Pin Down the Customer!
The hawkeyes over at PSFK spotted this hilarious window-dressing at the new CapitalOne Bank flagship on Union Square...."Let’s pin them down and close the sale".
No one said getting into retail banking was going to be easy!
Consumer Tech in Egypt | Branding and Marketing
Like politics, all marketing is local. However, it seems that this is becoming less true all the time, as global brands find their place in local markets and some local brands expand globally.
Technology brands are finding their way around the world with increasing velocity. As networks get built out, consumers seek out the most innovative appliances and applications with which they can access and take advantage of these networks. It's one of the reasons that consumer technology markets are so complex...each market develops in its own way but draws on a global pool of products, applications and brands.
In trying to understand the development of these varied local markets, one needs to be able to understand a variety of different, and sometimes oppositional, market forces.
The three mobile players in Egypt have different brand positions which are instructive in this regard.
- MobiNil, the only Egyptian brand of the three ("nil" = "Nile"), is a joint venture between the Egyptian multinational Orascom Telecom and France Telecom's Orange. The branding is local but with a strong evocation of the Orange brand with its global connotations.
- Vodaphone on the other hand (which is also a JV with Telecom Egypt), retains the branding of its UK-based parent.
- Finally Etisalat, the newest entrant in the market, retains the branding of its Emirates-based parent with a regional flavor that may appeal to the Egyptian market (the name itself means "communications" in Arabic). The company has been competing on a both price as well as emphasizing the strength of its technology (with ads that make somewhat spurious claims of "3.75G").
We could look at the brands of various applications, mobile handsets, computer OEMs and retailers through the same lens. Each has a mix of local and global equity which in aggregate translate to their strength and relevance in the local market. The challenge facing global marketers is how to create local expressions that are are highly relevant to local consumers, while retaining enough of their core attributes that they are "true" and don't dilute the brand.
Consumer Tech in Egypt | Retail
Most of the discussion that I read here in the US about technology developments in emerging markets focus on product and price. OLPC is the classic example in this regard...a product that designed to be inexpensive and simple enough that every child in the world ultimately has access to one. Microsoft's Windows Starter Edition fits the mold, as do Nokia's efforts to create products targeted to these markets.
However, before one can talk about product or price, the question of distribution needs to be addressed ("placement" if we are sticking with the Ps, although that word has always felt inadequate).
In markets like Egypt, the lack of quality retailers has long been a barrier to the growth of consumer technology spend. While the well-traveled buyer could pickup their gadgets on a trip overseas, everyone else was stuck paying too high a price for outmoded and poorly supported products. This is changing, and the emerging retail landscape is a great predictor of the ways in which consumer tech is moving.
The leaders in Egypt are the mobile carriers themselves. Companies like Mobinil have made serious investments in the customer experience of their retail locations. The staff is extremely well-informed, the stores are beautiful and the service level is best-in-class. When you walk in the store a host helps to direct you to the right area or person. The products are clearly displayed and the signage around their features is clear and extremely helpful. I would put the retail experience of the Mobinil and Vodaphone stores up there with a AT&T or Verizon store here in New York. The pictures I've posted will help to visualize some of this.
However while those in the market for a mobile phone have a number of good options, anyone looking for computer hardware, software or accessories, including digital cameras, will need to work a bit harder.
The main retailers are small "mom & pops" with very little selection. These can be found throughout Cairo, and particularly in a couple of large flea-market-like malls with aggregations of small stores and stalls.
The major retail trend, which mirrors the rise of suburban developments outside of Cairo, are the huge malls on the outskirts of the city. These massive retail centers, offer everything imaginable, including large selections of consumer technology and electronics. Interestingly the largest of these is the local branch of the Virgin Megastore.
(NB: I have focused on what I was able to observe with physical retailers. I am less sure about direct retailers such as Dell and Apple. Dell does have a Middle East ecommerce site, but I cant say much about it.)
In order for people to spend money, they need access to reputable merchants whom they trust to provide quality, up-to-date products at reasonable prices. From what I saw during this last trip, the mobile carriers are the ones to beat in Egypt.
Consumer Tech in Egypt
I just returned from a trip to Egypt and wanted to write down some observations about the ways in which consumer technology and telecom have been evolving there.
I lived in Cairo for two years in the mid-1990s. Part of that period I worked as an analyst for RITSEC, a joint venture between several NGOs and the Egyptian Government, whose mission is to promote the development of technology and the software industry throughout the Arab world. What struck me on this trip, was both how far things have come along in the intervening years and also the change in direction of this development.
Today technology is very much a mainstream product in the country. While the emergence of satellite television was the "killer app" of the 1990s, today broadband and wireless data technologies have moved well beyond mere luxury goods. Not surprisingly, the prime example is the prevalence of mobile phones. A country with per capita GDP of less than $5k, Egypt recently passed the 30 million subscriber mark, or about 35%. This is split between 3 carriers: Mobinil and Vodafone each have nearly half the market, and a considerably smaller stake is held by UAE's Etisalat, which has been in market for less than a year.
I've posted some pictures which give a good sampling of the main mobile operators' retail stores and advertising. Also thrown in are some shots of the Smart Village development on the Cairo-Alexandria road. Smart Village is a private industrial park catering to foreign and domestic IT and telecom companies. (Unfortunately the pictures don't do justice to the striking fact that those lush lawns and gleaming buildings are in the middle of the desert.)
The speed of change in "emerging markets" is accelerating as a result of technology and globalization. While these trend are well-documented elsewhere, I think that looking at it through the lens of marketing can be particularly informative. Over the next few days I plan to write about specific aspects of consumer tech marketing in Egypt.