Analysis by Claire Reilly
After launching its 2013 product line-up to the world at the International CES in Las Vegas last month, Samsung has brought the range closer to home, unveiling its Asia Pacific-targeted offering at the Samsung Regional Forum in Jakarta this week.
The brand showed off an array of new consumer electronics and home appliances for the local market, with product launches across a range of categories including TV and AV, digital imaging, mobile and ultrabook devices, refrigeration, laundry and floorcare.
As the big four brands battle it out to stay at the top of a retail game that has seen falling prices, sluggish consumer sentiment and increased competition from entry-level brands, the cycle of international launches and product unveilings has gained pace.
While brands may have once been able to get away with investing heavily in a one-off showing at an event like CES, the major brands are now using any forum they can to show off their products to a global audience.
Last year, Samsung used the largely home appliance-focused IFA trade show in Berlin to launch new consumer electronics products and, even as the brand took to the stage in Jakarta to show off its new tech this week, the Samsung’s European subsidiary was focusing its energy on product launches for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
But rather than being a CES mark two, the Samsung Regional Forum was a targeted showing of selected products, many of which have been developed with APAC consumers in mind.
There were the necessary mid-range products designed to meet consumer product-replacement needs, including standard refrigerator and laundry appliances and the seemingly obligatory bolstering of LED and home audio product ranges. But there were also some more interesting and unique products that stood out on the stand.
Bringing the halo of the Galaxy mobile sub-brand to more entry-level devices, Samsung showed off the new Galaxy Fame, Galaxy Young and Galaxy Grand devices, which replicate the styling and aesthetic of the SIII without offering the top-of-the-range specs. Galaxy SIII cred, without the price tag. This could be a winner with younger consumers, or it could end up diluting the prestige of the Galaxy name — that remains to be seen.
The brand also showed off the NX300 interchangeable lens camera, first revealed at CES. While the camera is not particularly groundbreaking, it does feature a dedicated lens for 3D capture and will also be released in Australia in a limited edition gold body.
In home appliances, the recently launched SodaStream-dispensing refrigerator made an appearance, as did a new Four Door French Door model with a convertible fridge/freezer section, and a door-in-door Food Showcase refrigerator that features a double door on one side for quick access to key food items.
The brand has also developed two new washing machines specifically for the Australian market which will launch in May and July, as well as a new line-up of convection microwaves, including a model that offers a 'Slim Fry' function for healthy frying.
Over in AV, the message was all about the updated Smart Hub interface which will appear on new LED TVs this year (or 2012 TVs, with the purchase of an additional Evolution Kit which will launch with the 2013 range). The Smart Hub features new aggregated content screens and a locally-developed voice control system designed specifically for Australian consumers, and the new premium TVs will also be bundled with a touchpad remote to control the new UI.
While there were more basic electronics on show at the Regional Forum, the overwhelming focus — both in terms of Samsung's corporate message and the products it highlighted in its display —was on premium tech and appliances.
It is a sign of just how competitive the current marketplace is, that the basics of production — things like good picture quality on TVs or a storage-maximising refrigerator — is not enough to satisfy consumers anymore. There needs to be a 'can't live without' feature built in to the product, an element of spectacle or an added sparkling touch (quite literally, in the case of the SodaStream refrigerator).
And so while the basics were covered at Samsung’s regional forum, there were also elements of that can’t-live-without factor in the more premium products. In terms of product offering, there was certainly plenty to see, and no doubt there will be even more to see when Samsung holds the next launch, product unveiling or forum that is no doubt around the corner.
But a great brand is not just measured by its ability to release flashy new products — it needs to generate the sales figures to match. The key challenge now for Samsung will be to clearly communicate the new features and benefits of its range to retailers so they can get the message on to consumers.
After all, the big product showcases are a great way to get the world to take notice, but it's the Samsung-retailer partnership that will get the world to buy.
The NX300 interchangeable lens camera will be released in a limited edition gold body.
A close-up of Samsung's new refrigerator which offers sparkling water dispensing, thanks to a plumbed-in SodaStream canister.
Samsung's 2013 microwave line-up features this model with a unique 'Slim Fry' feature for frying foods with less oil, including hot chips.