Adapting to the connected world

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Evolution and greater engagement with customers – were the key words in Sony’s strategy for 2012. Anna Ryland reports.

Having great products is not enough. We need to respond to the ‘anytime anywhere’ consumer requirement,” said Gildas Pelliet, managing director of SonyUK, at the press briefing during Sony Technology Conference inLondon.

In theUK, where there are already 7 million viewers of the internet TV, 54% of the population owns a smartphone and 5 million people have a tablet, Sony wishes to engage with customers through its ‘connected’ services such as Sony Entertainment Network, its content and its products, confirmed Mr Pelliet.

“The television category is not growing any longer as we are entering the replacement market. We see this trend also in the laptop market.  It’s time to examine how we are going to manage this replacement market, and add value to it with more premium features. That’s why we are focusing on picture quality in 2012,” continued Sony’s MD.

Five key product developments for Sony in 2012 are: the first Sony brand  smartphone with a HD 720p display powered by Sony’s mobile BRAVIA technology, Crystal LED television – a hybrid between LED TV and OLED, 4K resolution screens, the PlayStation Vita – for handheld gaming, and the PlayMemoriesseries Online, services and applications that let consumers enjoy their videos and photos on a variety of devices, including LCD TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Among other innovative products showcased at the conference were: the Z1000 series Walkman, the first to use the Android operating system; the Sony Tablet S with the ‘throw’ DNLA functionality enabling to move AV content between tablet, TV and audio products; the latest Handycam camcorder models with a new image stabilization system,  Balanced Optical Steady Shot, that cancels handshake blur by up to 13 times more effectively than previous models, and the first USB 3.0 flash memory drive that offers data speeds up to 120 MB/s (read) and 90 MB/s (write).

Working with the trade

In the recessionary market, Sony has a three-prong retail market strategy for 2012, explained Roy Dickens, Sony retail director. The company will focus on business restructuring – balancing costs with sales; broadening consumer propositions, including personalization of products and attachment sales; and, in cooperation with the company’s retail partners, developing an even stronger service ethos by  supporting consumer sales and post-sale experience.

Market research shows that complexity of modern CE technology has left consumers confused, with 27% of them giving up at the final stage of consumer journey and failing to purchase the intended item. “The retail stage is the challenge at the moment,” said Mr Pelliet.  “This 27% is the size of the lost opportunity in our sector and it means that we should simplify the way we engage with consumers.”

Retail training will become even greater than ever priority for Sony. Currently the company is developing a European Partner Programme for all its partners to support their sales and merchandising efforts. The programme is to be launched in April. At this stage, however, the manufacturer was unable to reveal further details of the scheme.

The Sony Centres network is undergoing transformation in line with changing market conditions. As the network is becoming smaller, Sony helps with transfers of ownership and navigates existing customers to other Sony Centres. The Centres to a greater extent will be able to offer personalized products such as Vaio Configure – which allows consumers to specify all their laptop requirements and get them configured in store. Sony’s EPOS ordering system will allow the retailers to order products directly from Sony’s warehouses, improving their cash flow, profitability and operational efficiency.

A new design concept of Sony Centres has been tested in 2011 in three locations:Enfield, Leicester andWimbledon. These stores are not only better designed allowing greater interaction of customers with products but their staff received specialist training that helps them to achieve greater engagement with customers. So far the results are very encouraging: the new concept stores have on average 20% more footfall and attract a greater number of younger and female consumers. There is also a clear move from predominantly selling televisions towards digital imaging products and laptops.

However, the manufacturer doesn’t plan to open more new concept stores in 2012, focusing on consolidating the lessons learnt from the three existing stores.

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