HTC has primed itself to take on the Samsung and Apple duopoly in the coming year with its expanding portfolio, larger marketing budget and stronger partner relationships.
The manufacturer has endured a difficult 12 months, but EMEA president Phil Blair (pictured left) and UK and Nordic vice-president Peter Frolund (pictured right) have earmarked 2014 as the year it can build market share and compete with the smartphone giants.
Blair told Mobile: ‘I think 2014 will be an important and interesting year from an industry perspective. We think a genuine challenger to the duopoly will emerge, and we believe that is going to be us. We developed and launched the HTC One in one of the toughest and most competitive times the industry has seen. It was David versus Goliath, and we beat Goliath from a product perspective.
‘We’re very confident in our core competence which is building great smartphones. Combining that with making sure we’ve got the team, the organisation and the marketing means we really think we can be that challenger. We’re on track.’
The HTC One was lauded as one of the best, if not the best, device of 2013 in some quarters, although the Taiwanese manufacturer saw drastic decline in profits and market share. One of the criticisms levelled at HTC was that its marketing strategy and point of sale proposition was not as strong as its products. Blair said the company wanted to remedy this with its ‘biggest ever marketing budget’, while Frolund added that strengthening partner and retailer relationships would make HTC a more enticing consumer option.
He said: ‘It’s not just a question of what you see on a billboard or on the TV, it’s also how we work with our partners for the retail experience. Does the person that works at point of sale actually love us? Or do they love someone else? That’s something we’re definitely going to do better.’
The executive pair also expressed the importance of a good training team when trying to engage employees of retail partners. HTC dropped its previous training team, Twenty5Eight, in favour of Ignite last November, but the UK VP said its strategy hadn’t been transformed. Frolund said: ‘I wouldn’t say we’ve changed our training strategy, but we’ve changed how we’ve organised it. We have a ‘love our brand’ philosophy. People in store should love us; they should love our product, but they should also love HTC when we’re there.’
Frolund also hinted that the manufacturer’s retail strategy may develop, with products being offered in very ‘bespoke’ ways. He however dismissed suggestions that HTC would launch its own retail estate similar to the stores announced by Samsung with the help of Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4u.
He added: ‘It’s not just a question of flagship stores. It’s more a question of reach, so no matter where you are you’ll be able to have an experience with HTC.’
A growing smartphone portfolio at ‘different price points’ was also referred to as HTC hunts for ‘double-digit market share’. The pair wouldn’t confirm how many devices would be launched this year, but Blair said a focus on diverse price points would make the brand more accessible.
He said: ‘It’s not just about the emerging markets. Although the high end is very important in developed countries like the UK, a big part of those markets is below the £42 per month category.’
Frolund added: ‘It’s not just about having a phone, it’s about delivering on all those different touch points. But doing that on the back of having the most important smartphone in 2013 will give us a head start. ‘We’re confident this year we’ll be able to do better than last year because we have a great starting point.’
The best enterprise proposition on the market
Blair and Frolund told Mobile that they regard the b2b sector as a great opportunity to grow market share, although HTC’s strength in this space wasn’t utilised correctly in 2013.
Frolund said: ‘I think we have the best enterprise proposition on the market today, but we’ve not done a great job at letting people know that. The HTC Pro proposition is something we are going to bring to market much stronger than we have done in the past. Hands up, we haven’t done well enough in 2013, but b2b is definitely on the radar.’
Blair agreed that enterprise is a ‘big opportunity’ as ‘most IT directors in most businesses are reviewing their strategies’. He said: ‘We have a compelling solution and a fantastic heritage in the enterprise space.’
He also stressed the importance of HTC’s distribution partners, adding: ‘You will see us ramping up our distribution capability in the UK. We have a few irons in the ? re, so watch this space.’
Last month Mobile reported that an exclusive deal between HTC and Micro-P had fallen through at the last minute. Frolund told Mobile: ‘I don’t think we had anything confirmed in relation to Micro-P. The situation is we work with distributors in the UK we think are the right partners for us, and for the time being we’re happy with what we’re doing.’