing at $399 it’s very different to offerings in the wider market, with almost 90% of all portable speakers sold last year costing less than $200, while the Move is also 16 times heavier than the bestselling JBL Go 2. The Move’s success can be attributed to consumers looking for a speaker that can easily move between rooms within the home and used in backyards, while the ultra-portable Roam is also attempting to meet more typical use cases served by portable speakers – BBQs, beaches, outdoor gatherings, holidays etc – ie total freedom of movement. The Roam absolutely meets the credentials for a successful portable speaker; easy to use, lightweight, robust. The $169 price point is smart positioning from Sonos. It is relatively premium for a portable speaker, the average price of which was $87 in 2020, but still a price point that will interest a much greater share of consumers (88% of sales are under $200 versus only 5% between $300-$499 where Move competes*). This delta is high enough to help maintain a distinction between Sonos and many Bluetooth-only speakers but low enough that few consumers will be put off. Alongside this attractive price, Sonos has also included some features to help Roam stand out from the crowd.
Early press coverage of the leaks frequently referred to the Roam as a Bluetooth speaker, but during yesterday’s investor presentation Sonos were at pains to stress that it views the Roam as a device capable of thriving both indoors and outdoors. Rather than representing a new direction for the brand, it is an extension of Sonos’s existing identity as the leading audio-first connected home speaker brand. By offering features such as Wi-Fi, stereo pairing, AirPlay 2, multiroom, and Auto Trueplay, the Roam stacks up well compared to other in-home Wi-Fi speakers but also offers the benefits of true portability.
While uptake of portable speakers with Wi-Fi has so far been mixed, with just 2% of the roughly 15m $100-$199 portable speakers sold last year including Wi-Fi, Sonos will be hoping the Roam can buck this trend. Avoiding direct comparisons with Wi-Fi speakers from Amazon and Google, who have very different ambitions and business models to Sonos, can be achieved by focusing on the area where Sonos has a big advantage - audio credentials. With 61% of the 10m Sonos households already owning more than one Sonos product, there’s a captive audience for a device that brings Sonos quality outside the home. However, Sonos will be hoping the Roam can help it penetrate new markets. Its current strength is focused in its key markets of North America, the UK and Germany. Not only does the Roam have a captive audience with existing Sonos speaker owners, but it provides an attractive entry point for new Sonos customers in both its key markets and other, less penetrated countries.
*Futuresource Home Audio Quarterly Tracker
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