Here are four ways the industry can fix what's broken and revamp its business strategies.
Tag: Consumer electronics
It's going to be a green Christmas, at least in consumer-electronics sales. Bolstered by a flood of new products such as motion-controlled game consoles, 3DTV, e-readers and tablet computers, sales are projected to keep the industry growing at a strong clip. The Consumer Electronic Association predicts $175 billion in shipments for 2010 in the U.S., a 3% increase over 2009 and a $9 billion jump in the group's earlier January prediction. What's more, not a lot of it will be purchased off the sale rack.
Apple Inc. is boosting efforts to appeal to a new type of customer: small businesses. The consumer electronics giant responsible for the iPhone is seeking to hire engineers in as many as a dozen U.S. retail stores to put together Apple-based computer systems for small businesses, according to recent job postings on Apple's website. The employees would implement computer systems for clients and are expected to be proficient in networking hardware and server platforms. "Thousands of businesses run on Apple products," the posting reads. "Many more would like to, and that's where you come in." The new positions mark the latest development in Apple's evolving strategy, which has historically focused on the consumer market and niche businesses, like design and media firms. Now, Apple wants to leverage its popular iPhone and iPad devices, using their appeal as a selling point for more expensive products, including its line of Macintosh computers and servers.
This laser focus on a small basket of specific products is a new marketing strategy for Sony, which pulled in $24 billion in third-quarter revenue (ending Dec. 31, 2009), up 4% from 2008. For the past few years, the company spent its nearly $5 billion on global advertising budget on a huge number of its products--from laptops to DVD players. Niche is the new tactic. By honing in on its most promising devices and celebs, Sony is aiming to fend off competitors that dominate the consumer electronics space.
To make an electronics company, you need a lot of people: executives, managers, accountants, marketing, manufacturing, and on and on. But somewhere inside that cloud of administration, there are always a few anonymous geniuses, the heart of the company, the ones who keep the whole thing going: the people who actually come up with the ideas. How do they do it? How do they come up with enough new features to keep us excited, year after year? I don’t know how they usually do it, but I know how they should do it: by crowdsourcing.
When it comes to the future of consumer electronics, Best Buy says individual gadgets don't mean as much as marketers think they do. Instead, "we see tremendous opportunity around how those devices work with each other, and with content people already own," says Shari Ballard, EVP/retail channel management for the Minneapolis-based chain. "People are trying to do things with their technology products, not just acquire them."
Best Buy is going to start retailing an electric motorcycle sometime this fall, in an effort to repurpose some of the space available in its cavernous stores. I think the bigger opportunity is to use that space to deliver new and different services.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is revamping the electronics departments in its more than 3,500 U.S. stores this week, ramping up an aggressive battle with Best Buy Co. and Amazon.com to seize customers up for grabs due to the demise of Circuit City Stores Inc. Wal-Mart's roomier and more interactive electronics displays begin arriving in stores Monday, showcasing the latest mobile phones and portable computers, and including standalone sections for popular brands such as Nintendo Co. and Apple Inc.
Best Buy Co. is rapidly expanding its private-label electronics business in a gamble to gain a key competitive advantage over rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Best Buy believes it can prosper in private-label electronics -- an area that has historically flummoxed U.S. retailers -- by using the mountains of customer feedback it collects from its stores to make simple innovations to established electronic gadgetry. The move comes as Best Buy's position in the consumer electronics market has strengthened in the past year following the liquidation of former rival Circuit City Stores Inc.
Consumer electronics -- in particular computers, monitors and televisions -- are notorious energy-suckers. But consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and they're looking to save money on their utility bills. Two California utilities, along with retailers and consumer electronics makers, are looking to guide consumers toward more energy-efficient products with an in-store marketing and labeling program.