By the end of this year, ecommerce will account for 46% of the $1.1 trillion in expected consumer electronics market revenue. The pandemic lockdowns forced consumers online to buy keyboards, cameras and video game accessories, and supply chain problems meant that many of those consumer electronics were purchased cross-border. Consumer electronics expansion online boomed. While demand for home office electronics has waned, demand remains high for consumer electronics that connect people to people and people to their environments.
From smartphones to wearable tech to smart home devices, DTC ecommerce channels are popular with shoppers for a variety of reasons.
Globalisation has given consumers access to more products than ever – in theory. While a shopper may be aware of a certain product and want to buy it, the product may or may not be available in local retail outlets. Lack of available inventory used to mean that shoppers had to choose a different item – either from a different brand or a similar item from the same brand but with fewer features. Global ecommerce eliminates the issue by making more products available to more customers.
Consumer electronics pricing varies wildly by market. Even with added taxes and duties, shoppers may still pay less for a product they buy online than they would in-store. In addition, brands that have a DTC channel can offer market-specific promotions that further appeal to new and existing buyers.
More than just the ease of clicking or tapping “Buy Now” from anywhere on any device, ecommerce is convenient throughout the whole buying journey. Shoppers can research products, see and compare specs and read reviews in one place. They can also track shipments, initiate returns and contact customer service. A DTC ecommerce channel allows the customer to essentially design their own experience and interact with the brand when and how it’s convenient.
Consumer electronics shoppers have a better connection with a brand and feel a greater sense of loyalty when interacting with that brand on its site. In a marketplace or in store, a brand is one of many but on its own site, it’s one of one. Consumer electronics brands with a DTC channel have enormous opportunity to create an experience that attracts and keeps customers. Instead of competing for a laptop customer and then again for that same customer when they want to buy a monitor, brands that sell DTC demonstrate that they meet more customer needs than expected.
Closely related to availability and brand connection, consumer electronics shoppers turn to DTC channels because they know their brand of choice will deliver what they, as individuals, are looking for. This is especially true of brand super-fans. Shoppers looking for a limited-edition or special-release item are among the first to buy on a DTC site because they are confident that they can buy exactly what they are looking for – and they can have it before anyone else. Brands that capitalise on super-fan FOMO come out ahead.
Brands that added a DTC channel or shifted more resources to existing DTC channels during the pandemic lockdowns saw increased revenues – or at the very least preserved revenue that would otherwise have been lost. There is now pressure and expectations – both internal and external – to keep and grow the channel. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but with in-store shopping back up and running, how do consumer electronics brands maintain and increase ecommerce momentum and the revenue that goes with it?
New Markets, New Customers
Consumer electronics have long been global goods. Forward-thinking brands innovate and invent new products and technologies for a variety of customers and markets. But establishing a foothold in new markets presents challenges and these challenges can be resource intensive and reduce speed-to-market.
- Establishing a local entity – Brands with local business entities in each country or market have more credibility, flexibility and protection. The process to establish a local entity can take months, is costly and can be a roadblock to consumer electronics expansion.
- Avoiding channel conflict – Establishing an ecommerce presence in a market currently served by a distributor can cause conflict. Consumer electronics brands will need to work with the distributor and reach pricing and availability agreements. Minimum Advertised Pricing(MAP) and other negotiated agreements may put distributors at ease.
- Redesigning product – Some product components may need to be redesigned to meet both practical and regulatory requirements. Electrical outlet designs vary so something as basic as plugging in a device may be impossible if the plug is not compatible with the country’s outlet arrangement. More significantly, different markets have different regulations for product components including the metals and other materials used in the product.
- Finding, vetting and contracting with 3PLs – Third-party logistics (3PL) providers are a key piece of the global DTC expansion puzzle. Warehousing, inventory management and logistics partners must be reliable and able to meet and exceed customer expectations for low-cost, fast shipping. Brands must also have a convenient returns process which means 3PLs must be able to effectively and efficiently process returns as customers do not want to wait weeks for refunds or credits. Brands that disregard or deprioritise 3PL and logistics risk losing the customers they work so hard to win.
- Complying with local security requirements – Data breaches cost companies millions in lost revenue and fines. Perhaps more than dollars lost, brand reputations take huge hits with each reported breach. Brands inherently face some level of consumer skepticism when breaking into a new market. Customers need to know they can trust a brand with their personal and financial data. Governments have numerous regulations in place to protect citizens’ data and privacy. Brands will need to know what those regulations are and how to comply with them.
- Managing and remitting taxes – Handling domestic tax regulations properly is a challenge for many brands. Teams of accountants and lawyers ensure the right amount and type of tax is remitted to the right agency by the right deadline. Complying with international tax laws adds layers of complexity to an already complex system. But failing to calculate and remit the proper taxes can expose brands to audits and cost millions in fines and penalties.
In addition to building the right business infrastructure in a new market, brands launching consumer electronics expansion must identify the ideal customer profile in each market, determine the proper product mix and design localised marketing campaigns.
Target and Segment Audiences in Consumer Electronics Expansion Roadmaps
While consumer electronics as a category hold universal appeal, not every product will sell successfully in every market. To determine what will sell, brands need data to identify audiences and know what they want. This data can come from internal research and first-party data that a brand already owns. Social listening and market research enhance demographic data.
