30 September, 2014

Facebooking Customers

I have heard a lot about social media marketing and how it helps brands and Retailers to reach out to a large customer base. But I tried it out for the first time, all by myself. Facebook promotion is quite simple. One needs to provide the target segments of people whom you would like to reach out to and pay online - rather set payment guidelines; and it automatically collects the payments at the end of the campaign. I was quite astonished at the simplicity of the Facebook campaign mechanism - no wonder there are so many who have benefitted through it and are spending billions of dollars at the moment.

For my start-up Retail venture, Smiling Baby which was inaugurated last Friday (26th Sep. 2014), I created a viral promotion to reach out to the people who reside in and around Adyar, in South Chennai where the store is located. Within a span of minutes, I could see increasing levels of "Clicks" and "Likes" for my page. Within 36 hours, the campaign had reached almost 20,000 people! Over 9,000 people had clicked the post and 3,400 people had viewed the photos... For a first timer, this was a remarkable achievement I would say.

So, what went well? To begin with, the usage of the right key words - based on location of customers on their respective walls; their preferences - words such as child, baby care, etc. that they have used quite much. And ofcourse the choice of both genders to reach to the maximum number of people.

Now, the big task lies ahead - to engage these people over the coming days and also to bring them to the retail store, so they could experience the shopping first hand. I am looking forward to the four-day long weekend starting Thursday. Hopefully, many of those who have liked the posts and photos should turn up and shop, for that is when the campaign would have been really successful.

10 September, 2014

Why the iPhone6 will help Retailers!

Sep. 9, 2014 would be an important day in the history of Apple. The company, which regained its ground in the mid-2000s ever since the launch of the first launch of its iPod and later the iPhone has come a long way, with various models, variations and sizes. On Tuesday, Timothy Cook, CEO, Apple Inc. announced the launch of its newest mobile phones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Here is a look at how the phones compare in size with the iPhone 5S which was launched in 2013.

iPhone6 3 

The new iPhone 6 has various interesting features – better camera for higher quality photos and videos, a better battery life (which has been one of the biggest grouses of iPhone users) and a number of cosmetic changes through the new operating system, the iOS 8 which will be released on Sep. 17, 2014. The iPhone models starting with the 4S, some of the models of iPod and iPad would be able to upgrade to iOS8. The new iPhone is much thinner than the current model. Take a look at it.

iPhone6 2

Apple also announced the launch of Apple Pay, a mobile payment system in which users can pay through the mobile phones over a technology called Near Field Communication in which the user has to simply tap the iPhone 6 on to a terminal, confirm the payment with fingerprint sensor and the payment is done. There is no storage of credit card numbers, so there is very little possibilities of data theft. Apple also claims it would never know how much the user paid, thereby maintaining highest level of privacy for users. The service would be available over 220,000 outlets across the US, a mere 2.7 of the total number of retail stores that accept credit cards. Notably, it would take many years for this new form of mobile payment to even come to India, forget gaining acceptance. Add to that the negligible single-digit market share that Apple has in India anyway!

What’s interesting is the way the iPhone 6 and Plus have been priced. Although the official announcement about prices in India is yet to come, it is expected to be sold around Rs. 50,000 for a 16 GB, around Rs. 58,000 for 64 GB and about Rs. 65,000 for a 128 GB model. Yes, you read that right, 128 GB of storage space in a handheld device! In the meanwhile, older models of the iPhone has been seeing prices coming down over the past few days just before the announcement of the new iPhone. It is further expected to be slashed just in time before the offical launch of the new iPhone 6 in India, which is expected on 17 Oct. 2014, well in time for the festival of Diwali.

iPhone6 1

I believe the iPhone 6 would not be much of a game changer for the company, atleast in India. The changes made are purely cosmetic, such as the size and a better User Interface (UI), but other than that, I wonder why many first timers would opt for the new iPhone 6. Apple has finally entered the Phablet segment – which is an inbetween platform for phones and tablets with the iPhone Plus. It would take upon the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 directly in competition, although Samsung would lead the way due to its pricing and reach. But what the new iPhone would do is bring down the prices of the existing models considerably, and make them more affordable to potential buyers.

