GoPro expansion to focus on China

Firm is enthusiastic about the potential for emerging technologies such as drones and virtual reality to drive more sales of its compact, robust cameras

A GoPro  Hero 4 is fitted to a Hexo+ drone, manufactured by Squadrone System. GoPro’s chief executive, said he was  enthusiastic about the potential for emerging technologies such as drones to drive more sales of its compact, robust cameras.

A GoPro Hero 4 is fitted to a Hexo+ drone, manufactured by Squadrone System. GoPro’s chief executive, said he was enthusiastic about the potential for emerging technologies such as drones to drive more sales of its compact, robust cameras.

 

GoPro plans to expand its international distribution to include China later this year, reducing its reliance on the US market, after a record launch for its new Hero 4 action cameras over holiday period.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show, Nick Woodman, GoPro’s chief executive, said he was also enthusiastic about the potential for emerging technologies such as drones and virtual reality to drive more sales of its compact, robust cameras.

“We had the best new product introduction we ever had in the history of the company with the Hero 4 line,” said Mr Woodman. “We are very pleased with how the fourth quarter was going.”

At a show where GoPros on “selfie sticks” were ubiquitous, Mr Woodman was mobbed by fans at the company’s CES stand in the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

That enthusiasm for what Mr Woodman calls GoPro’s “rockstar brand” has kept it ahead of rival action cameras from the likes of Sony.

“Every year [AT CES]we see different companies with GoPro-like offerings,” he said. “Pretty much everybody else is just making hardware - they are making a cold, hard thing. They are not creating an experience or an end-to-end solution like we are at GoPro.”

The Silicon Valley-based company is now working to develop its editing and distribution tools for customers, which Mr Woodman hopes will help to increase the number of videos that are shared on social networks such as YouTube and Facebook, providing free marketing for the brand.

Part of GoPro’s pitch to Wall Street as it prepared to go public seven months ago was that it could also use that content to become a media company itself.

While the revenue from advertising or licensing remains “nascent”, Mr Woodman said that distribution deals with platforms such as Microsoft’s Xbox and, through a new deal announced this week, LG’s internet-connected TV sets were already boosting camera sales.

More than half of GoPro’s sales come from its home country of the US. With the global consumer electronics market forecast to grow just 1 per cent this year, GoPro is looking to expand its international footprint.

“People shouldn’t confuse the pace of the success domestically with a lack of opportunity internationally,” Mr Woodman said. “It’s just that we are behind from a channel development relative to the US… There’s so much low-hanging fruit there.”

He said that is likely to include China later in 2015.

“We have several indications that we have every opportunity to succeed in China, that our go-to-market strategy should work over there,” he said. “Time will tell but we are optimistic.”

However, he said that GoPro would not rush into the world’s largest electronics market.

“One thing that we’ve learned is it’s more important to arrive prepared and in force with a great brand presentation than to just hurry up and arrive,” he said. “We would rather take our time and introduce the brand properly.”

With the halls of CES filled with wearable devices, virtual reality headsets and consumer-operated drones, Mr Woodman believes GoPro can benefit as the industry looks beyond the smartphone for its next big source of growth.

(c) 2015 The Financial Times Ltd.