Smartphone makers bring offline partners online to resume sales in India

smartphone online sales India
Photo by Thorn Yang

India’s top smartphone brands – Xiaomi, Vivo, Samsung and Oppo – have devised their online-to-offline (O2O) strategy to resume handset sales through their retail partner stores with the help of online tools. 

The move aims to provide much-needed relief to offline mobile handset retailers that suffered massive losses due to the nationwide shutdown and nil sales in the past 45 days.

Partner stores of Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, and Samsung are only operational in the permitted green and orange zones where Covid-19 spread is in control, and economic activity is allowed by local authorities and state governments.

China’s Xiaomi, currently the leading handset brand in India, launched its online to the offline solution – “Mi Commerce” for its users to help them browse and buy Xiaomi products from their nearest offline retail store while staying at home.

Xiaomi, which works only with exclusive retail partners, said that the new solution will help these partners in the current COVID-19 scenario and is the company’s first step towards a longer-term omnichannel strategy.

Another Chinese brand Vivo, also came up with a lead generation model called, Vivo Smart Retail (VSR), to enable 20,000 retailer partners to resume sales in India. Similar to Xiaomi, Vivo will use its website, Facebook page and SMS service to direct consumer demand to these retailers across India.

Vivo’s latest move is beneficial to both parties since the handset brand gets a majority of its sales through the offline channel.

“To ensure business continuity of our offline partners, we have decided to create this unique lead generation platform. We hope to connect our customers and our channel partners effectively using this one of its kind systems,” Nipun Marya, Director Brand Strategy, Vivo India, said in a statement.

Oppo, too, has introduced a similar service through one-fifth of its retail partner stores across India. It is using SMS service along with WhatsApp and Facebook channels to generate leads for its offline retail partners. “The pilot is being initiated in a phase-wise manner with the objective to be available pan India gradually,” Oppo said.

Both Vivo and Oppo are both owned by BBK- Electronics Corporation, a Chinese multinational company. BBK also owns OnePlus and Realme.

Another offline-heavy handset brand Samsung has also joined hands with merchant app provider Benow to enable over 20,000 of its offline retailers to sell Galaxy handsets. 

Under this new arrangement, Samsung will help retail partners list themselves and their product catalogue on the Benow app. The dealer then will be able to share the link with customers via email, SMS and WhatsApp, and upon receiving the order and payment, it will arrange the door-step delivery.

“The new digital platform will also help thousands of offline retailers become part of the online ecosystem and reach out to a larger base of consumers…our partnership with Benow is part of our broader online to offline (O2O) strategy and is aimed to provide benefits of both offline and online platforms to the consumer,” Samsung India said in a statement.

These long-term strategies of the handset brands will provide a much-needed opportunity for retailers to diversify as they are competing with e-commerce players like Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon

Online share of smartphone shipments reached a record 36% during the 2019 calendar year driven by a strong performance of both Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon, as per Hong Kong-based agency Counterpoint Research.  

Market watchers say that the new O2O play to execute sales will provide stickiness for retailers with their customers besides generating loyalty for brands that are powering this new channel. They say these handset O2O retail experiments will evolve, and attain significance, not just for this period of uncertainty, but also in a post-virus era.  Xiaomi was the leading smartphone maker in the January-March quarter of 2020 with a 31.2% market share, followed by Vivo and Samsung with 21% and 15.6% shares, respectively. Realme and Oppo stood at fourth and fifth spot with 13.1 and 10.6% market shares, as per International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

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