Drone maker DJI targets female users as sales start to taper
Company’s 60pc annual rise in sales last year compares with five-fold growth in previous years
DJI, the world’s largest maker of recreational drones, says it has managed to attract more female buyers by repurposing some of its products in a bid to create a new customer group as sales growth begins to taper.
The company’s Osmo series of camera and mobile phone mounts makes use of camera stabilising technology to help customers take better selfies, as self portraits are commonly called, on their mobile phones. Priced at US$299, and very easy to use, the Osmo Mobile products have proved immensely popular with women, said Xu Huabin, a DJI vice president.
“We have launched Osmo in silver in order to tap the female consumer group,” said Xu.
The new business from women is important to help the Shenzhen-based company, which already dominates 70 per cent of the world’s market for drones, as it tries to find new customers and new revenue sources to keep growing.
The gender shift in its customer base comes as DJI expects a “substantial increase” in revenue this year, after sales surged by 60 per cent, topping 10 billion yuan (US$1.45 billion) in 2016.
“We expect faster expansion of the [drones] market this year, and a substantial increase [in sales revenue] for DJI,” Xu told the South China Morning Post in Shenzhen.
He nevertheless added that DJI’s huge market share will inevitably drag down its growth rate in future.
The vice president refused to disclose concrete sales data, saying only that DJI was still a privately owned firm.
Between 2011 and 2015, DJI’s revenue has reportedly increased 100-fold, with the annual sales growth rate expanded up to five-fold from the previous year during 2011-2015.
Overseas markets remain its primary source of income, contributing three quarters of group revenue. Xu identified developed markets including the US, Europe, Japan and Australia as the main destinations of DJI products.
The company currently dominates the global drone market, after expanding its product lines to cater for the needs of what were aviation model lovers, and the ongoing demand from professional photographic and outdoor exercising sectors.
DJI has opened flagship stores in several cities including Shenzhen, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai, all at the very hearts of their city centres.
But the company currently has no plans to open outlets in the US – DJI’s largest market globally – due to its strong partnership with local retail networks, such as Best Buy and Apple.
The Chinese company has a burgeoning team of 1,500 to 2,000 researchers, mostly in Shenzhen with some in Silicon Valley, who are focused on developing ever more diverse commercial drones, which deliver strong returns.
Research firm Gartner has said sales of consumer drones – mostly for photography and personal use – has been dominated by DJI globally, and are expected to grow roughly 40 per cent in 2017 to 2.8 million.
But it predicts commercial drones, commonly used for specialised industries such as agriculture, aerial photography and data collection, will expand about 60 per cent to 174,000 in 2017.
In the meanwhile, sales of consumer drones which account for about 94 per cent of the market have only generated 40 per cent of the market’s revenue stream, while the sales of commercial drones, only 6 per cent of the total units in sales, represent 60 per cent of the total revenue, as many of the biggest models can cost in excess of US$100,000.
Xu said revenue from DJI commercial drone sales are smaller than a quarter of the group income, but unlike most other Chinese drone manufacturers which sells most of their products domestically, the company’s commercial sales are becoming largely targeting at overseas countries.
Earlier PricewaterhouseCoopers research has forecasted the global market for commercial drones will balloon to as much as US$127 billion by 2020, from an estimated US$2 billion in 2016.