“The last six feet”

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In Dubai, the super rich city-state, which takes what’s the best in the world and develops it on a bigger scale, Sony held its 2008 Key Dealer Conference. As expected, we were given a preview of Sony’s latest technology applications, and a few product concepts with a real ‘wow’ factor, but the event will be remembered by the clear turnaround in the company’s consumer strategy.
All Sony’s product managers – from television to IT – were reinforcing the message that the most important thing is to show the benefits of consumer electronic technologies, not the technologies themselves. This change was brought about by the extensive market research, conducted by Sony, which demonstrated that there is still real confusion among consumers about what HD and Blu-ray is and how they can benefit from these technologies, which is a barrier to their wider acceptance.
To help retailers educate their customers, Sony has produced Blu-ray demonstration stands that communicate the benefits of Blu-ray players and various applications of this technology.
Darren Ambridge, Sony group product manager, stressed the importance of talking about HDTV in relation to other products rather than TV, which not only broadens consumer understanding of it but also creates potential for sales of other components. For example, the home theatre market is now growing at a rate of 14% annually on the back of HDTV.
However, the TV feature that is likely to have great consumer appeal, which Sony plans to introduce from May onwards on the W4000 and V4000 Bravia models, is a cross-media bar (such as the one currently available on PS3) for managing various video and audio applications. This development goes in the direction of making the TV set a centre of family entertainment.
Hope in IT
Another piece of advice for the retailers, came from Andy Benson, Sony’s commercial director, who said that although the CE market is expected to be rather flat in 2008, an area which is showing healthy growth is IT. He advised the dealers to stock IT products, and in particular the VAIO range (celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2008) which every year is broader and more feature-rich  reflecting diversifying customer needs and lifestyles. Since IT products are becoming a vital link in the connected digital home, serving as a hub for communication, entertainment and processing of various types of digital information, they should stimulate sales of other audio-visual products and accessories.
“The last six feet”
This motto encapsulates Sony’s new customer strategy which the company also recommends to its trade partners. It comes down to creating a positive product experience in store by demonstrating product benefits by knowledgeable staff and reinforcing this with suitable merchandising and after-sale support.
Adam Williams, group product manager – audio, recommends “Start thinking what journey customers travelled which led them to purchasing this product.” And manage it skilfully.

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