February 26, 2008
How To

How Sony Ericsson Markets (In)directly to Consumers: Secrets Behind Their Online Strategy

SUMMARY: If your website is designed solely to build interest and guide traffic to retail partners to complete conversions, you have many tactics to fall back on. But what if you have to market on multiple sites?

Sony Ericsson markets through four different types of websites, including distributors and review sites. Here's how they do it -- with plenty of ideas and tips on how to influence consumers' buying decisions.
Many manufacturers sell their products to consumers through retailers and other vendors. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, for instance, offers cell phones only to retailers like Best Buy and service providers like AT&T.

However, Mikael Blido, head of Digital Marketing, Sony Ericsson, knows that Blido and his team can’t afford to neglect marketing directly to consumers -- even if they don’t sell directly to them.

“Since we don’t have the immediate direct relationship with the consumer, it’s important to find different ways to shape and mold the perception of our products and our brand,” Blido says. “A lot of companies just blindly go out and spend money where they think it’s going to have some effect.”

From research, they discovered that 90% of consumers who buy a wireless product research online first.

Researching more, they discovered that those consumers do their research at four types of websites:
o Manufacturers
o Retailers
o Product review
o Service providers

Here’s how Blido and his team market on each of these channels to influence sales of the Sony Ericsson brand, without actually selling consumers anything.

Marketing on Manufacturer’s Site
Two types of people visit the Sony Ericsson website: those who are considering buying a Sony Ericsson phone and those who already own one. That’s why the site is loaded with product information:

-> Customer pages

Here, they appeal to two types of customers:

- Potential customers. The site includes a “browse phones” section with features, including:
o Forms to select phone features. As users check off features, a visual list of phones is narrowed down, and they can click a phone’s image to learn more.
o Images of the phone users select are enlarged and a short description appears. This links to “read more” about the phone or “compare with other phones.”
o “Compare with other phones” feature. This allows users to compare a phone with up to two other phones.

- Returning customers. “If somebody has already bought a Sony Ericsson product and they have a specific question about something, we need to make sure that we cater to them so they come back to buy a new product from Sony Ericsson in the future,” says Blido.

So, they include a MyPhone page for Sony Ericsson product owners. After owners register their phones on the site, they are offered:
o Links to a support area
o Tutorials and answers to FAQs
o Content saving area that owners can access by their phone via the Internet
o Tools like image and audio editors for creating content
o Links to compatible hardware accessories

-> Product pages

Users and potential buyers who choose to “read more” after selecting a phone are taken to a product page for that phone.

These pages contain:
- Information about the phone’s features and design.
- Images of similar phones that link to their product pages.
- Links to:
o More detailed information on the phone’s features
o “See the phone” in detailed images, different colors and from several different angles
o “Try the phone”; users are given an interactive graphic of the phone to test out its menu
o Support page
o Dealer locator
o Eretail sites that sell the phone

“We try to make sure that the consumers can, after leaving our site, get the feeling that they’ve handled and touched that specific product,” Blido says. “People who have touched or experienced our product before they go into a retail environment are much more likely to choose a Sony Ericsson, because that’s something they feel comfortable with.”

Marketing on Retail Sites
“We sell products to a number of distributors. If a company like Amazon wants to sell Sony Ericsson products, they would buy from one of those distributors,” Blido says.

Every now and then, he and his team engage in marketing programs with these distribution sites.

In the case of Amazon, they bought a full marketing package that gave them the following advertising opportunities:
- Page devoted to Sony Ericsson products.
- Display advertising that links to the Sony Ericsson page on the site. Ads are placed on the sidebars of customers’ shopping carts during checkout, and on the homepage.
- Videos that highlight the benefits and features of Sony Ericsson products.
- Keyword search advertisements similar to the Google model.
- Placement in Amazon emails.
- Placements in paper inserts shipped to consumers with their orders.

“The key for Sony Ericsson programs with Amazon, Buy.com or other high-profile etailers is that we also get brand and product visibility on a site where we know the majority of consumers go to research a future wireless purchase whether it's an online or offline purchase,” Blido says.

Marketing on Review Sites
Sony Ericsson has two relationships with product review sites. Blido is responsible for one; their research and development department is responsible for another.

The R&D team sends sites like CNET.com phones to generate write-ups about their products. This is important, “obviously, because we want them to look at our stuff, write about our stuff and review our stuff.”

Blido and his team work to drive traffic to these reviews, which are usually positive. Two ways they do this:

-> Microsite

“In the specific case with CNET, we have sort of a little microsite inside their site and we buy advertising to lead people” to that portion of the website. Many companies use this portion of the CNET network to sell their products. Sony Ericsson leads them to product reviews.

“We do it differently than most people. Most people probably use that as sort of a launch pad for their own ecommerce sales,” Blido says. “We have used it several times to lead people to CNET’s reviews of our phones. So, we’re trying to lead people to the unbiased review.”

“Buy this product” links are next to the product reviews on this page, and phones are sold from a Sony retail site.

->Display Advertising

Sites like CNET allow marketers to buy display ads. Blido directs most of the traffic from his CNET advertising to the CNET microsite, which directs consumers to product reviews.

“I think this is typical display advertising that is sort of solidified as a marketing practice. That’s something I don’t think we’ll get away from, even though I don’t find it terribly successful, but you need to have a lit bit of that in order to create the awareness that you want for the other things that you may want to do online,” Blido says.

Marketing on Service Providers’ Sites
Blido is confident in the ability of Sony Ericsson’s service providers (like AT&T) to market directly to consumers.

“For us, it’s more helping them and guiding them to understand our product and how it fits into their portfolio and how we see it’s beneficial for them to display it to the end consumer.”

Two strategies they follow to help guide service providers:

-> Give products that fit their customers and their needs

Most of Sony Ericsson’s phones are created with a specific consumer in mind. When they believe a phone is suitable for a specific operator, someone pipes up and says, “Hey, this would fit really well into your portfolio,” says Blido.

“What we want to make sure is that the phone that we designed for, let’s say a teenage girl, ends up in the hands of a teenage girl because she’s going to be way more satisfied with that product and feel warmer and fuzzier about Sony Ericsson than her dad would be if he had that phone.”

->Provide marketing information

Since the phones are targeted for specific consumers, Blido and his team provide the appropriate marketing information for the target audience. Information includes how the phone should be displayed and types of advertising that the target might find distasteful.

“So, it’s more of a consultancy type basis then actually to supply them with images of different things. They’re pros, they know all that, they have all that. They developed their own 3D phones and their own phone selectors,” Blido says.

Mikael Blido of Sony Ericsson spoke at the fall ad:tech in New York. For details on upcoming conferences, go to http://www.ad-tech.com.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Sony Ericsson:


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