By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
We've heard it before: a chain is only as good as its weakest link. The adage still holds true for the consumer electronics experience, presenting a tremendous opportunity for retailers and manufacturers alike.
It's commonly known that the peripherals bundled with high-tech devices are mediocre at best; when coupled with the consumer's growing desire for personalization, these second-rate add-ons leave the market primed for a wide variety of experience-enhancing, profit-generating accessories.
For example, while many iPod enthusiasts enjoy the convenience of portable music, they are often frustrated with low-quality MP3 files or uncomfortable ear buds. In the same vein, a consumer can't maximize the potential of their HDTV system by listening through the TV's inferior speakers.
Although many factors could be characterized as the weakest link in the CE experience, the opportunity to correctly assess and address the inherent dissatisfaction in everything from audio quality to comfort and portability is the same. Because today's consumers are more informed than ever, it's important that manufacturers and retailers learn to speak directly to their wants and needs. It's an opportune time to arm ourselves with the information consumers have at their fingertips and to supplement that knowledge with a unique expertise that only industry insiders can possess.
Asking the right questions: Gone are the days when we could use a blanket approach to selling products and services. As the retail landscape has expanded, consumers have been left with very few specialized outlets on which to rely for expertise in one type of device. With every retailer selling the same goods, it becomes more important to differentiate through the sales approach. The retailers who will lead the game are those who effectively train and empower associates to match the consumer's needs to the features and benefits of their products as well as show the customer something new that has the potential to take the experience to the next level. This will ultimately lead to unparalleled customer satisfaction.
In the case of audio electronics, sales representatives should possess the tools they need to assess the customer's current experience with sound and to evaluate their objectives for purchasing a new MP3 player, car stereo or high-definition entertainment system. What level of equipment does the customer currently listen to? Is the customer looking for speakers that deliver mind-numbing, concert-level volume? Or are they more concerned with professional quality audio or with convenience? This type of pre-sale assessment, used in tandem with deep product knowledge and the ability to accurately match customer to product, produces a phenomenal profit potential.
Consider for a moment one industry that has made a science of personalization — the automobile market. Car buyers are conditioned to understand that the sticker price is merely a bare-bones purchase. However, while the buyer is still on the lot, successful salespeople know need must evaluate the customer's specific wants and needs and highlight the custom features that they're most likely to purchase.
In the car industry, frequent drivers are sold leather seats, music fanatics are urged to throw in surround sound and sun worshippers are pushed toward convertibles. In addition, car sales associates often urge potential buyers to test drive a vehicle with a sunroof, even if it's not on their list of "required features." Buyers are often delightfully surprised by the unexpected feature, and the result is a uniquely customized purchase that serves as an extension of the driver's personality.
The same approach can be applied to consumer electronics in the form of post-sale accessories.
Coming back for more: Drivers, just like consumer audio customers, love to show off their latest find. While automobile and consumer electronics manufacturers are likely to get the credit for shigh-quality products and complementary features, car dealers and CE retailers also have that special something that leads to friend-to-friend referrals. Because the customer's product experience is limited by the manufacturer's attention to design and quality, the retailer's opportunity lies in aiding product discovery and thoughtful in-store interactions.
If a retailer's team helps audiophile iPod owners realize they can purchase the same earphones that the pros use on-stage, the customer is likely to return for additional accessory enhancements knowing the store's team understands what they're all about. Once the retailer has delivered one experience-enhancing personal interaction, they're viewed as one of the customer's greatest resources.
In this instance, the retailer eliminated the audio and comfort "weak links" and capitalized on the opportunity to foster a long-standing relationship with the customer.
The market isn't just ready for experience-enhancing products and accessories that cater to customers' personal needs; it's craving them. Now is the time to ensure that you're embracing those products and adopting the philosophies that will carry your business forward.
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.