The consumer technology industry is constantly evolving with new gadgets and gizmos being unveiled daily. We previously analysed the online presences of six Chinese consumer tech brands to see how they are developing their presence in the European market. We focused on how these smartphone brands have created ecosystems of companion products around their smartphones.
Chinese consumer tech brands have begun creating communities within the European market and have solidified this with companion products. Huge growth from these brands means Apple has cut the production of AirPods by 30%. Tough competition from Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung has caused Apple to lose market share dropping from 60% to 31%; Xiaomi is now the world’s second-largest maker of true wireless headphones.
We have found the key challenges that are facing Chinese consumer tech brands when developing loyal communities and have provided a social-first solution consumer tech brands can use to ensure community and customer growth.
Smartphone brands are seeking new revenue streams with companion products
The smartphone industry has a highly competitive landscape that is dominated by established brands Apple, Samsung and Huawei. Due to the popularity of these products, it is difficult for new smartphone entrants to gain market share in Europe.
Furthermore, there is a slowing demand for smartphone products. As a result of deaccelerating innovation, longer product life cycles and high asking prices for the latest models, there has been an overall drop in growth of worldwide smartphone sales since 2018.
Alongside the high barriers to entry and a slowing demand, Chinese smartphone brands face trade challenges as a result of global and political differences between the East and West. These three issues have led smartphone brands to develop ecosystems around their smartphones.
There is a growing need for brands to diversity beyond smartphones
We have seen smartphone brands begin to transition themselves into overall lifestyle brands in terms of products they offer. Smartphone brands are diversifying their product lines and building ecosystems of digital companion products that can be used alongside their core smartphones. This diversification includes companion products such as headphones, smartwatches, smart home devices, streaming services and health and fitness products.
These companion products create an ecosystem of connected devices and softwares, providing a seamlessly integrated user experience designed to enrich consumer lifestyles.
There is an increasing importance of ecommerce and direct-to-consumer sales
Smartphone brands have begun developing new retail models. Smartphones have historically been sold via telecoms networks, but the nature of companion products has resulted in a reassessment of retail strategies to sell directly to consumers—hence the importance of ecommerce.
It is becoming increasingly important for brands to sell directly to consumers via dedicated stores or existing ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, Lazada and AliExpress. In the rising importance of D2C, social media and social commerce capabilities are vital for brands to drive traffic to D2C commerce platforms as well as drive awareness and consideration.
We have developed a social-first framework that smartphone brands can use to sell ecosystems and companion products directly to consumers; the approach will help drive awareness and sales. This framework supports the nurturing of your communities and existing customers as they are the most likely to repeat purchase or impulse buy.
There are five key elements to the framework: owned social channels, community forums, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing and paid social advertising.
1. Owned Social Channels
When developing your own social channels and content strategies, you should ensure they are designed to contextualise your digital companion products. These strategies should be informed by industry, cultural, consumer and platform insights.
The content you create should be based on an engagement strategy that encourages user-generated content (UGC). This organically increases the awareness of your brand and products.
When launching a new smartphone, you should leverage this opportunity to cross sell your companion products. Furthermore, leveraging livestream formats across social channels will increase awareness and conversations around your product across various ecommerce platforms.
2. Community Forums
Community forums are full of opportunities for your brand. Forums are where your existing customers, brand advocates and loyal superfans who are more likely to repeat purchase or impulse buy your companion products live. Nurturing your community forums will increase brand loyalty.
To nurture your forums you can create lifestyle sections—for example, music, cinema or sport—where you can integrate companion products in conversations. This will make consumers associate their pastimes and interests with your products.
Your forums should offer consumers something they can’t get anywhere else, while simultaneously complimenting your social media efforts. Developing a reward scheme for customers that offers exclusive prizes for increased participation in content creation or purchasing products would lead customers towards your brand. Prizes could include discounts or companion products.
3. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is still one of the most influential marketing tools available. Given this, you should integrate companion products into existing influencer marketing relationships. This creates a natural, authentic follow-on partnership that consumers will trust.
Developing an engagement strategy with influencers can help build true ambassadorship by encouraging and incentivising influencers with rewards, via affiliate links or exclusive products or experiences. The type of content you create with influencers can include product reviews, unboxings, challenges or tapping into key passion points and channels. These passion points could relate back to the lifestyle topics within your forums.
Activating influencers to host sales-driving livestreams on owned social channels or via e-commerce platforms can help consumers make informed purchases.
4. Affiliate Marketing
Following on from influencer marketing, you should consider utilising micro or nano influencers to launch a large scale, always-on affiliate program. The programs should be based around gifting and discount codes or affiliate links with commission sharing. In order to see a significant ROI, affiliate marketing should be considered a long-term commitment.
You affiliate program could be created on an established platform such as Amazon Affiliates, or be integrated into your own website by using an app (e.g. Affilio). You should be regularly reviewing and optimising how your affiliates are performing. Top performing affiliate influencers could be rewarded and given a platform they can cross-sell your ecosystem.
5. Paid Social Ads
Paid social ads are a great way to make sure your brand and companion products are unmissable on social media. By using pixel retargeting and social shopping capabilities, you are able to boost social commerce and sales conversions to D2C platforms.
Leveraging influencers in branded content will extend the reach of content to an influencer’s organic following. This will increase the impact of your paid social ads.
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