Consumer confusion hampers multi-room speaker sales

Multi-room wireless speakers saw 30 per cent growth worldwide in 2015, which was lower than industry expectations, according to a recent report.

The research by Futuresource Consulting also revealed that, as a share of the total global demand for wireless speakers, multi-room speakers fell to around eight per cent.

According to the report, this has been a result of fragmentation in the market due to new entrants, with a mix of single-brand ecosystems and multi-brand platforms. Single-brand platforms currently account for more than 95 per cent of the multi-room audio market.

Consumer research from Futuresource has found when considering a wireless speaker purchase, a third of customers want to be able to play music simultaneously in multiple rooms.

However, Futuresource suggested this was not being translated into sales, because of a lack of retailer support to demonstrate this technology in-store and poor communication from manufacturers, which has left consumers confused.

“Consumers are really confused about the technology,” said Futuresource senior market analyst Rasika Iyer. “For example, over half of US wireless speaker shoppers that we spoke to believed that Bluetooth is an ideal technology for streaming music from one room to another. They don’t realise that this is a key selling point for wi-fi speakers.

“There were only a few multi-room audio announcements at CES this year, somewhat indicative of this market slowdown.”

It also anticipated a shake-down in the longer term, which will lead to more growth, but suggested that multi-room speakers may remain a tick-box feature for manufacturers and consumers.

Sonos recently announced that Apple’s music streaming service could now be accessed on its speakers, which is a reminder that content plays an important role in the success of multi-room.

Google Cast also recently expressed interest in wi-fi audio, after announcing a number of partnerships at CES 2016, such as Bang & Olufsen and Frontier Silicon.

Futuresource predicts positive long-term prospects, as long as the industry can standardise product offerings and better communicate the technology and how it translates to an enhanced customer experience.