By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Phoenixville, Pa. – Direct-to-consumer audio company Wren Sound Systems plans to go retail with its trio of wireless tabletop speakers for the home.
Additional products are also in the works.
The start-up company shipped its first product, a Wi-Fi-equipped AirPlay speaker, in January. That was followed in April by a Wi-Fi-equipped DTS Play-Fi version for use with Android smartphones. The company’s Bluetooth speaker, which features CSR AptX decoding, ships the week of Nov. 4. All are AC-only active speakers priced at $399 and featuring real bamboo or rosewood finishes.
The company is now gearing up for retail distribution because it has a trio of products instead of just one, has benefitted from an aggressive PR campaign that delivered 29 product reviews with more than 20 more to come for the fourth quarter, and has gained insights on how consumers perceive the brand, said founder Mike Giffin, a 35-year audio-industry veteran and former division president of Harman International’s consumer audio business.
“As a start-up company with only one model — the V5AP for AirPlay — that began shipping in January of this year, we realized that our opportunity and appeal at retail would be limited at best,” he told TWICE. “We also realized that, with no brand recognition and no ‘proof of concept’ with real end users in the real marketplace, our pitch to retailers would be based on hypotheses, not experience.”
The product reviews are helping build “visibility and a great reputation for quality,” he said. And now that the company has “a lot of experience with consumers, we understand how our brand is perceived, who our customers are, and what they value about our products.” He added, “We have a solid, experience-based story to tell about our appeal to end users.”
As for its distribution strategy, the company will focus on dealers’ “need for price integrity and profitability,” given that the products are not grab-and-go products, he said. In addition, “We want to find retailers who are successful with the kind of customers who have found our products compelling,” Giffin continued. “They skew older — closer to 45 than to 25 — and have high incomes, most north of $100,000. They are very design-conscious, and they care greatly about their dwelling spaces and what those spaces say about who they are.”
The target customer also has “a strong preference for wood over plastic and a real appreciation for discernibly better build quality,” Giffin added. “They're tech-savvy enough to want wireless audio, but the appeal has more to do with the elegant simplicity of wireless solutions then with the technology per se.”
With that in mind, the company has begun interviewing and appointing rep firms and will add “a few dealers” in the next month or so, Giffin said. “We realize, however, that the trade is focused on the peak season, and the vast majority of retailers have long since put their retail assortments to bed.” As a result, “2014 will be our focus year, and we have exciting plans for new products and for sensibly expanding our assortment.”
Wren is targeting A/V and CE specialists and non-CE channels focused on higher-end furnishings, décor, and lifestyle, Giffin said.
To promote the brand, the company is focusing on digital marketing and “continued very aggressive "earned" advertising (reviews) such as those at WrenSound.com/Reviews.
Giffin noted that “quite soon,” the company will offer users of the DTS Play-Fi version of the speaker the DTS-planned update to work with Apple mobile devices, not just Android devices.
The company also offers a trade-in program for consumers who want to switch technologies. If a person changes his phone or tablet after buying a particular speaker, then at any time during the speaker’s three-year warranty period, the company will exchange the speaker with a refurbished speaker in like or better condition for just $99, including free shipping.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.