How leading brands deliver during the lockdown

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The pandemic was not kind to markets all around the world. The Middle East was no different with lockdown affecting offline sales for all types of businesses. When it came to consumer electronics, this affected not just sales, but support as well.Review Central ME team went and asked some of the brands in the region how they fared and what they did to counter the effects of lockdown during this pandemic on their business.

Large brands are known for their intricate yet elaborate delivery chains – which means having to modify their systems would potentially mean moving around a lot of moving parts. We asked the brands how they adapted to an economy that was moving online rapidly during the lockdown and here is what some of them had to say:

Paul Collins from Acer

Paul Collins, the General Manager for MEA at Acer said, “The lockdown happened very quickly from a supply chain perspective as it usually takes us between four to six weeks to get new orders into the country. This meant that we had to move supplies around that we had locally from companies affected by the lockdown to ones that were open, which included online retailers.”

Collins added “As you can imagine this brought challenges in that all vendors of all product categories were now focused on a limited number of online suppliers and this pushed their capacity to the limit. In Europe and America, the online companies were able to pick up the drop seen in brick and mortar retailers where we didn’t see that same trend in our territory. What I have observed since the easing of lockdown and reopening, the online vendors have increased capacity and Acer has seen strong growth in the sector over the past two months.”

The general consensus was brands worked with their distribution and retail partners to mobilise their online presence and support it in any way they can. Brands like LG offered products with immediate deliveries the moment lockdown restrictions were eased, while brands like Casio, who were already present in all areas of business, just supported their online partners.

When it came to sales trends, the brands who responded to us saw a deliberate shift towards products that filled the ‘work-from-home’ space – with LG and Acer seeing movement towards improved displays for personal consumption in the form of high definition LED televisions and better monitors for work use. Acer declared a growth of 187% quarter on quarter in its monitor sales across the Predator and Nitro range. They also noted a growth in the sales of their gaming laptops by 57% quarter on quarter. LG also recorded a shift towards gaming as a form of entertainment with an increase in their large format HDTVs being bought. The shift to work from home also saw laptops, Chromebooks, tablets increase by as much as 73% quarter on quarter for Acer.

While sales saw a growth via online centres for the brands, after sales service was not ignored. Brands were supporting their on-ground service centres with parts needed as well as swap out units as needed ensuring that support for their products remained on the up and up. As Collins from Acer noted, “Unfortunately during the lockdown when all businesses had to close, we had to suspend service delivery and repairs, but as soon as the restrictions eased, we implemented a collect and delivery service to augment our carry-in service. All service delivery has returned to normal now and we have a contingency plan in place in case of a full lockdown in future.”

Myungho Lee, from LG Electronics Gulf

Brands are being expected to be better prepared for any, and as Myungho Lee, General Manager (Go-to-Market & Marketing), LG Electronics Gulf noted, “Naturally, there were instances where customers were hesitant to allow technicians into their homes. To address this, we focused on also providing support offline, as far as possible. If there was a case where the issue could not be solved offline, we then requested for small items to be dropped off at our service center. For major issues or large products, we dispatched technicians with the relevant spare parts.”

The biggest learning however is going forward what the brands are doing to ensure a seamless customer experience in light of their learnings of business in the time of Covid-19. For some brands it will be business as usual – complete with expansion plans and new product launches coming up as scheduled – as noted by Casio.

LG noted that they have adopted “a future in which more of a hybrid approach to customer experience will need to be considered. It has to be accepted that while things are returning to normal, there is still be a portion of society which does not yet feel comfortable with returning to stores and having face-to-face with retailers,” notes LG’s Lee.

Koji Naka, from Casio Middle East

He goes on to state that “Our job is now to ensure that for those who do not wish to visit stores, we are still finding new ways to engage with them and to provide the level of customer service they have come to expect. Whether this means increasing our online presence through our own website, via retailers or even through the use social media, these are all avenues which we are continuing to explore. Beyond the current situation, investing in digital also makes sense in terms of futureproofing our business and its core offerings.”

As Koji Naka, MD of Casio Middle East, also informed, “Our goal is to continue delivering a seamless customer experience, with consistent messaging across all of our channels whilst engaging with our community on social media platforms and keeping them informed on the latest drops from all our brands.”

Review Central ME will be speaking to some retailers for a future story on their strategy given the lockdown is now no longer in place, but there are policies and guidelines in place to conduct business in the offline world. Follow this space to know more.

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