Consumer electronics customers have different purchasing motivations. Brands should design and execute marketing campaigns that tap into those motivations. Early adopters are motivated by being the first and/or only one to own a product. Since clout is the motivating factor, these customers are more likely to make full-price purchases and should not be the target of discount campaigns.
There are also undoubtedly customers within a market that are price-sensitive and will wait for a promotion or discount before making a purchase. Consumer electronics brands can employ bundling, discounts or even stand-alone refurbished product sites to win price-motivated shoppers.
In addition to consumer electronics expansion in the retail market, brands can use territory expansion to test strategies like B2B. As corporate decision makers skew younger, more of them are digital natives. That means that these corporate buyers are accustomed to ecommerce experiences in their home lives and are increasingly open to (if not expecting) a consumerised B2B experience. Consumerising the corporate purchasing experience could provide valuable market data that informs a brand’s traditional B2C or DTC strategy.
Determine the Product Mix
Rarely, if ever, do brands copy-paste product catalogues from market to market. First of all, not all products can legally be sold in every country. Second, consumer preference and cultural norms often dictate which products will hit and which will miss.
Shipping costs eliminate some heavy goods from being viable in markets located far from the manufacturing site. Territory-specific taxes and tariffs also automatically exclude certain products. Warehouse space and leasing costs may also limit the size of products that a brand can realistically store and sell.
New market penetration is often a test-and-learn exercise so there must be tolerance and agility while the right, profitable product lineup is established.
Localise Marketing Campaigns
Localising a DTC channel is not merely a matter of translating an ecommerce site. Consumer electronics brands especially must understand how to reach new customers. Consumer electronics are on the cutting edge of new, life-improving technology. To be relevant in a new market, brands must show up where their prospects are and tell a compelling story.
Marketing efforts should reflect the local language – including colloquialisms – values and context. In 2016, the Portuguese football team won the UEFA Euro championships while France came in second. Nike famously localised its ecommerce hero image by displaying the Portuguese team image on nearly every global site except its French site. Nike didn’t want to be seen as insensitive to the runner-up country.
Localised marketing campaigns can also offer promotions around country or region-specific consumer holidays. Think Single’s Day in China or Diwali in India.
Responsible Consumer Electronics Expansion
While consumer electronics aim to improve the lives of users, the industry as a whole does little to improve the environment. The United Nations estimates that the world produces up to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste every year.
In addition to the waste generated at the end of a product’s lifespan, the manufacturing of consumer electronics leaves a sizeable carbon footprint. More than 75% of consumer electronics-related CO2 emissions come from the manufacturing, shipping and first-year usage of devices like laptops and smartphones.
While companies and governments hash out how to address climate change, consumers are becoming impatient. 75% of Gen Z consumers said that sustainability is more important to them than a brand name. Environmental concerns are not confined to younger generations. 67% of Gen X shoppers prefer to buy from sustainable companies.
The consumer electronics industry must eventually figure out sustainable manufacturing. In the meantime, brands can appeal to new customers by embracing other earth-friendly endeavors and communicating environmental, social and governance measures.
Brands can commit to ethical sourcing of raw materials. Shipping products contributes to a brand’s carbon footprint so brands should work with logistics vendors that minimise or offset emissions. Reverse logistics only double the environmental impact so brands should develop robust recycling and refurbishment programs to reduce emissions.
Sustainability is not a marketing ploy. Greenwashing abounds and companies that get caught pay the price. Consumer electronics brands entering new markets should honestly – but loudly – tout their genuine sustainability bona fides to attract shoppers.
In-House or Outsource Consumer Electronics Expansion
Global commerce is more accessible than ever. Consumers shop and buy in a global marketplace. They go where the products are. Growing consumer electronics brands can leverage DTC channels to expand their customer bases and their business.
The choice facing brands looking to open new markets is whether to use internal resources to launch expansion or to outsource.
Both are viable ways to grow a global business and both have pros and cons. Tackling expansion with in-house talent and technologies may save money compared to outsourcing. Brands may also feel a greater sense of control over the process by utilising existing human resources. But adding to the workload of employees may not be a workable option. In addition, hiring a new team or team members takes time. Done properly, the process of entering just one new market requires herculean effort. Entering multiple markets or entering multiple markets simultaneously can take years.
There’s no doubt that outsourcing can be costly. Brands may choose to outsource the entire expansion or certain pieces of the process. Either way, brands will need to manage as many vendor relationships as they outsource. Finding a multi-disciplinary vendor or one that has established business entities streamlines the relationship. The right partner can give brands speed-to-market and speed-to-revenue.
Global consumer electronics expansion is complicated. There are many ways that brands can misstep and lose valuable time and investment. But done correctly, brands can reap huge rewards. These rewards include more customers, stronger loyalty, greater market share, greater profit margins and increased revenue. A DTC ecommerce channel is an efficient and consumer-friendly path to success. With the right resources in place, expansion can take place in weeks and months, not years.
ESW helps the world’s best-loved brands expand business into more than 200 markets worldwide. Contact our consumer electronics expansion experts to talk about your brand’s goals.