Bundling with a Telecom Player hasn’t seen much of a success in India, although that’s how the first iPhone was launched way back in 2007 in association with Bharti Airtel. Over the years, the company realised that users are not loyal to the Telecom Companies and switch networks as and when they feel, such as moving to a new job (with a different corporate plan) or city. Since 2012, Apple has brought in the much celebrated EMI Schemes in association with Banks and retailers. Most recently, it has also been trading in older smartphones, and not just the Apple iPhones. So, models such as iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and 5S will see their prices reduced and consumers would be lapping up these phones with delight. However, Apple has an opportunity to build a strong connect and ecosystem with existing Apple users over the next 3 – 5 years. It needs to pump in more and more older models into the market, so users get to understand the Apple experience and would most certainly trade-up with the newer iPhones in future.

07 September, 2014

Sync-ing customers with Technology

Smartphones have come a long way in India over the years. Until about ten years ago, the most popular phones for business purposes were BlackBerry followed by Nokia Feature Phones for personal uses. Others like Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc. had very limited models and therefore very less sales (penetration) as well. Things started changing with the launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007. The iPhone revolutionised the way people used mobile phones with its remarkable technology, style and utilities. As is quite famous about Apple Founder Steve Jobs, the company doesn't conduct much of surveys about user's needs - it rather provides features that users never thought they would need one - the most recent being the finger print scanner for unlocking the iPhone 5S which was the most recent launch in 2013. Samsung Electronics, which is one of the leading Electronics companies in the world has surged past others in less than half a decade to dominate the world's number one position in Smart Phones across the world as well as in India. According to a recent report on NDTV Profit, Sales of Smartphones rose by 84 per cent in the quarter ending June 2014. Local and Foreign companies alike are sacrificing profit margins to build market share in India, which counts 914 million mobile users, according to Government of India data.
Technology Consultancy IDC India projects annual smartphone sales growth of around 40 per cent for the next five years in this price-sensitive nation.

This is a delightful news for Retailers selling mobile phones and accessories. Univercell, Chennai based Retailer of technology products including smart phones, feature phones and related gadgets has grown consistently over the years and is rated No. 1 in terms of their network, Strategic Locations, Innovative Marketing, Friendly service and most importantly, a wide array of products across various brands. The Retailer, recently launched its newest format, rightfully called "Univercell Sync" at the tony Nungambakkam neighbourhood in Central Chennai. The store, spread over about 800 sft is strategically located to enthuse passersby to drop over. While the brand is quite popular in the city, the new "Sync" suffix is sure to attract a lot of people to get inquisitive and enquire the details about the new initiative.

The store layout is interestingly divided as various zones for purposes such as Photography, Music, Work, Accessories and Kids. Gadgets are displayed utility-wise rather than Brand-wise, which is a great way to encourage customers to choose the right gadget according to their uses. Global giants such as Apple, Samsung and LG share the display space with home grown Micromax and Karbon. However, the phones are still displayed price wise within the display areas so buyers can choose within the price range they require.

I was pretty impressed with the Music zone, especially. If CDs killed Music Cassettes fifteen years ago, the iPod killed the CD players a decade ago. Today, most of music is stored and played digitally and handphones have most of them, since people prefer to have a single gadget for making calls, taking photos and for listening to music. The display also includes music gadgets such as speakers, bluetooth devices to stream music, ear phones, head phones and cables to connect. With the touch of a button, its quite easy to connect one's phone to many of the devices and have a live display, which would aid buying the right product quite easily.

I was also quite intrigued with the kid's zone - a special area for interaction with the young ones - kids can hang around and explore various interesting things about the gadgets and the friendly staff are also helpful to teach them a thing or two.

Overall, the store is a notch above the hundreds of retail stores across the city that also "sell" mobile phones. The Univercell Sync stores dont just sell, they rather provide a very unique experience that the next-gen is looking for. Do drop over at the store in the coming days and enjoy a world class experience and share your thoughts.

The store is located at:
New No. 103, Old No. 52,
Nungambakkam High Road,
Landmark: diagonally opp Basics Store.

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