The rise of VR camera in today's digital age has already changed the way we record and share our lives. Insta360 (Chinese: 影石), a Chinese tech company founded in 2015, has become a globally renowned intelligent imaging brand thanks to its innovative panoramic technology. Through independent research and continuous technological innovation, the company has met the imaging needs of consumers in different scenarios.
In this interview, EqualOcean had the privilege to discuss the company's innovative approach and its role in the competitive market with Insta360's executives.
Brand Strength: Leading with Panoramic Technology
In 2022, Insta360's revenue exceeded 2 billion, with an annual growth rate of over 50%. But what is it that has made the company so successful in the highly competitive VR camera market?
In the interview, the representative of Insta360 ties the company's success to its panoramic imaging technology, which is their technological moat. Panoramic cameras possess a unique ability to capture a full 360-degree view, allowing users to adjust the perspective after the photo is taken, offering a "shoot first, frame later" experience. Leveraging this feature, Insta360 introduced the "invisible selfie stick" function, which makes the selfie stick disappear from the picture, creating the illusion of having a personal cameraman. This innovation attracted individual users and brought about applications in various sports, such as skiing, cycling, surfing, and skydiving, thereby transforming the action camera market.
Additionally, the company actively integrated panoramic technology into various industries, including journalism, smart cities, and digital real estate. They developed a comprehensive VR panoramic live-streaming solution and collaborated with major global media outlets to cover large-scale events, the Super Bowl, and the Oscars. These diverse applications have steadily increased the demand for the company's products.
Currently, Insta360 has established a well-rounded online and offline sales system. Their online channels include the Insta360 official store, as well as e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Lazada, Tmall (Chinese: 天猫), and JD.com (Chinese: 京东). Their offline channels span over 60 countries, collaborating with renowned retailers like Best Buy, Costco, Sam's Club, MediaMarkt, JB Hi-Fi, Yodobashi, Bic Camera, Yamada Denki, and others. The company's products are sold in over 200 countries and regions, with a user base exceeding millions.
Product Innovation: Technological Advancements Drive Ongoing Updates
Insta360 maintains its competitive edge not only through impressive sales growth but also by consistently innovating its products. As a high-tech enterprise, the company has always placed a strong emphasis on independent innovation and technological advancement since its inception. They currently possess a range of core technologies, including image capture and stitching, stabilization, AI image processing, computational photography, and more. Notably, their proprietary FlowState stabilization technology has become an industry benchmark.
With more than 500 authorized patents domestically and internationally, the company has filled the technological gaps in the domestic panoramic imaging field. This technological prowess has earned them several honors. Furthermore, their products have been recognized with prestigious international design awards, including the CES Innovation Award in the United States, the iF Design Award in Germany, the Red Dot Design Award, and the Good Design Award in Japan, underscoring their global impact.
Their talented team is another critical success factor, with over 1000 employees, averaging just 28.5 years in age, and nearly 50% dedicated to research and development. The youthful and creative team plays a crucial role in driving the company's ongoing innovation. Insta360's product development cycle is rapid, with a continuous stream of innovative features, including Bullet Time, motion-lapse photography, and other creative shooting modes, empowering users in content creation.
User Profile: Attracting Diverse Users through Innovative Content
Insta360's user base is diverse, coming from various fields and age groups. However, they all share a common trait: a propensity for creativity and a willingness to explore new experiences. The brand's slogan, "Think Bold," emphasizes the importance of daring to think of new ideas and creativity. The company actively encourages users to express their creativity and has initiated the "Think Bold" challenge fund to collect creative ideas from users globally, helping them achieve their boldest ideas.
The company has put in substantial effort for innovative content and activities, including collaborating with local key opinion leaders (KOLs) and portals, as well as customizing market activities to suit local market characteristics. For example, an individual with disabilities used Insta360's panoramic camera to record a skiing video from their perspective, showcasing the inclusivity and innovation of panoramic cameras. The company also initiated the #NoseMode challenge, guiding users to utilize panoramic cameras creatively, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers.
Furthermore, Insta360 organized a unique event where they strapped a panoramic camera to an eagle's back to capture breathtaking footage from a bird's-eye view, demonstrating the impact and innovation of panoramic cameras. This creative content not only increased user association with Insta360 but also attracted more like-minded users, creating a positive brand cycle.
Market Profile: Over Half of Revenue Comes from Overseas Markets
Despite being headquartered in China, over half of Insta360's revenue comes from overseas markets, demonstrating the company's international success. Insta360 was the first panoramic camera brand to enter Apple Stores worldwide and has collaborated with renowned retailers such as Best Buy, B&H, and SoftBank, while forming deep partnerships with tech giants like Leica in Germany. However, the characteristics of some overseas markets challenge conventional perceptions and intuitions.
On one hand, panoramic cameras were a novel concept for many people in the early days of the company's inception. Therefore, during the initial product marketing phase, the company emphasized product functionality. However, they later discovered that users were more concerned about creating and sharing content quickly on social media platforms. This insight inspired them to change their marketing approach to focus on content dissemination.
The company actively engages in social media, accumulating over 1.7 million followers on Instagram, an achievement rare among Chinese consumer electronics brands expanding abroad. Through collaborations with social media platforms and various partners, they have expanded brand awareness and influence, allowing more global consumers to become familiar with Insta360's products.
Through the creation of impressive content, such as eagle panoramic videos, the Insta360 NoseMode Challenge, and more, they attracted significant user attention and unlocked creative potential. This not only enhanced user associations with Insta360 but also attracted more like-minded users, creating a virtuous brand cycle.
Future Trends: Developments and Challenges in Smart Hardware
Over the next three years, the smart hardware industry will face new challenges and opportunities. With the implementation of data protection regulations, advertising distribution, and performance measurement are transforming. Insta360 believes that more companies will focus on user interactive experiences, co-growing with users and influencers, rather than relying solely on advertising to generate traffic.
In the company's experience, personalized marketing is becoming more complex and professional. Therefore, establishing long-term cooperative relationships with users and influencers, growing together with them, will be a crucial strategy for international expansion in the future.
Insta360 emphasizes that the "greatest competitor is oneself." This means the company must not only compete with other brands but also continuously improve its products to meet the diverse needs of users in various scenarios. From a short-term brand competition perspective, timely product development and sales are critical to the company's revenue and user satisfaction. In the long term, the real competition lies in addressing the problems users face in specific scenarios.