The WFH and learning from home trend has given PC adoption a greater push, says Sooraj Balakrishnan, Head of Marketing at Acer India. He tells us how the company is innovating and giving a renewed thrust to its product line beyond PCs, while meeting consumers’ requirements for smart and healthy living in the new normal
Q] The PC market has been witnessing a boom again. Where do you see your growth coming from?
We have our online stores and some 110 standalone Acer stores. So the great advantage of our stores is that we can get a lot of data and understand where the traffic is coming from. We find that a lot of these people are coming from tier II and III cities, and hence we could use the data from our store to ensure that we are also present with a physical store, because the omnichannel experience is good. Especially in tier II and III cities, there is a certain comfort in going to the store, choosing the product from the entire product portfolio, and making the payment at the store itself. The store owner also can fulfil the order through our online store.
Q] What’s new for consumers this festive season?
Well, we have exchange offers, which give better margins, with a better cost to customer. So, instead of going through any of those portals, if they come directly to us, they get a better cost. They can upgrade the laptop on no-cost EMI options and various other finance schemes. In the post-purchase part of it, people can peacefully own a laptop with an extended warranty of up to three years and accident damage protection. Then there are bundles and goodies on top of it, which add to the whole festive mood. So it’s a holistic festive offer this time and judging by the early feedback from the market, it’s been quite positive.
Q] What kind of demand did Acer see due to the WFH shift and what opportunity do you see in supporting the hybrid work environment?
This whole work from home and learn from home requirement has pushed PC adoption, and per household, the PC penetration has gone up. Plus, we were able to add new customers to PC because from consumer feedback, we have seen that when students or children were trying to learn on a mobile phone, their experience was quite bad. So that was something that pushed them to upgrade to a bigger screen and have a more productive device, which is a laptop. We also saw the adoption of new categories like Chromebooks. Chromebook runs on Chrome OS by Google, and is not a Windows OS. So when you’re buying a PC for your child, it might be okay to get a Chromebook because it’s easy for even schools to manage the cloud content plus the PC cost is not very high. And the overall experience is quite seamless as well. So, new categories also got a good push. And with the hybrid model, the importance of PC as a category has been established.
Q] The market is cluttered with many brands catering to different customer segments. How do you compete in such a competitive market?
Traditionally there have been four players, which are HP, Dell, Lenovo and Acer. Now, you will see Xiaomi and Realme and all of these new players coming. Apple as well! You will find them focusing on laptops, in terms of their marketing push and the new products they’re bringing in. What it all shows is the opportunity in the market. India is a highly underpenetrated market, with just around 10% of the total market size. So there is a huge opportunity for everyone to co-exist, and India is a market where one size does not fit all.
Q] You’ve always bet big on the gaming market. How has that helped you in product differentiation?
Yes, traditionally we have been very strong on gaming and that continues. You can say that Acer has established the laptop gaming market in India and especially partnering with some of our key partners in e-commerce and offline, we were able to grow that category and give value to customers with our price points, the specifications, and the features we offer. And this is not only from a product point of view; we have worked with the community and sports community heavily with all our involvement across events like our global property called Predator Gaming League. We’ve brought great products, like the Predator, the Nitro series, and Aspire7. We also have a platform called Planet9, which helps these gamers to learn from experts. We also have a product line that goes beyond PCs – monitors, keyboard, mice and we have something called a Gaming Cave, which is called the Thronos and gives you a full, surround sound experience.
Q] What shift did you bring in your media mix during the pandemic, and what’s the future outlook?
When you look at our media mix, it has to be optimised for our omnichannel model. Our whole effort has been to ensure that we can reach people who were looking for laptops. So definitely the middle to lower funnel was what we were looking at during the pandemic time because we were fulfilling the demand. We had to ensure that our website and our retail stores were visible through various mediums like Google or affiliate marketing like Social, OTT, Gaana, and other music platforms as well.
Going forward, the investment will come back to traditional mediums like Outdoor, Print and TV. We have also signed on Sonu Sood as our brand ambassador. We usually go for the big-ticket items like TV and Print closer to buying seasons, and the next one will be around back to school time or a January sale time. We have even invested in automation tools that show a personalised message to people at the right stage. Personalisation brought us 70% more engagement.
Q] What’s your marketing plan for the other Acer products in your portfolio?
We have launched products beyond just the PCs, like smart living healthy products such as smart air purifiers or water filters. We are also entering into categories like wireless earbuds and headphones, something that consumers needed during virtual meetings in these pandemic times. The marketing budget for these for sure will be bigger, because we have to establish and push the category.