This author is on Twitter: @Patrickavenell
Following on from a successful Mobile World Congress, where it unveiled a new range of products and won several awards, Alcatel OneTouch is dramatically ramping up its Australian presence, beginning last week with the launch of new smartphones, tablets and wearables.
A joint venture between the French Alcatel-Lucent company and Chinese TV and appliance manufacturer TCL, the Alcatel OneTouch mobility brand in some ways represents the latest in a series of local entries by Chinese suppliers into the lucrative Australian telecommunications industry. In recent years, Sino-giants Huawei and ZTE have gone from predominantly OEM status to brands in their own right, while the more niche Oppo has also launched. Despite the association, the local Alcatel team is kept separate from TCL’s and they are run as two different organisations.
Although the Alcatel consumer brand has been in Australia for some time, it has never really crossed the mindshare Rubicon to compete against the likes of Samsung, LG, Motorola or Apple. With increased PR activity, advertising and a sponsorship deal with NRL premiers South Sydney Rabbitohs, there is expected to be new vigour for the brand.
The local Alcatel OneTouch team is headed up by APAC regional managing director, Sam Skontos, a vastly experienced industry pro, who has previously worked for Texas Instruments, Mitsubishi Electric, Optus, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, Sagem and Viocorp, mostly in sales and management roles. He is overseeing the rollout of Alcatel’s new Android smartphones and tablets, as well as watches and mobile Wi-Fi devices, which are priced to compete at the value end of the market.
I sat down with Sam Skontos to find out more about Alcatel OneTouch’s go-to-market strategy in Australia and I started by asking how he plans on attracting customers in such a crowded space.
“Our channel and go-to-market strategy is firstly agreed with our channel partners and carriers and involves sufficient launch stock and ongoing forecasting to maintain replenished levels as well as sufficient amount of display phones and live demonstration units to aid in the sell-out of the handsets,” Skontos told me.
“A key element of our strategy is point of sale, ticketing and window dressing to enhance foot traffic and attract new customers in store. We engage retail staff with both online and face-to-face sales and product training that will promote a unique and memorable customer experience.”
The Australian telecommunications device category was worth $4.787 billion in 2014, according to industry analyst GfK, a increase of 4.1 per cent on the year prior. Telco devices are one of two broad categories growing year-on-year in Australia (the other is small appliances), providing some explanation as to why so brands are entering the market or attempting to increase their customer awareness. GfK told me that prepaid smartphones experienced trending 2 per cent value growth through the last quarter of 2014, triggered by consumers gravitating towards newly released handsets. Sales of smartphones with screens 5 inches and larger almost doubled in 2014, demonstrating a clear shift away from the smaller handsets that were popular for a long time.
Skontos told me that Alcatel OneTouch was deep in discussions with channel partners, including both retailers and carriers.
“We are currently working with retailers and carriers either directly or through distributors. We have a presence with either outright unlocked handsets or as part of a carrier prepaid bundle with Dick Smith, The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Big W, K-Mart, Target, Woolworths, Coles and Australia Post. Coupled with these retailers we have a presence in Optus and Vodafone retail stores.”
It’s clear from this list that Skontos sees Alcatel OneTouch as a mass brand with broad appeal. The indicative pricing released for the new devices — final RRPs are still to be confirmed — reveal a brand targeted at the price-conscious consumer. The Idol 3 smartphones (4.7- and 5.5-inch) will both be under $350; the colourful and OS-agnostic PIXI 3 handsets will start under $100, and there will be “luxury” smartwatches for under $200. At their WMC launch in Barcelona, Alcatel OneTouch chief marketing officer said there were “a ton of options within a budget” and it’s safe to say that looks an accurate statement.
Who will Alcatel OneTouch target in Australia? Which customers are ready to be touched, if not once than many times, by Alcatel? Skontos was happy to tell me who they were and, importantly, how they would be reached:
“Our promotion strategy is based on targeting the young networking, curious conservatives and basic users within the prepaid space with a multifaceted approach involving NRL sponsorship; social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; radio; outdoor; press and highly targeted retail catalogues and local area marketing.”
Alcatel OneTouch’s Idol 3 range is being released sometime in Q2 2015, the PIXI 3 range is due in May 2015 and the Watch is available sometime in Q3 2015.