Bill Stewart

Bill Stewart
50 Years of CES: Proving that Change Brings Opportunity

There’s something about anniversaries - especially those that end with a zero - that prompt many of us to pause and reflect on the past. As I flew home from CES 2017, I kept thinking about how much has changed since the inaugural show, 50 years ago. The many exciting changes I’ve seen since my…

Like it or Not, Retail is a Social Game

To many, a social media site like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube is just another place for businesses to spend precious advertising and marketing resources. But it doesn’t cost a cent to launch a Facebook page or Twitter account. The primary resource necessary to promote via these platforms is time.

Social media presents the opportunity to connect with customers in ways traditional media tactics can’t provide. Unfortunately, many companies use social media as simply an extension of their one-way communication, pushing out their messages as monologue marketing. But social media allows for conversations, relationships and interactive dialogues with customers. Through these platforms, you can further develop lasting relationships and build trust.

Cool Pays Off

Once upon a time, I felt pretty cool checking email on my BlackBerry just before the flight attendant came down the aisle to enforce “all electronics off.” The desire to be cool or admired is part of our basic nature. It fills our innate need to feel like we fit in and belong. But how do you define cool?

Meeting the Needs of the Workcationer

While out of the office for a few days last month, it struck me how much trouble we Americans have disconnecting from our work on a day-to-day basis, and moreover, taking real vacations. Our on-demand, constantly-connected culture may at times seem like a curse. However, it’s blessing for consumer electronics (CE) retailers who stand to profit from today’s fully mobile lifestyle. As technology continues to make huge leaps forward, I see exponential growth in the trends of mobility, wireless communication and the need to stay connected.  

Customer Service Impacts Sales

In the early days, customer service was arguably a retailer’s top focus. Today, offering the latest technology and being the first to debut the hottest product and accessory have become top priorities for most retailers. While that’s important, it often seems that good old-fashioned customer service has become an afterthought. Maybe it’s time to rethink our priorities.

iPhone 5 Brings Big Opportunities to Retailers and Manufacturers

In the first 24 hours of its release, more than two million orders were placed for the iPhone 5. These lightning-speed pre-orders quickly struck down Apple’s previous record of one million first-day pre-orders for the iPhone 4S last October. While it’s very easy to find this impressive, some may find it difficult to see opportunity in another company’s achievement. But by further expanding into the wireless accessory segment of the CE marketplace, retailers and manufacturers can translate some of Apple’s sales success into their own.
For retailers, one of the most significant changes unveiled with the iPhone 5 is the Lightning connector. Eighty percent smaller than the previous 30-pin connector, the new Lightning connector renders obsolete many of the iPhone accessories consumers own. Although consumers can choose to buy the $29 adapter from Apple to use with their existing iPhone accessories, many will likely opt to purchase new accessories all together. Retailers who understand this potential and prepare by stocking new iPhone 5 accessories will definitely reap the rewards.

A Retailer's Playbook

There's no doubt that in football your offensive strategy and play calling is extremely important. Picture a coach on the sideline watching the trick play that he has just called unfold. Nothing is more satisfying to him than watching it executed without a hitch. That play, though, would have never worked if his players hadn't first mastered the fundamentals of blocking, tackling, passing, receiving and communication.

The same concept can be applied to retailers. While technology gives us some great trick plays to help sell more products, these trick plays are essentially useless unless retailers have mastered some key fundamentals.

Let's start with Sales Fundamental #1. Are you carrying accessories? Most importantly, are you carrying the right accessories? You need impulse-buy accessories as well as accessories to complement each piece of hardware you have in stock. Make sure you have depth and diversity within that mix. For instance, if you carry televisions, make sure you’re carrying HDMI cables at different price points and sizes. If you carry cellular, make sure you have an assortment of colors and types of cases for the popular smartphones. Diversity is key to making sure you are competitive and prepared to meet the needs of today's consumers.

How to Diversify Your Accessories

For the more than 30 years I’ve been in this industry, I’ve always pushed the importance of carrying a diverse offering of CE accessories. It’s definitely the best way for a retailer to offset lower margin hardware sales. In the past, accessory sales were almost solely focused on enhancing the function of a product, but things have changed dramatically in the in the past several years. Today, consumers demand accessories that extend beyond enhancing the function of their hardware purchase; they want to bring fun and fashion into the mix.

Accessories are now much more personal to a consumer’s lifestyle and essential to unlocking the potential of the hardware to become a lifestyle enhancement. With this in mind, it’s imperative that retailers stock their shelves with the accessory categories their consumers are seeking. Are they fun? Are they fashionable? Are they functional? You need a good mix of all three.

For example, smartphone users need the functional add-ons, such as car chargers, wall chargers, battery backups, screen cleaners, etc. But retailers must take it a step further and look at the fun and fashionable lifestyle enhancements for their customers. The fun category might be an armband case and a good set of Bluetooth headphones for a runner. For the musician, maybe it’s a product that plugs into a guitar and turns an iPhone into a practice amp. The fashion category might be colorful earbuds and a paisley pink case for a teenage girl.

Dealers who carry a gaming lineup probably stock the controllers specific to each gaming console, which fall in the functional category. Today, gamers are playing games that require special controllers or headsets to get the full game experience. Adding an extra stylus, car charger and case to a Nintendo DSi purchase makes sense, but retailers can take it a few steps further because consumers can’t take advantage of all of the functionality this device allows without Wi-Fi. Does the customer have a wireless home network? Does the retailer carry wireless routers? Downloading games and content requires memory cards. Is the retailer stocking those?