A quadrupling of smartphone UK market share is one of Samsung Mobile MD Simon Stanford’s many reasons to be cheerful as he reels off its achievements over the past year.
He says: ‘We started the year with a 6% share of the UK smartphone market and that is now 24%. We are the fastest growing manufacturer in the UK and we have a significant proportion of the Android space. That is our achievement.’
And then there are the awards, of which Stanford (pictured) is rightly proud. ‘We have won so many awards this year,’ he exclaims. With a welter of accolades in the bag, including numerous Phone of the Year awards that saw the Samsung Galaxy S II prevail over Apple’s iPhone 4 several times, Stanford is not exaggerating.
So what is the key to Samsung Mobile’s meteoric rise in the UK smartphone market this year? Stanford says a significant driver was the level of investment in the Galaxy range. He says: ‘We invested early on in 2010 in the Galaxy range and we continued to invest significantly in that range right through 2011. Witness now the huge traction that the Galaxy range has in the market in terms of innovation, quality and a fantastic supply chain.’
The manufacturer’s strategy to work much more closely with channel partners has also paid off, he says. ‘We’ve made a lot of advances in the way people sell our products and in our retail exposure, which has really improved a lot. The challenge in any evolving market with cutting edge technology is to keep people updated, to train them and give them the confidence to sell the products.’
Samsung Mobile’s training portal has played a central role in this strategy. Launched in February this year, the number of retail staff actively using the portal since February has risen from just 3,500 to 32,000.
‘That is a lot of users,’ says Stanford. ‘Retail staff have really embraced what we want to achieve and at the same time have provided us with fantastic feedback via the portal.’
This strategy of working closely with its partners is even more important in the current difficult economic climate, says Stanford. ‘We can help them in their business. Their market is tough, their competition is tough, so we have to give them the edge, making sure we always deliver what we say we will deliver on in terms of products and timings.’
He adds: ‘It is very tough out there and that creates a challenge for everyone – operators, retailers and manufacturers alike. The positive news is we are outperforming that market, but we can’t take that for granted.
‘We are closer to our partners than we have ever been. We are making sure we really invest in those partners that can get our brand out there. In times when the economy is particularly hard and the competition so intense, we have learnt a lot about who we want to be with and where we want to be, and we are very open to investing in those channels that want to help us get where we want to be.’
So what does 2012 hold for the manufacturer? Stanford says the plan is to continue consolidating gains made in the last 12 months.
‘The focus next year is getting consumer resonance with our brand. People are buying our products but not necessarily emotionally engaging with the brand. We want to create a more emotional attachment.’
Stanford highlights Samsung’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics next year as playing a key role in creating that emotional link. The manufacturer is set to gain huge exposure as one of three sponsors of the torch relay that will visit 66 cities in 70 days in the lead up to the Olympics.
It will also act as a showcase for Samsung Mobile’s capability around Near Field Communications (NFC) technology and mobile payments, Stanford adds.
Next year will also see Samsung strengthen its routes to market in distribution as part of a major push into b2b. ‘There is a huge opportunity to gain share in the b2b market with new routes into the b2b space,’ says Stanford. Next year, Samsung plans to strengthen its ties to b2b dealers and distributors (see page 1).
Tablets will play a major part in this b2b strategy, he confirms, despite tablet sales failing to meet expectations this year.
He says: ‘The tablet market certainly wasn’t the size it set out to be this year. The industry has to understand what tablets are for – it could be argued that the b2b market is where tablets should have been targeted from the beginning – so we need to be more specific and understand how consumers will benefit from these devices.’
Stanford is convinced Samsung’s innovation will help it maintain its strong position in the UK market. ‘We will continue to bring phenomenal products to market in 2012 to add to the ones we already have across the entire range, while at the same time continuing our dominance in terms of relentless innovation. It is all down to differentiation at the end of the day,’ he adds.
ChatON service will take off in 2012
Samsung Mobile’s recently launched cross-platform Instant Mobile Messaging (IMM) app ChatON will gather momentum in 2012, according to the company’s MD Simon Stanford.
The service is similar to RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and Apple’s iMessage, providing an alternative to SMS or MMS messaging.
At present, ChatON supports Android, bada and Samsung feature phones, but there are plans to extend it to iOS and BlackBerry handsets and offer a web-based service.
Stanford says: ‘We are quietly launching ChatON. It is certainly something that offers an alternative to other systems, as it is able to pull together all social messaging sites. It is a really lovely system that is able to integrate any IMM function and you will see that gather momentum as we roll it out on other platforms next year.